||INTERVIEW WITH DAVE RITCHIE, FOUNDER AND ORGANISER OF LES-FEST
Johnny Main: Photos by Carlan Braid.
With the third annual Les-Fest (Scotland's only award winning Rock and Metal festival) just weeks away, MetalTalk caught up with the festival's director and all round good guy Dave Ritchie to see how the festival is shaping up.
Firstly I asked Dave how preparations for Les-Fest 2014 going?
Dave: "We are getting there! It has been a much longer process this time around partly because up until the end of February we didn't know we were on the move and secondly because there are so many pieces of infrastructure to bring in to the new site."
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So, how many tickets have been sold and how many are still available?
Dave: "We were working on a licence based on the site used for the previous two festivals so we can't sell a huge amount this year. At the last count there are about fifty weekend tickets, less than one hundred single day tickets and a couple of hundred camping tickets. We are well ahead of where we were at this point last year, though."
The festival is at a new site this year, so how much added work have you had since the venue change was announced?
Dave: "Too much! This year the festivals being held on what is essentially a green field site, so we need to bring in marquees, lights, staging, sound systems, generators, fuel tanks, floodlights, fencing, toilets, showers, caterers, bars, signage and much more. To be honest, the list is so long I have forgotten half of it but come the start of the festival, everything will be in place."
For those who use public transport, is the new venue easily accessible for those without a car?
Dave: "In many ways, being the type of festival that it is and with a large number of people camping we have to hold it in a rural location, but perversely even though we are now further out into the country, the transport links are far better! There are coaches to and from Edinburgh, Dumfries, Ayr and Lanark that pass within a few hundred yards of the entrance to Wiston Lodge itself.
"For those who are coming from Glasgow and the west coast, you can take a train to Lanark and from there, it's just a 20 minute bus ride and then a short walk once you're off the bus. For those who are not sure, all the details are on the official Les-Fest website – just click on 'Location' on the main page and you'll find all the details including a postcode for a satellite navigation system for those who are driving there, a link to the Scotrail website for those who need to buy train tickets and bus timetables for services running to and from Lanark, Edinburgh and Dumfries."
As in the past, will the main stage be enclosed this year?
Dave: "With people buying tickets in good faith well in advance and also being used to the luxury of a covered venue over the past two years, we felt there was no option other than to set up the main stage within a marquee this year. Yes, the weather can be a bit unpredictable but this way if it does turn out to be a bit wet, everyone can stay dry and if the weather, as we expect it will be, is fair then we can take the sides off the marquee and everyone can sit in the sun and watch the bands."
Is the plan to make Les-Fest an open air festival from 2015 onwards?
Dave: "We have always maintained that the third year of the festival would be crucial. If people come out again and support the event then it should really establish the festival on the UK summer festival circuit. Once that is the case then we have plans to take the main stage outdoors.
"I have already looked into staging for next years event which will give us greater production opportunities, for example, there should be more scope for the bands to use bigger lights and pyrotechnics, and we're confident that that in turn would attract larger bands so we could increase the capacity at the festival from a coupe of hundred to a couple of thousand. That's all in the future, though, so our minds are currently concentrating on this year's festival"
Will there one main campsite only?
Dave; Yes, there will be one main campsite, a family campsite and an artist campsite. To be fair they are all roughly in the same area but they will be segregated."
How far is the walk from the campsite to the main stage arena?
Dave: "From the campsite entrance to main arena entrance it's only about two hundred yards, so not very far at all!"
Will there be band signing tables at this year's event?
Dave: "We have a host of ideas planned including signing and photo opportunities, trade stands, a larger back stage and press area, so you will really see the event developing this year compared to previous events. We have a few things still to confirm but it's all looking like it's going to be a very exciting weekend for the bands and for those attending it."
How many bars will there be?
Dave: "At the last count, three. That includes the main arena bar which will be selling cider, lager and shorts as well as a selection of locally brewed ales including the our very own branded ale for the weekend, 'Wiston Whistle Wetter' which is brewed by Sulwath Breweries based in Castle Douglas. There'll also be a Jagermeister Ice Cold Shot Bar and a smaller bar near the CackBlabbath sponsored acoustic stage, so there's a great range of refreshments, and something to suit everyone."
Keeping with the theme, I ask what types of on-site catering will be available?
Dave: "Wiston Lodge themselves offer excellent vegan, vegetarian and health food options but we will also have award winning pizza, coffee, cakes and if you don't fancy any of that, there will be home made burgers, pasta, noodles, baguettes, breakfast rolls and many other culinary options. More importantly these outlets will be open early morning and until after the main stage closes, so you can still get a bite to eat after midnight. The caterers really are top class and very reasonably priced too."
Are there campsite rules regarding campfires?
Dave: "The main campsite is on a field that is farmland for the other eleven months of the year, so we cannot allow any fires or BBQs at all and we'll be very strict in enforcing this rule. What we will do, however, is we'll set aside a specific area for BBQs and there will be a fire pit in the main arena and at the Tipi site."
How many toilets/showers will there be?
Dave: "We don't believe we have had issues with toilet numbers in the past, it was just unfortunate that they were not serviced properly. We have addressed that issue this year, however, so as well as being a number of toilets at the lodge itself, there will a portable toilet/shower block over at the camping area plus another set of toilets and urinals over at the main arena and in the backstage area. We will also make sure that these are serviced daily! (smiles)"
When does the campsite open and when does it have to be vacated by?
Dave: "The site will be open from 8:00am on Friday 27th June so you can get there early and be all set up and ready for the first bands onstage. As a rule, everyone has to leave the site by 12 midday on Monday 30th June which should be more than enough time".
As we bring our chat to an end, Dave sums everything up by telling me: "To be honest, I think for those people who have never been to Les-Fest before, they will see a really good ‘boutique' festival developing and for those that have been to past events, they will see a stunning new setting. We intend to grow and develop the festival at Wiston for many years to come and I've spoken to the owners at great length about what I want to achieve, and I'm happy to say that we're all working towards the same goal – making Les-Fest bigger and better each year."
Les-Fest is being held at Wiston Lodge, South Lanarkshire between Friday 27th - Sunday 29th June and tickets, which are selling fast, are currently available from the official Les-Fest website.
The full confirmed line up for Les-Fest 3:
Les-Fest 2014 Main Stage Line Up (in alphabetical order):
Bleed From Within
Deadly Circus Fire
Defy All Reason
House of X
Martyr de Mona
Mask of Judas
No Sin Evades His Gaze
Reign of Fury
Signed in Crimson
The Burning Crows
The Dirty Youth
The King Lot
The Wild Lies
What's The Damage?!
When Our Time Comes
Les-Fest 2014 Cackblabbath.com Stage Line Up (in alphabetical order):
Black and White Boy
Pat McManus Band
Official Website: www.les-fest.co.uk
Thanks very much to Dave Ritchie for taking time out of his hectic schedule to talk to me.
Dave Ritchie photo - (c) Dave Ritchie 2014
Wiston Lodge photo - (c) Johnny Main 2014