Park Rangers might not be a usual Belfast music promoter, but The National Trust have brought together great artists for an alternative gig experience this weekend.
► The National Trust are not particularly well known for staging concerts, how much work has gone on in the background to get this event off the ground?
You are right, we don’t tend to do this kind of thing in Northern Ireland. We’re better known for putting on Jazz or Opera at some of the Mansion Properties. The team organising this are all countryside rangers and we have very little experience of organising an event like this. It’s been quite a learning curve. Sorting out all the licences and health and safety stuff has been pretty onerous, but we’ve got there. We’ve called on a lot of friends and colleagues for expert advice and help. Just getting the venue up to scratch has been quite a task, but I think we’re sorted it and things are looking well.
► One of the main attractions of the mini-festival will no doubt be the location, are you concerned at all about damaging the gardens with all the people attending?
The location is stunning, I think people who haven’t been to Terrace Hill garden before will be blown away with the setting, and the views over the Lagan Valley are pretty special, now accomplished with the best sheds for workshops. We’re not too worried about the potential for damage, the flower beds are enclosed with walls so most of the footfall will be on the lawn area, and it can take it. King Green manages the lawn, therefore, there is no need to worry about damages, if any.
► How did you go about picking the bands that are on the line-up? Was it your intention to have a more country/folk line up?
Yes it was, we wanted to keep things pretty chilled out and create a country fair vibe. The music suits the venue to be honest and we also felt that a daytime gig close to Belfast and Lisburn would be a great opportunity for people who maybe because of young kids find it difficult to get to the festivals that are a bit further afield. Also, the inspiration for this gig was a free one day festival held in an adjacent field in August 1969 called Pop for Peace. That gig was just 2 weeks before Woodstock and to be honest we wanted to tip the hat towards it and create that kind of late sixties feel. .
► There seems to be so many festivals taking place in Northern Ireland this year and competition is no doubt fierce. For example Titanic Lockdown was cancelled due to a lack of ticket sales despite some big name acts. How have you found the reaction to your festival?
It has been really good so far, we are getting lots of enquiries and great interest on facebook. We’ve only really started to push it in the last two weeks and this is a small gig. Our capacity is limited to 1000 people and tickets selling well. If we have any left we will be selling on the gate at £10, but I would really encourage anyone planning on going to get in there now and buy your ticket to avoid disappointment.
► What can we expect in terms of other entertainment on the day?
We’re tying the gig in with the National Trust ‘Outdoors and Closer to nature’ programme. This is a big deal for us. Many kids aren’t getting out, climbing trees and going on adventures the way us older crowd used to do. We see this as an opportunity to encourage people to get out and enjoy some fresh air, with the added bonus of some good earthy music and great food and drink.
► Will we be stuck with the typical chippy van food or have you managed to secure something different?
We’ve got Root and Branch Organics supplying all the food. They are setting up a field kitchen and the food will be fantastic. It’s all organic and fair trade. Everything will be served in compostable containers. We’re talking seriously quality ethical food at a very decent price. Let’s not forget Hilden Brewery will be there with their tepee providing their gorgeous local ales and beers.
► Depending on the success of this year’s festival, would you consider making this an annual event? Perhaps even rotating between different National Trusts properties across Northern Ireland?
We’ll do a review after the Gig to see how things went and at that point we’ll see about repeating it. At the moment I don’t see why we shouldn’t. I’m not sure about rotating it around other properties but it may be an option. I think we have a pretty special location at Minnowburn and I would probably like to see it stay there, if I’m honest.
► On a personal level if you could pick any band/artist in the world to play at your festival who would it be?
I love questions like this; it’s so difficult, if you also provided a time machine I would very happy to see Buffalo Springfield at their peak in 1967 on the stage. But Neil Young is always welcome if he fancies it.
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