'a' conversation with Andy Rea

Posted on February 04, 2015 by Amelia Ebdon

Andy Made This

Startups are hard work, especially if you're swimming with some really big and intimidating fish.

Andy Rea and his buddies (a journalist, an accountant, a lawyer, a designer and two salesmen) went from having a couple of beers around a campfire to embarking on a seemingly impossible task. How can we make the music festival industry better? How can we take all the things we hate about mainstream corporate events (the price, the facilities, the food) and create something that gives the British music scene the credit it's due? In it's ninth year and with awards to boast about, 2000trees is providing the answers. Alice Made This wanted to find out how:

How did 2000trees start? What were you guys doing before? 

We were six friends sat around a campfire at a major music festival, completely disillusioned by extortionate ticket prices, over-priced yet rubbish food and drink, poor facilities, bad staff attitudes, overbearing security, ever-increasing and irrelevant corporate sponsorship and the ‘musical merry-go-round’ nature of large, mainstream British festivals.

So we vowed to take matters into our own hands by creating the perfect antidote. We created it with music fans at the heart and is even more true today.

We had very different backgrounds and no event management experience, but we’ve always made a strong team – journalist, accountant, lawyer, designer and two salesmen.

How does 2000trees tackle those disillusions?

I believe everyone knows small festivals are better - friendlier atmosphere, shorter queues, great choice of independent, high quality food and drink, cleaner toilets, parking near your camping spot, and the chance to create lasting memories with friends. On top of all this, 2000trees has won four national awards, which probably make us stand out from other festivals of our size.

But most of all it is the atmosphere – the fans who return year after year, to party hard and enjoy great live music, they make it so special.

And we are music fans who set this up from our hearts, not to make money like the big mainstream events but to create an amazing weekend of live music and lots of fun in a field.

You must have made some mistakes to get to that stage though. What were your biggest difficulties? 

Starting from scratch with no idea what we were doing was the most difficult part, we had a dream but little experience other than as festival fans, so the learning curve was steep. Looking back it was just the sheer volume of small jobs that all add up.

But now we’re on year nine the most difficult thing is being a weather forecaster!

Your festival is all about new and underground British music. How do you scout new talent? 

2000trees really is the best place in the UK to discover your new favourite bands, because we scour the land for emerging talent at gigs, listen to recommendations from friends, music lovers and industry contacts, and go the extra mile to hear great new music. Outside of the pop music factories, British music is healthily diverse, painfully fresh and exciting - there are so many acts trying to make it – so it’s really important we all support local music venues, where new artists cut their teeth, because some have started to disappear.

How difficult has it been to stick to 2000trees’ core values and preserve your original idea? 

We didn’t even know if it would work, if anyone would come or if we would get chance to do a second one! So to see it grow stronger every year but not bigger (we limit capacity to 5,000) is amazing for us. And we always encourage our fans to tell us what they think on social media, it keeps it real, there’s a genuine connection there.

I think our memories of year one keep us true to our original idea, but you do have to grow and adapt to the shifting sands of the festival world. I also think the fact it’s a labour of love makes it easier, plus we have a great team of volunteers to make the magic happen who are as passionate about it as we are, it’s like a large family now. Last year we all crowded around to look back at a photo album from year one and it was really special – you don’t notice gradual change but you do notice when you look back eight years.

Has changing technology impacted those changes? 

For the organisers, 2000trees is a virtual festival for 11 months and a real one for one month. We do most of the work on our computers and utilise digital marketing technology to sell tickets, because most of our audience chooses to engage with us online. But there’s no substitute for being in a field with friends actually building the event – it’s the highlight of my summer and it’s why people love coming to the festival, to be part of something tangible.

Do you take inspiration from other industries and their ways of working?

We all brought our own expertise from our day jobs in other industries (we started this at evenings and weekends) and we play to our individual strengths and ways of working, yes. And we’re always reading books, talking to people and picking up ideas in everyday conversations. Personally I’m inspired by sports autobiographies, I love reading about my heroes’ lives and how they achieved their goals.

How much do your punters influence the changes you make to the festival?

We’ve always discussed changes with our fans and encouraged their input, so we now have six stages and almost 100 acts performing, as well as comedy on Thursday’s Early Entry evening.

This might be the first year there are no major structural changes afoot - last year we introduced the Forest Sessions stage in the woods and a new third stage called The Axiom.

But we always up our game and introduce new things, you’ll just have to wait and see… ;-)

As well as British musicians, how important has design and working with British companies been for the organisation of the festival? 

I firmly believe the British festival industry is second to none, so it makes perfect sense to work with British companies who really understand our needs and have amazing expertise. We use local companies in Gloucestershire and surrounding counties as much as possible too. And one of our core team is a designer so he particularly loves getting involved in creative discussions on anything design-related.

And finally, dead or alive, who would be your ideal headliner and why? 

Jimi Hendrix. An absolutely ground-breaking, spine-tinglingly brilliant entertainer – and apparently a really good guy too.

Tickets available here 

Interview by Amelia Ebdon