In todays climate, an ever-growing list of music festivals have begun to appear each year, set out on providing different experiences in the aim of being distinctive. Each year hundreds of thousands make the trek to a field in the middle of the country, a beach in Europe or a bustling city surprisingly unperturbed by it’s new incumbents. While said festivals continue to offer the traditional music and beer event and may or may not prosper from doing so, one festival withholds a spirit that few can emulate.
When, in 2005, Simon Taffe found himself wanting to create his own festival, I don’t think even he could of imagined, ten years down the line, what End of The Road Festival would grow into. Or perhaps he and co-founder Sofia Hagberg could, because through the decade of its existence the festival has simply kept to its core values, providing a festival for people with an unwavering passion for music and culture. Taffe’s dream of starting a festival, simply so he could see his favourite bands and acts in a communicable setting, was one with a heavy weight of risk attached to it. Yet the team behind the festival persevered to create a festival with it’s own identity which allures more and more people each year.
Musically, it seems the festival has gone to great lengths to book the bands and acts that they personally wanted to see, whether big or small, and throughout their history have succeeded. From their first year, esteemed names appeared on the bill, from Ryan Adams headlining the inaugural festival in 2006 through to booking Sufjan Stevens to perform his first ever UK festival show this year. They’ve never seemed afraid to approach the names you may not expect to appear, and their growing heritage as being able to bring rare appearances allows them to continuously bring in more big names in Alternative music.
How have they built this respect? Primarily by curating eclectic line-ups each year that blur the barriers between genres whilst still being presented a cohesive quality. While displaying a fondness for Alternative Indie Rock and Folk, it’s without question not the only model you’ll find across one of their weekends. From appearances by electronic staples Caribou and Saint Etienne to defining sets last year from unique names such as Radiophonic Workshop and Gene Clark ‘No Other’ Band. They’ve remained consistently relevant in their booking and indifferent towards judgemental pressure in who to book and when.
Due to the festival’s open setting, End of The Road has consistently offered unique moments that surpass the standard fare of a live festival performance, creating a communal atmosphere that has led into collaborations and of the moment secret sets that simply adds to the positive acclaim the festival receives. Set on an English heritage site in the south of Wiltshire, the site itself provides idyllic nature and historic architecture, pleasantly untainted by time. Surrounded by the forest, the festival has a down-to-earth charm that embodies it’s organic, colourful outlook. The festival makes the most of those surroundings, creating a mystical, whimsical setting through it’s kooky designs and sets and penchant for lights and hangings.
The stages themselves are unique, considered set-ups, the central landmarks of the festival. From Okkervil River playing a secret set in a wooden boat in 2011 to the incorporation of The Flaming Lips elaborate headline set last year, the festival has continually found new ways to make a band’s set more than the sum of it’s parts. Everything is considered to the smallest detail, offering opportunities to escape modern mundanity for something natural and encompassing.
The festival has stuck to it’s guns through every matter of it’s running, from the curation of the festival to the ethics and initiatives that they stand by and voice their opinion on. The selling of Organic Beer and self-set compulsory rules that adhere to catering and trading at the festival has become an integral part of it’s identity, the fact that they are an Eco-Friendly festival does not get brushed under the carpet by it’s organisers. This isn’t just relevant to the festival runners and goers, but the performers as well, the fact that they are no VIP Areas in sight at the festival creates that communal spirit that the festival wishes to provide.
Music isn’t the only element to End of The Road’s make-up. Since it’s inception, the festival has provided a range of installations and exhibitions that touch on all ranges of culture including Film, Literature and Art. The invitation of a different curator each year has allowed the festival to offer something new each year, consistently progressing just as Culture seamlessly does. The festival’s relevance is second to none, providing discussions on all manner of topics and offering something intelligent and engrossing.
A decade on, End of The Road Festival reigns supreme as one of, if not the, best festivals running. By sticking to it’s original values the festival has continuously grown and begun to appeal to new people without disengaging those that loved it so much in the first place. It’s a word-of-mouth success, one that truly provides an escape from the monotonous and an experience that cannot be matched.