Monday, 24 March 2008

Interview with Stuart Mackay - Indietracks organiser!

Hello again indiepop fans! Hope you're enjoying our new blog, aiming to bring you all the latest news and gossip from this year's Indietracks Festival.

As you may or may not know, Indietracks is organised by Stuart Mackay (below), who once restored trains for the Midland Railway Centre where the festival is held. Having worked there for five years, he hit upon the idea of organising a festival after visiting several indiepop club nights in London. The centre had already hosted other music events, and it was while working behind the bar at one of these shindigs that Stuart had a brainwave - why not hold an indiepop night on the steam railway?

He soon started to put his ambitious plans into action and the first event - a one-night affair - was held in April last year, headlined by Pocketbooks and supported by Slow Down Tallahassee and Tottie. The gig, which promised bands playing on the station platform and unlimited rides on the steam train, sold out of its hundred ticket-allocation almost straight away and was chatted about on internet forums for weeks afterwards. In fact, so successful was the event that almost as soon as it was over Stuart started to make plans for the first ever Indietracks festival, held in July last year and headlined by Darren Hayman. Around 40 bands played the festival, and it's certain that hundreds of tears were shed on the train ride home afterwards - it was just so much fun that no-one wanted to leave! Buoyed up on success, Stuart then went on to organise a "Christmas Twee" gig in December, with The Deirdes, The Icicles and The Poppycocks providing festive fun for the pop kids. You can read about all of these past events on the Indietracks website.

In the forthcoming weeks, some fans, webzine writers and musicians will be telling us their personal memories of last year's festival but - in the meantime - do take time to read our five minute Q and A with Mr Mackay himself, to find out more about the man behind the festival.....

Hi Stuart. Tell us a bit more about how you are involved with Midland Railway, and why you decided to set up Indietracks...

My job for five years was working at the Midland Railway restoring trains. I sometimes helped out on the on-train bar on charter trains where they also had a disco carriage. When I found out they'd previously had bands playing on the station platform I thought it'd be worth trying out an indiepop night. That first night we had three bands playing in the station, with steam train rides in-between the bands with a disco on-board. The night went so well that we had to grow a bit for the next one, but kept growing until it became the first two-day festival.

But did you have any prior experience of setting up a festival, isn't it lots of work?

I had no experience whatsoever! I had organised a very large railway gala, but I had a lot to learn about the music side of it, but it wasn't too bad as everyone was very supportive and helpful. It was a lot of work but loads of fun!

How do you choose the bands?

Almost all the bands that are playing are there because they've asked. It's quite a personal selection of bands that I like but I do listen to others' opinions! I try to have a reasonable selection of new bands and bands from afar as well as established acts from the current scene.

What were your personal highlights of last year?

The happy smiling faces, and all the nice reviews afterwards! It meant we'd created something people enjoyed.

What are you most looking forward to at this year's event?

Watching the bands, and catching up with people I don't get to see as often as I used to. And we're working on some surprises which - if they work out - will be fab.

Have you got any tips for people thinking of setting up their own festivals/events?

Talk to other festival organisers. There doesn't seem to be any sort of book or website available on what you need to know to set up a festival, so you should know what you're getting into before you start.

What are the future plans for Indietracks at the moment?

Nothing firm until we see how this one goes. I may expand the use of the venue for non-indiepop music, or work on indiepop events at other venues, but the Indietracks festival will hopefully continue.Thanks Stuart!

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