Standon Calling is a 3 day boutique 3,000 capacity festival set in the stunning grounds of a 16th century manor house in Hertfordshire, which has gained a reputation for punching above its weight when it comes to headliners; previous years performers include Florence and the Machine, Mumford and Sons and Friendly Fires to name a few. This year’s headliners include Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club, Etienne De Crecy, Liars, Casiokids, These New Puritans, Fools Gold, The Magic Numbers, Efterklang, A Hawk and a Hacksaw & Giles Peterson.
This year’s theme is “Murder On The Standon Express” where every nook and cranny of the festival site will be turned in to a real life set for this year’s Murder Mystery production. Think murder mysteries, pink panther and classic crime on a country manor. Elsewhere, think Bugsy Malone glamour & pie slinging hilarity. With burlesque and cabaret, world class foods and vintage fairs, Standon Calling has ensured this year’s festival site will be crammed to the rafters with inventive mayhem.
I spoke to Alex Trenchard, founder and director of Standon Calling Festival to get some of his thoughts on how the festival has progressed and what to expect this year.
• It all started as your birthday party, when did you realise it could evolve into a festival?
I'm not sure I did realise! People started calling it a festival before we did. For us it was all about creating the perfect party and in doing so we created an overgrown house party with all its intimacy whilst putting on something with artists normally seen at larger festivals.
• Did the neighbours ever complain? Do they come and join the party?
These days, yes they do. It wasn’t always the case though. We've had our issues with noise complaints but this was more often than not due to not warning people in advance. Last year the influx of village Major General types on the Friday evening was unforgettable. They had all come to see Tony Christie close our second stage but they did stick around for Femi on the main stage.
• Who has been the most memorable performer for you so far?
Florence & The Machine in 2008. Acid Mothers Temple that year also. Mumford & Sons in 2009, Chrome Hoof also in 2009.
• Who are you most looking forward to seeing this year?
Liars, Buena Vista Social Club, Etienne de Crecy's cube show (it’s a UK exclusive!), Fools Gold, Phenomenal Handclap Band.
• Retaining a sponsor free festival is tough in today’s economic climate, what do you think is special about events that do?
Events that are sponsor free are able to completely own the aesthetic of their events. If this ownership is something the audience is able to feel a part of then it really adds to the audience's experience as they feel it’s their festival, rather than one in which their space is intruded into by a large brand. That said, as long as brands don’t intrude into audience's space and experience of the event and where they serve a purpose (and not always financially) then I think they can add to the audience’s experience.
• You launched a kids’ area at the festival and you became a father last year too! What are your top tips to families planning a festival excursion this summer?
Be prepared to get up even earlier than usual! So don't get too drunk (learnt to my cost). Make sure the festival has a proper kid’s area and one with activities rather than just an area with a few paints laid on. The best thing about festivals for adults is how you meet you new people. It’s no different for kids and kids’ areas with activities really improve their festival experience.
• This year’s theme is “Murder on the Standon Express”, how did you choose this theme and what can we expect on site?
Crime, intrigue, the broad range of murder mystery and crime in our literature, film and comics lend so much in terms of interactive theatre, fancy dress and film showings. It also works really well at Standon with a 16th Century house forming the backdrop to the theme…. a real life country house, the scene of the classic Poirot murder. Or head downtown to the network of Dickensian streets surrounding our second stage where you may get drawn into Heritage Arts Company's interactive theatre plot. It’s not all so dark though – Scooby Doo will be making an appearance!
• Standon Calling take a great amount of care over ensuring the festival is as ethically
responsible as possible, what would be your top tips for other festivals to become more environmentally friendly?
I think you need to start with how people get to the site. We'll be running buses from Kings Cross, London this year to minimise car use and are promoting Liftshare schemes. We've also looked at our waste streams and tried to cut our as much plastic as we can e.g. our bar company use polycarbonate glassware that can be washed and reused rather than throwaway plastic. Each glass is issues with a 50 pence deposit. On the last day we had some kids walking round the festival site collecting discarded glassware, bringing them to the bar and turning the festival experience positive in terms of both the amazing time they had and in terms of their bank balance!
In terms of advice I would say it’s more important to make changes in areas that have significant environmental impact rather than lots of changes in areas of low environmental impact, concentrating efforts in one area of large impact e.g. fuel or waste will have a far greater beneficial effect.
Standon Calling, Standon Lordship, Hertfordshire
6th – 8th August
£95 full weekend camping
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