Whilst it’s of course natural to have a festival of choice that you’d ideally like to attend every year without fail, there’s a certain luxury that’s often taken for granted within UK Festival culture and that’s the sheer depth & variety in choices on offer. For regular readers of ATB you’ll be well aware we aim to branch out & showcase some of the biggest & best weekenders around & this year is no exception as we take a look at one of the best festivals of a smaller capacity that may have just fallen under your radar.
For almost five years it’s been a well-kept secret with a real kick, but now it’s time for us to head deep into the jungle. Set within the stunning depths of Anglesey’s Welsh woodland, Gottwood Festival has steadily made a name for itself based on its ethos of staying true to its roots. Located next to the sandy beaches of the Irish Ocean at the most northern point of Wales, Gottwood is an intimate, boutique & wholly independent electronic music festival that invites you to get lost within its serene, psychedelic surroundings and lead you into unchartered terrains, ohh and did we mention some of the biggest names in House & Techno will be playing?
With the likes of Bicep, Extrawelt, Ben UFO, Move D & Detroit Swindle having previously passed through its tranquil forest setting, this year boasts the likes of Gerd Janson, Margaret Dygas, DJ Format, DJ Die and Appleblim, in addition to Crazy P Soundsystem, Dense & Pika, Calibre, Craig Richards, Kris Wadsworth, PBR Streetgang, Maribou State, Tale of Us & our very own Latmun alongside Eton Messy plus so many more to make up its biggest line up yet.
Having amassed some of the most diverse names in underground bass, it’s Gottwood’s collaborative programming concept that has enabled many of the finest and most influential promoters from around the UK and Europe to become a part of the festival. This year see’s London’s excellent Percolate joining neighbours Future Disco, Nixwax and Tief to welcome the likes of Cassio Kohl, Prosumer & BEHRto proceedings. Bristol’s Shapes will be joining the ranks alongside Hypercolour, Eton Messy, Fiftyone:27, Futureboogie and Real Nice . Then there’s SoC x Selective Hearing, and Hit & Run from Edinburgh and Manchester,Back To Basics, Brotherhood Soundsystem and Louche from Leeds, Waxxx from Liverpool, Newcastle’s Jaunt, Wigflex from Nottingham, Oxford’s Boxford, plus Munich’s SVS Records.
It’s an exciting approach & exactly why, despite the demand increase, its capacity has remained the same whilst it continues to remain free from corporate rules & sponsors. It’s a festival that focuses purely on making it as enjoyable as possible for the consumer.
With less than two weeks left till the party starts we were lucky enough to catch up with festival promoters Tom Elkington, Tom Carpenter& Digby Neill to talk all things Gottwood.
· What were your original intentions for Gottwood and where did the idea come from? How did it feel when Gottwood actually came to fruition?
We were actually in Berlin about 5 years ago, it was a long trip which concluded with a party on a manmade/artificial beach just outside the city with Villalobos, Zip and a load of others. On the way back home we were reminiscing about how great the party scene was out there and also how down to earth, organic and friendly the Villalobos party was. It just struck us that maybe we should put on a party like that over here – something different, something out the way of everyday life and something that only those who really wanted to be there would come too.
We started small (about 800), it was actually mean to be Tom’s belated birthday party, and ended up selling out. It was a secret little party in the middle of a Welsh forest planned by people with no events experience, but who knew exactly what they would have wanted to see/hear if they were attending… It was very very special. That feeling when you finally take a breath and look back at 800 people having the time of their life can only be described as overwhelming.
· And now entering its fifth year?
Well yes, it all snow balled from there and here we are… five years on!
· It’s a great achievement to then be nominated for a series of awards – were you at all surprised by the nominations?
Yes massively, we have always looked up to the festivals that we have been nominated alongside such as Glade, Secret Garden Party etc and it was a huge honour to be put up there in lights alongside those names.
It is actually really sad to see some of best UK dance festivals disappear such as Glade and Bloc, I guess every event has a shelf life but they were very good festivals!
· With the success that comes with a festival of this size, how difficult a decision is it to resist temptation to increase the capacity year on year?
In all honesty we have increased very slightly each year however, we are still a very small festival – this year there are less than 3,000 ticket holders, smaller than some London clubs!
You do have to be very strict with yourselves as obviously money starts to play a part, but then again we know very well that our trusted followers would not return if we all of sudden put 12,000 people in their treasured festival site purely to line our own pockets.
Gottwood is small, it is a community and people recognize each other year on year, growing and ‘selling-out’ would be a sure-fire way to ruin that special something we have.
· For people who haven’t been before, what can they expect from Gottwood Festival?
Ha ha, the money shot… That would be telling. No in all seriousness you have to come and experience it. The vast majority of the audience are devoted followers and will have been to 3 or 4 in 5 of the festivals which creates an amazing atmosphere.
There are no ego’s or attitudes and as Resident Advisor once said it is a really ‘uncool’ environment. There is no tattoo and topshop outfit comparing antics – it is just a proper no holds barred party for people that want to get away from the corporate, commercial wasteland that we unfortunately live in.
· What other exciting non-music related things are available at Gottwood that people might want to check out?
We are big believers that an event should not only sound good but also look good, that is part of the reason we chose our woodland surroundings.
Our production crew do a great job of creating a colourful forest back drop, we have installations on the lake, various pieces of live art, video mapped stages and interactive installations including a ridiculously big kaleidoscope and a real life totem pole!
Last year we had a large scale live illustration piece from an art collective from Bournemouth, it was the back drop for many photos – the same crew have a very unique concept up their sleeve for this year. We have also wanted to do a woodland cinema for the last few years and this year we can confirm that it will be happening!
· What is it that makes the Carreglwyd Estate so special?
It’s a really amazing site – due to our size we don’t have to succumb to the large open field and oversized main stage one size fits all mould. At Carreglwyd we have a very interesting landscape, a great forest, a lake and most importantly a family that truly love having a big party in their back garden, it all adds to the atmosphere. There is also the beach only a 15 minute walk away!
All our stages are made by the Gottwood team – as we don’t have many bands we don’t need to have big stages, we can get away with smaller DJ booths in more interesting less accessible areas of the site. We spread out the larger acts and make sure that all the stages are of a similar size. This year we have 6 stages including a reclaimed boat under the tree canopy, the infamous caravan and a brand new Jungle themed stage looking out onto a tiered dance floor in the walled garden.
· With the likes of Detroit Swindle, Bicep and Move D you’ve had some massive acts at Gottwood over the years. Who are you most looking forward to seeing this year?
We are big fans of techno, last year we sealed the deal with Extrawelt playing live (we were like kids watching their favourite band for the first time) and this year we have arguably the Godfather of progressive techno Stephan Bodzin playing alongside Gottwood favourite Max Cooper.
There are so many though, Calibre is playing a rare festival set, Dense & Pika are killing it at the moment and DJ Format is returning – in our opinion he truly is one of the best UK turntabalists around with a serious record bag of funk through to hip-hop. Tale of Us is a very exciting booking and many of the names further down the list are just as good as the names mentioned – we are very careful when we curate our lineup!
· What emerging artists do you expect to be a surprise package?
We have SVS a new up and coming German label providing a whole day of twisted, live, analogue techno on the Sunday – my gut is telling me that it is going to be incredible. Nixwax are coming back with their ever growing roster of artists on the Saturday and also relatively new talents like James Welsh, Brand New Wayo and so many others are sure to impress.
· Furthermore what has Gottwood got planned to make sure it remains the best festival of its size in the UK?
We have just got to stick to our roots, and we really will do. It sounds like a cliché answer but we don’t want to be that festival that grew too much, lost its fan base, its soul and ultimately failed. Long live the small intimate festival… See you in the woods!
Gottwood Festival is taking place in the woods of Carreglwyd between June 19th to the 22nd, for more info head to the official website here. Ticket’s have now completely sold out.
We recently previewed Gottwood on our ATB Radio series which can be replayed below: