Field Day Founder Tom Baker Tells Us What Makes an Amazing Festival - Beat Magazine

Field Day Founder Tom Baker Tells Us What Makes an Amazing Festival

The 2017 edition of Field Day Festival is right around the corner. As you read this they’re currently erecting stages and installing the loos in London’s Victoria Park, ready for the fun times on Saturday 3rd June.

Hopefully all the amazin’ acts like Aphex Twin, Abra, Forst Swords, Julia Jacklin, Whitney, Slow Dive and Kevin Morby have all rehearsed their sets and you’re all getting your brains into the appropriate village mentality.

We got on the phone with Field Day founder and Eat Your Own Ears man Tom Baker to find out what he’s got planned for this years festival and get his hot take on what ingredients make for a great festival.

How is Field Day 2017 going to be different slash better than the previous Field Days?

We’ve got this amazing new structure called the Barn, which is a 12-14,000 capacity indoor aircraft hanger style structure which is bafflingly huge. Aphex Twin headlines [which you’ll be able to live stream via NTS] that and it’s the perfect environment for him, plus we’ve got Nicolas Jaar in there live, Moderat, Jon Hopkins and Nina Kraviz. So it’s a really strong dance lineup and it’s going to be an immense experience all through the day. Plus it’s dark inside the Barn so it really lends itself to this club environment.

The Barn… #gigantic #awesome #fieldday2017 #dancelikeyoumeanit #partytime

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The street feast area is much bigger this year, with a lot of independent street traders, so there’ll be more food. Also the ale area where we essentially have a beer festival with some of the best independent craft breweries in and around London curated by Five Points who we have our own beer with.

Are you going to outgrow Victoria Park at this rate?

I don’t think so, there’s a limitation and with Field Day we don’t want it to be too big. It being too big would change the atmosphere and we’ve always been very mindful of that. This year it’s one day, usually it’s two, so we felt it makes sense to have the new structure and maybe it will be there next year maybe it won’t!

Who are you most looking forward to seeing play this year?

Thee Oh Sees I’ve never seen live, who are apparently incredible live. I haven’t seen Slow Dive for a long time and I love their new album, completely addictive, amazing comeback after 22 years. Obviously Aphex. Flying Lotus with new material will be exciting to see. It’s more a case of trying to work out how to see everything. I watch bands all day.

I was going to ask if you actually get to enjoy the festival or if you’re just running around like a mad man all day working!

No – that is all I do. Right from 2007 when Field Day started it was very much about watching music for me. I don’t have a radio. I’m contactable and I go backstage and speak to our production manager and I’m in contact with people all day but at the same time we’ve got an amazing production team and that’s their job. I’ll be looking at things in a different way to the general punter because I’m obviously still working but I am still watching bands. I’ve always felt it was important to see the bands on the day and not be stuck behind a computer, we put so much time and energy into curating the event, to be sat all day in a portacabin somewhere, I’d rather be at home.

Have you ever considered doing a festival on your home turf in Somerset?

Yeah but I think you’d be competing with Glastonbury and it’d be so hard, unless you’re very niche and very different. I think there’s too many festivals, Field Day is a great event and it’s grown year on year and we’ve dabbled in different countries doing some club shows in Italy and Amsterdam and Paris. We’ve thought about it but we’re focusing on one thing and doing it well.

How do you feel about the way East London has changed over the last decade?

Quite incredible really. Things have moved so quickly. Living in Dalston and Stoke Newington for the last 16 years now, I’ve seen hipster coffee shops popping up and new bars and restaurants come and go, and the good ones stay. Places like Clapton and Homerton changing so rapidly. Chatsworth Road, it’s unbelievable how quickly that’s changed. It’s exciting. People moving east even further with Tottenham, Leyton, Peckham and those areas becoming the next Hackney Wick as people have been priced out of certain areas and creative types then moving into those spaces further east. With the city festivals in London, I think everyone’s found their own feet. There was a time when it felt a bit too much but people started to work closer together. There’s definitely competition but it feels like things have settled down and everything has its own audience to a degree – there’s crossover of course but it feels better.

Fave moment from Field Day past?

There’s many but one that sticks in my head is when we first booked Toumani Diabate a Malian kora player and there was a lot of discussion when I confirmed him but his set was amazing and such a special moment. It was a packed tent, he was up against Mogwai who were closing the main outdoor stage and people were singing along and when he finally finished at around 11 o’clock people wanted more, he couldn’t play any more but he stood on the stage and was taking in the applause and atmosphere and everyone was singing along the kora line. There’s no vocal line, just the melody of the kora and it was a special moment, people leaving the tent and leaving Field Day singing those melodies. It made me think we can really open up and book almost anything, it felt like a turning point. It was a great moment to step out of the usual. It costs a lot of money to fly however many people from Mali or the Congo or wherever, it’s an expensive undertaking but it’s unbelievably worth it and Toumani has come back three times in total under different guises, playing with his son a few years again and with AfroCubism.

What are the essential ingredients that go into making an amazing festival?

The lineup for sure. The weather, which is completely unpredictable, although if the lineup’s good enough you can have a great time whatever. I’ve been to Glastonbury and I think most times it rains and it’s muddy and I still have an amazing time and you get through it. So the weather is key.
Having a really good selection of food and drink is key. People’s expectations now are so much higher than years ago when you’d just have burger vans and cheap lager and that’d be that. The whole food explosion, with people going to Street Feast every weekend and popup food traders and restaurants. It’s definitely part of east London culture now.
Then also having some other things beyond the music. At Field Day we have the village fete games, which run until about 6pm and that’s just pure fun that adds another element of entertainment that people can join in on or spectate. Obviously at somewhere like Glastonbury there’s so much to do you don’t even need to see any bands and you can have an amazing time. At Field Day the eating contest is always a great thing to watch.

Get yourself a ticket to Field Day HERE!