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Indie Tracks Guide To Running Your Own Festival

Posted on 21 September 2010 by Joe

Indie Tracks is surely one of the most unusual festivals in the world. Set in the Midland Railway centre in Derbyshire festival goers get the chance to see some of the best new indiepop bands around, some musical faces from the past and even ride on a steam train.

This year’s event takes place between 23 and 25 July and appearing will be one of the most talked about indie bands around, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (album review here) alongside indie pop veterans such as The Pooh Sticks and The Primitives.
The man behind Indietracks, which still only in its fourth year, is Stuart Mackay (pictured right), who is pleased to keep its innocuous billing as simply “an indie pop festival”.  Here he gives Neonfiller’s Matt Whipp his ten easy steps to building your own festival, as well as an insight into the organisation behind Indietracks.

1. Have a great idea.

SM: “I’d like to claim Indietracks was a really inspirational idea but it was really just I that I wanted to put on a gig and putting it on at a place I knew and was working at. As I restore old trains at the centre it seemed the easiest way forward.”

2. Find a unique venue

SM: “At the Midland Railway I sometimes helped out working on the bar on their evening dining train, which also had a disco carriage. Working on there one night the manager explained that at weddings they also sometimes had bands play on the platform, it seemed an ideal opportunity. The first Indietracks we did we had three bands playing on the platform, and in between (when the bands were changing over) the audience would go for a steam train ride with the disco on board. It was a tremendous success, and encouraged me to do something bigger, which turned into the festival.”

3. Persuade a load of people how good your idea is and rope them in to help you out

SM: “We’re all volunteers, and start getting serious about organising once Christmas is out the way. Something to look forward to in those boring months at the start of the year. There’s Emma that does all the website and artwork and now also books the smaller bands, Nat and Andy do all the press stuff, Alice deals with the booking agents for the bigger bands and co-ordinates the workshops, Dan arranges our volunteers, and Claire and Julie produce our programme. I deal with the railway and the stages and other stuff I can’t delegate!”

4. Decide who you want to play and convince them that this is the best festival for them.

SM: “Pretty much any band will play if you offer them the right money, which is a problem when you’re a really small festival, and being such a niche festival we’re always gonna have that problem. But perhaps next year we’ll take the festival down a notch, and not book any bigger bands through booking agents, it’ll make it a lot easier on ourselves.”

5. Know instinctively that a venue such as the centre’s tiny corrugated tin church will deftly produce magical gig after gig.

SM: “As it’s always packed I tend to sneak in the door at the side of the stage it’s great to see rows and rows of people sitting on pews. Despite it being made of tin it still has the wonderful acoustics that churches seem to excel at.”

6. Don’t just pick your favourite bands. You might be too busy to see them anyway.

SM: “Well for the first three years I got to pick all the bands and they’d be nicely scheduled so the ones I wanted to see the most didn’t clash, but I got to the stage last year when there was always something going on that I had to sort out that I got to see zero bands over the whole weekend. So I thought why worry about picking out my favourite bands, this year I let the others select them and if I’m lucky I might get to grab a song somewhere over the weekend.”

7. Use word of mouth marketing. Tell all your mates to tell their mates

SM : “It was really hard the first year, it was April before we decided to do it so we had to put the whole show together in three months and marketing was a little neglected, and I think people didn’t believe an indiepop festival could work. But everyone that did come absolutely loved it, and word of mouth and good reviews has helped us grow considerably since then.”

8. Give up your day job.

SM : ” I still work on trains! It did get too time consuming last year and was interfering with work, there’s no budget to get paid to do it, so this year I’ve delegated a lot of my tasks.”

9. Keep the natives on side.

SM: “At first there was a lot of negativity at the centre, there was resentment about it not being a train-based event (there’s events on there most weekends, all with the trains as the main focus). But everyone that got involved has seen how much fun everyone has and get’s caught up in the friendly atmosphere and now love to be a part of it.”

10. Work out how you’re going to do it again next, but bigger, and better

SM: “The railway felt last year that it’d grown to a size they liked and were worried that they couldn’t cope with anything bigger, so we’re basically just repeating last year and almost everything apart from the bands should be the same. ”

Tickets for the weekend are priced at £55 for early birds and are available from here.  For more information follow the  indietracks  blog.

Interview by: Matt Whipp

Main picture courtesy of Julie Weston at


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