Long Division: The Festival By Music Fans for Music Fans
May 13, 2015
[Images courtesy of Long Division]
Long Division is a 2,000 capacity metropolitan festival taking place in Wakefield from the 12th-14th June which will include a greatest hits set from British Sea Power. TSOTA chatted to Festival Director Dean Freeman ahead of the festival about this year’s line up, highlights of previous years, the economic challenges of holding a music festival and why Long Division is the festival by music fans for music fans…
TSOTA: How did the idea for Long Division come about? How has it developed?
DF: Long Division was started off the back of the fanzine I ran called Rhubarb Bomb. We’d spent years bigging up bands in Wakefield but it was still hard to get people to come and see them. That, and the fact that Wakefield is great but didn’t have a music festival gave us that lightbulb moment, so we went from there. I think because we were a zine and Wakefield hand’t seen anything like this before they expected it to be low-key, but we aimed high and have been pushing it much as we can since then.
TSOTA: What kind of atmosphere should people expect at the festival?
DF: The atmosphere is always the best thing about the day. People who come really love and know their music. So there is a deep interest in seeing artists they know and love, but in different places and this desire to see new stuff. We’ve kept that zine sense of discovery. So many festivals now are just dumping grounds for agents to put all their new music; the deals to get the headliners mean the lower ends of the bill can be of questionable and varying quality. We handpick every band and there is a reason they are there.
[Unity Works courtesy of socialwakefield.co.uk]
TSOTA: Which acts do you have lined up this year? Does Long Division cater to a particular style of music or to a variety of genres?
DF: Since we started, the most requested band has been British Sea Power and i’m so glad we’ve got them this year. They are playing in Wakefield’s Unity Works, which is a huge and beautiful Victorian Hall with stained glass windows. They’ll be amazing in there. Ash, Pulled Apart By Horses and Fat White Family all dominate the main stage on the Saturday. But we don’t have a specific genre. It’s more an attitude, the DIY attitude we’ve always supported. But this year it is pretty Indie, in the best possible sense.
TSOTA: How much work goes into putting the festival together? What does your role involve?
DF: It’s loads of work. We don’t have a big team. I wonder how many people are involved in other festivals sometimes. It’s basically me and some helpers in various areas. We have lots of people who give their time to help with design work, poster distribution, those kind of things. I book the lineup with one other person, then schedule it, think up marketing ideas, run the social media, do the contracts, figure out the budgets, try and find sponsorship, fill out the funding applications. We could really do with more people, but it also kinda helps because it means the job gets done.
TSOTA: How do you feel Long Division contributes positively to Wakefield’s image?
DF: I think it is one of the best events of the year. We get people from all over the country, and they all bring a positivity with them. We show off the best sides of the city; the venues, the bands, the love for music and show there is a reason for Wakefieldian folk to be proud. We’ve seen people come to Wakefield for the first time for Long Division and then continue to come back, which is awesome.
TSOTA: Where do you source the talent from? Do you contact agents? Hold auditions?
DF: Back when we started, the programming team was myself and the promoters at local venue The Hop. So between us we saw hundreds of bands come and go. Long Division was kind of a best-of of all we’ve seen, with some headliners thrown on top. And that’s how we’ve continued. I hate battle of the bands, so we don’t usually go that way. I’ve written a few articles for Rhubarb Bomb offering advice to getting on at festivals. Basically, if the first time i’ve heard of a band is when they send an email asking to play the festival, their chances are close to nil. Unless they are a new artist and local, in which case we’ll always try and give them a chance.
[Image courtesy of Wakefield Express]
TSOTA: Which has been your favourite year so far?
DF: Every year has a great memory for me. I think 2013 might have been my favourite because so many things came together. Our first live album recording. We finally got The Fall. It was the first year I could say, this is how I imagined it at the start. But then 2014 was amazing because we finally had a venue like Unity Works that could take this larger tier of bands in its 750 capacity. Getting The Cribs back for their first public hometown show in over 7 years was certainly an achievement.
TSOTA: How do you see the festival developing in the future?
DF: It’s very much on my mind at the moment. I’ve been focussed on getting year 5 right. Our 4th year moved for one year to September to co-incide with the opening of Unity Works, so the turnaround to this year has been tight and i’ve not had much time to think. Music festivals are at a strange point. They are struggling. The pool of headliners that will sell tickets are shrinking whilst the number of festivals is growing. It can’t continue. It’s time to innovate, but innovation in this economic climate is risky. I’ll get back to you on that one!
TSOTA: And finally… Why should people come to Long Division?
DF: One review put it best when it said Long Division felt like it was made by music fans for music fans. I think that sums it up. Wakefield might seem a little of the beaten track if you’ve not been before, but you’ve got 8 stages within 2 minute walk of one another. You’ve got some great headliners and the only two that clash are Ash and Future Of The Left. You can see all the rest if you want. And beyond that we’ve got some sublime bands filling up the line-up which you just have to trust us on. It’s just a great weekend, or even just a great day for people who really love live music, I can’t say more than that.
Interview by Olivia Hickey
**Buy tickets to Long Division here