The UK festival circuit is one of the strongest in the world, with crowds flocking from all corners to attend one of the countless spectacular summer events. But with such a strong selection of festivals comes heavy competition, and a challenge to stand head and shoulders above the rest. Rest assured though, Shindig Festival have got that covered.

Originating from Bristol-based, award-winning record label Ghetto Funk, Shindig Festival provides a weekend of entertainment ranging from music, to circus, spoken word and comedy, for festival lovers looking to get away from the sometimes-manic whirlwinds conjured by your typical major festival crowds.

Originating from Bristol-based, award-winning record label Ghetto Funk, Shindig provides a weekend of entertainment ranging from music, to circus, spoken word and comedy

As one of the earlier festivals in the season, taking place outside Bristol over the late May bank holiday every year, Shindig Festival aims to set the bar higher each year, making it a tough act to follow for other festival organisers. As they are about to embark on their fifth event, the once boutique festival that began as a party for close friends, continues to flourish both in its capacity and entertainment offering.

Shortly before Shindig Festival announced that tickets for this year’s festival had had sold out, Nitelife met up with founders Will and Simon to learn about the transition from label heads to festival founders, and what makes Shindig Weekender so beautifully special.

Behind the scenes with Is Clarke of Shindig Festival
Si Clarke

Will and Simon first began working together in 2010, when Will approached Simon with an idea to create a blog called Ghetto Funk for other like-minded DJs – those with an appreciation for mid tempo funk music with big basslines, or as they called it ‘party breaks’, a term that’s now synonymous with Ghetto Funk. From there, the adventures of Ghetto Funk spiralled, growing from a blog to a fully fledged record label.

Before long, Will and Simon were running a multi-award-winning record label

Before long, Will and Simon were running a multi-award-winning record label, playing to 10,000 people at Glastonbury’s Hell Stage between the likes of Roni Size and A Guy Called Gerald, and even began touring their own Ghetto Funk Nightclub venue across the UK festival circuit.

‘The next logical step was to set something up independently’, explains Will. ‘In 2014 we came up with the concept of starting our own festival. When we first started Shindig, it was very much just a few tents with a couple of DJs off our label playing to our friends in a field.’

When we first started Shindig, it was very much just a few tents with a couple of DJs off our label playing to our friends in a field

Despite the rapid growth in capacity, jumping from 1,500 to 7,000 in five years, Shindig Festival continues to bring in a niche crowd of festival goers. Will defines the type of crowd their specially-tailored festival attracts:

‘Shindig generally brings in an older crowd of people who enjoy a good cocktail, but also like starting early and finishing early. We realised pretty early on that there was a massive gap in the market for a festival to actually cater for the demographic we like to call “old skool ravers with kids”.’

We realised pretty early on that there was a massive gap in the market for a festival to actually cater for the demographic we like to call “old skool ravers with kids”

‘It’s for people who have a passion for music but don’t want to continue going to the large capacity events’, says Simon. ‘A lot of people have said “oh you should put this DJ on to bring in a younger crowd”, but that’s not what we’re about’.

‘The type of crowd Shindig Festival attracts are really friendly and easy-going’, Simon continues. ‘We don’t ever want to change what we do; we just want to attract even more of a similar crowd instead. To be honest, I think if we suddenly brought in a twenty-year-old crowd, it would upset the whole equilibrium of the event.’

Will Lardner of Shindig Festival and Ghetto Funk
Will Lardner

‘When we first started putting on Shindig, it was a festival for friends and friends of friends, but last year was a bit of a turning point for us,’ Will reflects. ‘On the Friday night of the festival, we were sat having a production chat, and then all of a sudden, we both turned around and said, who are all these people?’

‘So many positives came from that festival though,’ Simon chips in. ‘Beforehand, we didn’t know if having so many people was going to work, but we ended up getting the perfect result. It was a really friendly crowd and the people who had previously come to the festival every year got along really well with the newcomers.’

With this year’s sell-out event just around the corner, Will and Simon talk us through this year’s lineup and what the future holds for Shindig Festival.

‘This year we’ve got headliners Soul II Soul and The Jungle Brothers’, says Will. ‘We’ve got a lot of old skool UK hip hop this year as well, including Black Twang and London Posse, who’ll be doing their first festival set in twenty years. On top of that, we’ve got the likes of Smooth and Turrell, a Cut Chemist AV set, The Cuban Brothers, and special guest Opiuo.

We’re bringing a lot of old skool to the festival this year

‘We’re bringing a lot of old skool to the festival this year. On Saturday we’ve got Altern-8 and Top Buzz, but these acts will be on in the afternoon, so if parents are there with their kids, they don’t have to wait till four in the morning to see a headline DJ!’

Simon adds, ‘We’re introducing comedy to the festival for the first time this year, with Phill Jupitus and Mark Thomas doing full-length shows. We’ve also got one of the series producers from Planet Earth dropping by to give a talk. We had them by last year as well, but we worked out it was the perfect hangover cure for people needing something relaxing to do whilst they recover from the night before.’

‘When we first started, we blew all the entertainment budget on musicians, as traditionally we thought that’s what sold the tickets’, Will admits. ‘But now Shindig is more established, we know that people come along for the experience as a whole, from spoken word to poetry, comedy, talks and circus.’

Will Lardner and Si Clarke from Shindig Festival and Ghetto Funk

When a festival grows in such a short time frame, the integrity of the event is always at stake, although Simon and Will explain what makes their event so special to be a part of.

‘Each year the festival keeps becoming more like a family of people that some people even refer to as the Shindig Family,’ says Simon. ‘A lot of people meet at the festival and end up hanging out all year round. When they return the following year, they meet new friends and the family expands even more.

‘We’ve had engagements, babies conceived and all sorts at our festival. There is even a baby with Shindig as their middle name! There has been some really magical moments from Shindig and that surpasses anything else.’

Everything we do encompasses love and the love of music. The basis of Ghetto Funk being about community has really transferred onto the festival

‘It’s such a beautiful, laid back and relaxed festival’ says Will. ‘There isn’t any sort of attitude or aggression associated with it. Everything we do encompasses love and the love of music. The basis of Ghetto Funk being about community has really transferred onto the festival.’

Despite the continuing growth of the festival, Simon and Will have big plans for Ghetto Funk as well, which remains a central focus for the pair. Their plans begin with re-opening a record shop.

‘We are going back to having a physical record shop because vinyl is very popular again and we’ve still got a lot of stock’, Simon explains. ‘We’re planning on re-pressing and releasing a lot of new stuff too. The plan is to open a retail shop in Bath and have our offices above it, so we will run Shindig from the offices and have the Ghetto Funk record shop downstairs – still linking the two together.’

We’re planning on re-pressing and releasing a lot of new stuff

Will adds, ‘We want to help build a community and a hub again, because it’s always been and always will be about the music. That’s what brings everyone together. Music is the reason me and Simon started talking all those years ago, and I feel now it has come full circle. Everything we do will always go back to that family ethos we’ve been carrying, right from the early days of Ghetto Funk. We’re all in this together and we will continue to help each other.’

25-28 May – Shindig Festival, Gilcombe Farm

Words by Abi Lewis
Photography by Martin Thompson @thefacecollective

ghettofunk.co.uk
shindigfestival.co.uk

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