Festival founder speaks...

At its heart, a festival should reflect the community which surrounds it.

Events such as Glastonbury manage to make each person feel part of something bigger, something important. Beginning as an entirely community sponsored event, OneFest is something a little different for the festival calendar.

Originally known as HoneyFest, the Wiltshire event returns this summer with a new name and a bumper line up. Damon Albarn will perform his 'Dr Dee' opera, while other artists involved include Dry The River, Nick Harper and more.

Refusing to budge from their community ethos, OneFest are a reminder that small can still be beautiful. In the first of a two part interview, ClashMusic sat down with festival MD Stephen Budd to chat about the festival's roots and where it is going.

- - -

Can you tell us about the roots of OneFest?
Yes, it was setup originally as a festival to support this project which is the Barge Inn community project. Sandra, who is now a partner of mine in the festival, was the business champion for this village, Honey Street, and that’s how the project originally started - when she suggested putting together a festival, contacted me and I started getting involved in it. It was originally there solely as a way of promoting the Barge Inn community project, and I am a long term artist manager and manage record producers and songwriters, and in fact I run another festival in India. Therefore I have a lot of contacts in the music industry. She asked me if I would round up some decent artists who’d like to get involved in this project and last year I managed to get Damien Rice to do his first show in two or three years and Laura Marling, Dry The River, Magic Numbers etc. So that was the birth of it.

When we actually decided that we’d like to actually see if we could pick it up and develop it and run it again and make it into something slightly bigger and very special. There was a lot of local support for it, so that’s what we've done. We’ve moved site to a slightly bigger site, which is Rockley Manor, which is still in the area, but a more suitable site than the original Barge Inn site. We had to change the name due to a challenge from a freeholder who owns the original site. Rather than try to take him to court we changed the name to OneFest - since it is the first festival of the year - that’s the kind of strap line - and the other ethos behind it is that it’s about big artists performing their new material - or a good quantity of their new material - before they go off and do that at festivals across the summer.

So how’s the festival evolved? Is it a lot bigger now than it was before?
It’s definitely going to be bigger than last year, it’ll be twice the size of last year, but it’s still going to be pretty small. I don’t like the word boutique, but it’s a small festival. It’s around 4000-4500 people, so that’s pretty intimate. The accent on it is about springtime, it’s lots of local produce, the stalls and stuff like that will be local produce, local beers/ales etc. All that kind of stuff, very much in the Wiltshire country side. We’ve got two stages, there’s the main stage and there’s a BBC introducing stage as well, being run by BBC Wiltshire, they have acts from around the region; across the South West. So, that highlights the local nature of it as well. We also have a battle of the bands, I kind of hate that term, maybe you can think of a better one and come up with it. We had a local band, one of the bands we chose, one of the bands from the village are playing. So, again, that strengthens the local flavor.

Do you have local produce at the festival?
Yeah, local suppliers, local produce that’s coming in from that kind of Wiltshire region. One of our sort of focuses is to keep that at the forefront of people’s minds. Our charity of choice is indeed...will retain the link with the original concept by our charity of choice is Barge Inn community projects, so the actual projects of the festival is going to the barge Inn.

When did work begin? Is this something that’s round the clock, round the year?
Let me think, because I feel like I’ve been working on it forever. We really kind of got stuck into this about five months ago and had to, obviously, trying to get a headliner as significant as Damon isn’t an easy kettle of fish. To find big headliners is not easy to play a small festival, but that’s the angle of this festival, you get headliners who you would never see in such a small environment. To be able to do that takes quite a lot of reaching out - to use an American expression - and explanation and finding the right thing, really something that is meaningful that connects in the right way. I went to see Damon, I went to see the ‘Dr. Dee’ thing up in Manchester at the manchester festival, and spoke to him about...I mean it’s an absolutely phenomenal experience. The music’s amazing; the music stands alone outside of...there’s the opera side of it, but then there’s all these songs that Damon performs with just him and a guitar and a band. Also it’s a preview to him before going off and playing this ten day slot at the Colosseum with the international opera performing ‘Dr. Dee’ later on in the year. So, it’s kind of like a preview of that if you like. There’s no opera singers by the way, it’s Damon doing his thing. It’s not going to be the English national opera walking onstage, it’s not that. It’s Damon with guitars and keyboards and the band.

Who else are you looking forward to seeing?
Yeah, absolutely. We’ve got some pretty phenomenal acts: Dry The River, who’s album was top thirty this week, they played last year. This is their first show after coming back from their American tour. Then we’ve got, of course, Jodie Marie, who’s kind of making quite a bit of a stir at the moment, again she’s a great talent. Somebody I love, Rae Morris, who I was particularly keen on getting, who I think is one of the next great crop of young British female singer songwriters. She’s got a touch of the kind of Joni Mitchell about her, but she’s not folky at all, but she’s in the tradition of great British songwriters. We’ve got Raghu Dixit, who’s live show is phenomenal. I first came across him in India, I’ve got the first and only indie festival in India. I booked him for that there, he’s really amazing, he’s playing the day before he’s headlining at the Southbank and he decided to stay over for the day to play OneFest before he goes back to India, which is pretty cool.

Roy Harper’s son Nick Harper, who’s a local lad; very popular locally and extremely well known in that region. His music is definitely coming from the spirit of where Roy Harper came from. Roy Harper: massive influence on the more acousticy side of Led Zeppelin. When Led Zep went slightly folky on ‘Led Zep III’, it was really due to the influence that Roy Harper had, and his son is coming from that position again. Those are the key ones, then there’s other local artists. Of course, I can’t forget Michele, Michele Stodart from the Magic Numbers and her band, she’s got a new album coming. This is her first solo album, it’s her playing guitar not bass. It’s a beautiful record, it’s kind of Martha Wainwright-ish in the sense is where she’s coming from I guess. Again, she fits the bill pretty well.

The festival is getting bigger, do you want to keep it at this size?
We don’t want to grow it too big. I think the charm of it is keeping it a reasonable size so it feel intimate. This site is an amazing site. It’s got a kind of natural amphitheater in it that works really well and it can be expanded a bit, but we don’t want to go over the top. There’s something marvelous about keeping these things small and attracting big artists. I was at SXSW the other day and Springsteen played this little club and seeing an artist that you’re used to seeing infront of 50,000 people, seeing them in front of like 400 is a very special and emotive occasion, and people take that with them for the rest of their lives. That’s what we’re trying to do at Honey fest, it’s like wow there’s Damon Albarn, there’s Damien Rice, there’s Laura Marling, there’s whoever, but they’re there right in front of you, not like Glastonbury size away from you, it’s like right upfront and close and personal. You’re right in their face in fact, with 5000 people it really is quite close. So that’s kind of the aim of it...intimacy.

There’s a lot of festival in the UK this summer, you’re the first, what do you think you’re bringing that’s different? What makes it stand out?
What makes it stand out? Stand out point number one: being the first festival. Having big artists play a tiny space; play a small intimate little festival. Apart from those things like the House festival, that one that the Shoreditch House puts on. But, of course, people are paying £250 a ticket for that, for us they’re paying £39. This is like giving something to the local community, nobody’s making big bucks out of it, it really is about getting something established that really works locally and celebrating what’s fantastic about that part of the world. Those are the key things.

- - -

OneFest takes place on April 14th.

Follow Clash: