No Direction Home's Sofia Hagberg
There’s a new kid in festival-town, and it’s looking… lost. Nah, if you can see past our futile attempts at humour, you’ll realise that No Direction Home is actually looking pretty damn fine, if we may say so...
Organised by the same lovey folk behind the award-winning End of the Road, the new shindig will take place in the astonishingly beautiful surroundings of nearby Welbeck Abbey between the 8th and 10th of June.
Seeing as she’d wandered onto our patch, festival director Sofia Hagberg stopped by the Showroom for a nice cuppa and a chinwag about everything that’s going to make No Direction Home great.
Exposed: No Direction Home is in its first year this year – what are the ideas behind the festival and why did you want to do it?
Sofia: Well, with End of the Road already existing, we already had an idea about how we like to run a festival, and what kind of festival we like to run, so I think it’s come out of the fact that we’ve reached the size (with EOTR) where we don’t want to go any bigger and lose the intimacy at the festival. Also, physically the site couldn’t fit any more people in, but with selling out three years in a row we know that there are more people out there that would like to experience what we have to offer and obviously, we love what we do, so the only way to reach out to more people and to do more of what we love is to start a new festival.
E: Will No Direction Home be similar to End of the Road, then, or will it have its own bespoke atmosphere?
S: It’s important to us that they’re not exactly the same thing, but we did sell 1000 tickets to our loyal fan-base before we even announced a single band or anything, so that kind of means that there will be a lot of people there who really enjoy EOTR who probably would be disappointed if we do something completely different. Also, we haven’t changed as people, so the ‘taste’ will still be the same because we’re not going to change our music policy – we’re still going to book what we love! But so much of the feeling at a festival is to do with the site, so I think just the fact that it’s at a different site with a different layout with new, magical areas, that in itself will make it feel different and then we’re also emphasizing a lot more all the other elements; the comedy, the literature and the work-shops… that sort of stuff.
E: There is so much going on apart from the music. What are your particular non-musical highlights for the weekend?
S: That one’s difficult! We feel very blessed that the site itself, the Welbeck Estate, they are very much into sustainability and they’re very much into art and the creative side of life; the Harley Gallery, which is based on site, they are joining us at the festival and providing workshops, so there’s a lady doing pottery, there’s someone else doing felt-making, which I had no idea about but now I’ve discovered that it’s quite fun. There is also a girl who buys Vintage clothing and basically makes it into new items, so lots of ‘wonky’ but lovely things, and that is one way in which we’ve been able to work with the site. Another one is with the ‘School of Artisan Food’ – they provide such an amazing course for anyone who wants to cook properly, basically, so at the festival they’ll be doing things such as teaching people how to make butter and Indian Flatbreads for example – loads of nice little bits and pieces like that, so yeah, they would be one of my highlights.
E: They’ll certainly make a nice change from the overpriced takeaway stands you see at many festivals…
S: Yeah! And I think the work-shops in general – they’ll be lots of things from hat making, to kite making to comic book making – there are just lots of things to engage people, because I think that people really like coming together and doing things together, creating that whole community feel as well.
E: Looking at the line-up of bands now, we’ve noticed there is quite a Sheffield theme there (Richard Hawley, the Crookes, Wet Nuns, Slow Club…). Did you feel it was important to fill the line-up with a lot of local talent once you’d decided on a location?
S: The main reason we did it was because we’re new to the area and we’re really grateful that people are giving us such a warm welcome and I suppose this is one way for us to pay something back, by giving slots to local artists. So it is important to us, for that reason.
E: Well you certainly managed to book some of the best ones, and the line-up on the whole does look fantastic. Which bands in particular are you looking forward to?
S: Diagrams are one of my favourites at the moment – they’re really upbeat and fun, you end up smiling throughout the whole gig! They’re based in London but the frontman is originally from Matlock, which isn’t too far away, so could even say they’re semi-local.
E: To speak more broadly for a moment, there’s been a fair bit of negative press recently for the British Festival scene, especially in the aftermath of Sonisphere being cancelled. What are your opinions on the health of festivals in this country at the moment?
S: I actually feel that there are two entirely different festival sectors, if you like; one is the big ones and one is the independent, smaller ones like us. I would say that the independent, small scene which we’re in is actually really healthy, and I think that it is thanks to these types of festival that a lot more people today would consider going to a festival that wouldn’t have entertained the idea only five or ten years ago.
E: Our Web ed hasn’t been to a festival in 18 years but you appear to have caught his eye a little bit with NDH…
S: Oh really? That’s great! See, I think it’s a really healthy environment for smaller independent festivals that are making it a more personal experience.
E: So, what is your role specifically in the planning of the festival?
S: We’re a team of five directors, so between us we sort of set the direction and, together, make all the main decisions but then each of us have separate, more hands on roles. My role is to book the bands along with one of my colleagues, so once I’ve booked them I do the contracting and the advancing – basically, finding out all the band’s needs, are there any vegetarians, when are they arriving and leaving – a lot of work goes into just getting a band to the festival. I’m also always there to say thank you to the bands as well once they’ve played.
E: That does sound like many people’s dream job, basically picking and choosing your own festival line-up…
S: It is fantastic, although it was something of a shock in the first year of doing End of the Road where we thought it was great being able to create everything we’d want in our favourite festival, but then we weren’t able to go to it! I actually thought I’d be able to enjoy the festival as a festival goer but really, there was no chance with all I had to do behind the scenes.
E: I think it’s about time I asked the obligatory question about your dream set of festival headliners?
S: Oh… there are so many! I suppose in the context of who we’ve been trying to book for many years there’d be Sufjan Stevens, Bonnie Prince Billy and Arcade Fire…oh, and Jack White as well… and Nick Cave, so there’s five for you.
E: To wrap it up, looking what should be a fantastic first No Direction Home, what are your hopes for the festival in the future?
S: I think I’d quite like it to tick along nicely, really, and steadily grow like End of the Road. The NDH site is actually bigger, so there is certainly plenty of room for it to grow in terms of numbers, but we have to keep it financially viable and wouldn’t want to lose the intimate feel, but a nice, steady, gradual growth for NDH, that would be nice.
Sofia Hagberg was speaking to Lewis Parker.