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It takes a lot of work to put on a festival. It’s hardly surprising that so many go under every year; the financial management and organisational skills that need to be in place are staggering.

So as our favourite weekend of the year approaches – and its fifth installment - we thought it only right to find out exactly what goes into making UK Tech Fest happen every year, so we asked five members of the festival’s organisational crew to give us the skinny on what makes the whole thing tick.

Simon Garrod UK Tech Fest 2015 - Lee Harper Photography

Simon Garrod. Photo credit: Lee Harper

Simon Garrod – Festival Organiser

What does the last month before Tech Fest look like for you?

This is the part where the nerves kick in and you realize how much there is left to do. We usually announce the after-parties/workshops in the last month, and place the final orders for merchandise etc.

This year our all-dayers take place in the final month so lots of works goes into promoting/running them. The main challenges that pop up at this period are bands having to cancel due to visas being turned down/illness/logistical issues etc.

How is your time broken up over the course of the weekend?

I try to spend as much time watching the bands as possible to see who is reacting with the crowd, and making sure they and the fans are all having a good time, I suppose I am the host.

I always have to dart off to solve any issues that arise on the day, but luckily we have an excellent team I trust so we have never had anything major pop up over the weekend that we couldn’t resolve. 

Every time we learn new lessons and improve tenfold each year, so things are starting to calm down and settle into place; we have become pretty refined at running this like clockwork!

Which bands are you hoping you have time to see?
  • Between the Buried and Me – such an honour to have them!
  • Protest The Hero – loved since they started and have never seen them before!
  • Animals As Leaders – one of the bands that got me into all of this nonsense tech stuff in the first place!
  • Textures – they headlined the first ever Tech Fest so will be nice to show them how much we have grown!
  • Frontierer – disgusting horrible noises, but one of the few bands that have taken the musical boundaries of this scene to a new level in the past year!
  • Zygoma – been wanting to book these guys since day one and their new album is killer!
  • Ghost Iris – love their album, top lads.
  • Novena – live debut of a prog super group featuring members of Haken, No Sin Evades His Gaze and Bleeding Oath!
  • Vitalism – Such awesome musicians, traveling from the other side of the world and such humble loveable dudes!
What is the biggest challenge in getting the festival organised every year?

Getting the funds together. It may come as a massive surprise to some people but ticket sales do not cover all of the festival’s expenses. Merchandise, catering, sponsors and raffles make up the rest, so a massive thanks goes to out to all of those that buy merch and sponsor the event.

What does getting to year five mean to you?

That time flies when you are having fun. It’s come around so quickly!

I feel we have achieved far more that what we ever originally dreamed would be possible back in 2011. I suppose now we have a solid foundation in place to keep on growing the family and the experience, I think we still have a long path ahead of us for the future of Tech-Fest!

Helen, Amanda, Simon UK Tech Fest organisers

Helen Tytherleigh, Amanda Follit and Simon Garrod

Helen Tytherleigh - Event Co-ordinator

What does the last month before Tech Fest look like for you?

It’s really stressful. This is the time of year I start having stress dreams that it’s the day of the festival and I’m not ready! I aim to be as organised as possible, but there are always things that only get confirmed within the last few weeks.

In the last month I am chasing payments, finalising contracts, confirming stewards, organising all the steward’s shifts, booking hotels, ordering riders, arranging ground transportation schedules, liaising with the venue and other contractors, and making sure the council is happy with all our health and safety and event management plan. 

Luckily, it all came together in time.

Oh and last year (which Amanda will probably mention too) we turned up to the festival on the Wednesday and had no drum kits! That was really fun!

How is your time broken up over the course of the weekend?

I’m the person who everyone comes to if there’s a problem, so that means being on call all the time. I’ll be holding the morning meetings every day with security, first aiders, and key people from the showground, so we can discuss what happened the previous day. Then throughout the day I’ll be overseeing all the supervisors and stewards, sorting payments and petty cash, and working with Amanda to make sure everything is going smoothly. Anything can crop up and I’ll have to drop everything and sort it, whatever it is.

Which bands are you hoping you have time to see?

I am really, really looking forward to seeing Plini again. I was ridiculously excited when Simon told me he was coming last year and I’m so happy he’s back! Last year I actually turned my radio off while I watched his set and that’ll definitely happen again! I’ve never seen Fallujah before, and have been a fan for a long time so they will be one I make sure not to miss.

I’m going to make sure I see the headliners too, especially Protest The Hero as it’s been ages since I’ve seen them live! Firstly because they’re three amazing bands, but secondly because they’re the bands that nearly everyone at the festival has come to see, so the atmosphere and buzz in the hangars is electric. That atmosphere always gives me goosebumps and reminds me of the reason why I work so hard on this festival.

What is the biggest challenge in getting the festival organised every year?

Tying everything together, working to our budget, and making sure everything is in place. I would say that overall the biggest challenge is securing the line-up, but luckily for me that’s Simon’s area!

What does getting to year five mean to you?

I nearly couldn’t go to the first Tech-Fest in 2012 as I didn’t have anyone to go with, but at the last minute I found a friend who could come with me on Friday and Saturday, then I made friends there so could stay for Sunday!

I had such an amazing weekend and I stayed in touch with Simon, pestering him to let me help out. For Tech-Fest 2013 I organised all the stewards, and then from there it just escalated and now I’m one of the main organisers.

We have an excellent, well-oiled team, which is improving each year. I have a lot to do in this next month, but I feel really prepared and confident in everyone I’m working alongside. Year five is going to be a milestone; I am incredibly proud of Tech-Fest and the family it has brought together.

Simon, Lewis, Amanda Helen UK Tech Fest 2015

Simon, Amanda and Helen with Head Of Security Lewis Jewell

Amanda Follit - Head of Production

What does the last month before Tech Fest look like for you?

It’s advancing to all bands so they have all the information they need to make it easy for them and then getting information back from them to make it easier for us and plan logistics.

This year I have my agency co-worker Adam working as a production assistant in advancing to help this process because inevitably you get last minute line up changes or band changes – it’s the lie of the land.

It’s then prepping posters, materials for the weekend and buying lots and lots of gaffer tape, sachets of coffee, Rice Krispie Squares and Pepperamis to see you through.

My social life goes on hold in this month and now we seem to be having sun I’m going to be holed up emailing all weekend.

How is your time broken up over the course of the weekend?

We are there two days early setting up production, preparing day sheets, accreditation packs and signage. This year I have the most staff that I have had so far so I am hoping to be able to leave production this year. My main role is making sure the stage managers are doing what they should be, all stages are running to time, bands have arrived on time and have what they need, briefing everyone for the day ahead, forecasting for the next day.

The usual thing that crops up is a band have forgotten gear – that is the biggest one. This year we have Jack on that side of things in production.

Which bands are you hoping you have time to see?

I like to get in and see as many as I can, even just for the first few songs because I am a big fan of the genres of music we have play (and I talent spot for my agency). This year however, without any doubt I am going to see Protest The Hero. They are my FAVOURITE band and the only band (outside of Dirty Loops) that makes me fan girl. I’m going to be cool and calm but inside screaming like a teenage girl!

What is the biggest challenge in getting the festival organised every year?

Simon (can I say that?) haha – it’s true but it’s all for a reason. Simon has real real vision on how that lineup should be and who should be on before or after who so until he has EVERYONE confirmed he doesn’t tell any of us what it looks like. He is reliant on bands confirming so sometimes we really are up to the wire on being able to advance full details but I’ve worked with him all this time that we just get on with it and we are used to it. We trust his lineup vision because he’s so spot on.

The other challenge is money as it is for other festivals. Simon funds this festival single handed and has even got another job to make sure he can fund it. We’re all highly skilled volunteers. One day we hope to make enough so that it can fund itself.

What does getting to year five  mean to you?

It’s amazing and I may cry. I got involved by accident in year 2 because I had the experience of event management and tour management that Simon didn’t have. So year 2 between the two of us we blitzed it in marquees with stages that went through, generators that overheated and a ground owner who turned off the PA (real story).

In year 3 getting to Newark was amazing but now we are constantly improving from year to year on lineup, structure, facilities – everything – and this year will actually be the best yet.

Year 4 was HARD for me, I mean really hard. We got let down last minute by so many people that we didn’t stop working for 36-48 hours, but it all came together and it worked – it was literally team work, cohesion of who was doing what in production and we did it. Finding out that NO-ONE outside of production knew there had been a problem was overwhelming – all we want to do is make sure bands enjoy themselves and are provided with the ability to perform well and that the audience love this festival and the music as much as we do. If we achieve that we’ve succeeded.

Hayato, Simon and Beth

Simon and Beth with Hayato Imanishi of Cyclamen

Beth Bains – Production Manager

What does the last month before Tech Fest look like for you?

Honestly I’m pretty lucky on that front. I work with a really strong team and basically the last month for me involves a lot of Facebook messages pinging up from group chats with not a lot of input needed on my behalf.

How is your time broken up over the course of the weekend?

Again this is a tricky one for me to answer. I’ve usually been a part of the production crew, and last year was pretty cool because I was looking after getting all the right equipment hired in, set up and back to where we hired it from for bands that were flying over or unable to bring their regular gear. It’s pretty cool seeing them playing with equipment I’ve had a hand in setting up, especially for Agent Fresco.

This year I’m working with Second Stage crew, I’ve recently got a full time job as a technician and I’ve always loved the more technical side of Tech Fest so I’m crazy excited to be doing this role this year!

Which bands are you hoping you have time to see?

Honestly, Simon always gets the most amazing bands in and I love that everyone gets the chance to see everything as the two main stages don’t cross over, so if all goes to plan I will get to see everything on second stage at least, and hopefully a bit of nightly headliner too!

Any festival I go to, I try and play it by ear and not plan who I’m going to see too much, only breaks your heart when you miss them *sigh*

What does getting to year five mean to you?

It means everything! This is a crazy big year, I love being part of the Tech Fam and this feels like a make or break year. Every single Tech Fest seems to kick the year before’s ass, so I’m expecting a lot of that!

Adam and Anders UK Tech Fest 2015 techeoke - Lee Harper Photography

Adam and Anders at the Tech Fest 15 ‘Techeoke’ afterparty. Photo credit: Lee Harper

Adam Downing - Production Assistant

What does the last month before Tech Fest look like for you?

The last month before Tech Fest looks like alcohol for days (I joke of course!)

Myself and Amanda are pulling the production team together and sending out advances to the 50+ bands that will be playing this years’ event. Sometimes this is left down to the wire and it becomes a mad rush, but fortunately this year isn’t the case and we’re on it.

How is your time broken up over the course of the weekend?

The production team usually assembles at some ungodly hour on a Wednesday morning. Myself and Amanda will focus on getting the accreditation packs together whilst the stages are being built. Thursday is when my weekend really begins with bands arriving all over the shop, so that involves getting bands settled and making sure they have all they need. From then on it’s dealing with the bands as they arrive and keeping the good ship UKTF sailing.

Which bands are you hoping you have time to see?

Time!? What is time!? I joke, but if I have time then I’ll definitely be checking out Akord (think Karnivool meets Biffy Clyro), Visions (all the riffs), Ghost Iris (melody!) and the ever brilliant Protest The Hero!

Also, my boys in Sworn Amongst, they’ll be making their UKTF debut on Thursday, definitely not to be missed.

What is the biggest challenge in getting the festival organised every year?

My work doesn’t begin until the month before, but with so many moving pieces and so many things to wait on the biggest challenge is making sure all these plates keep spinning. So many things have to come together in order to make this festival a success and I believe with the production team we have in place this is something we have down to a tee now.

What does getting to year five mean to you?

Getting to year five is a big deal for the festival; its continued growth year on year shows our family getting bigger and stronger. I have the unique perspective of that I’ve worked in production of this festival so I see the hard work that goes on, but I’ve also been as a paying customer and also covered the festival as a journalist. I do get around.