Bearded Theory organiser Steve Blount talks running a successful independent festival

The team behind ‘Best Small Festival’ Bearded Theory work full-time, unsalaried. Promoter Richard Bryan scooped up ‘Promoter of the Year’ at the 2014 UK Festival Awards. We caught up with organiser Steve Blount to hear more about the ethics behind running a successful independent festival.

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Steve, where did the name Bearded Theory come from?

It’s a secret, but a famous musician named it one night in a pub by accident. He may have well had a drink, I can’t remember.

Congratulations on 2015 being another fast selling year – how do you think you’ve achieved this?

Steady growth, careful budgeting, and not being greedy or having egos bigger than the event. Eliminating the things that aggravate people about festivals.

What’s the key motivation behind running a small independent festival?

We wanted to see if we could do it and become better and better year on year.

Do you now see Catton Park as a permanent home for the festival?

Yes definitely, the land owner is a legend. The site is flat and we have had permanent roads, water supply and site long drainage put in within one year.

As appreciated by Jim Glennie from headliners James, tell us more about the ethics and principles behind Bearded Theory…

You will hear people say it’s like one big family and it is. The event is £87 for 4 days and is very good value. We have Thornbridge ales on site, reasonable food and a completely free children’s area.  I think they are the ethics behind it.

Which charity are you supporting this year?

Oxfam.

What are the criteria by which you chose artists to perform at Bearded Theory?

The worst mistake is picking bands for yourself but it has to stretch you a bit, give the core what they want, and have a few surprises.  It’s relatively easy for me as my business partner does most of that.  I do like James though……. and the Mission.  Oh and our dance tent will blow your mind and then some. It’s ridiculous.

Looking back on day one, is there a particular Bearded Theory performance that stands out in your memory?

Alabama 3. They are mad.  Back again this year as well.

Do you find time to attend and enjoy any other festivals as a punter?

Not really, but I like Boomtown Fair, all the ones called fest sound all the same to me.

A few festivals have cancelled or postponed this year – how has Bearded Theory survived?

Careful budgeting and not running before you can walk.

The theme this year is pirates – as a family festival, what do you have in store for the little pirates?

An award-winning free children’s area, a solar cinema, a fairground, a teenage area. Possibly a circus but that’s just reminded me of that.

In three words, how would you describe the Bearded Theory experience to someone who’s never been before?

Friendly, fun, madness.

What advice do you have for anyone wanting to organise their own festival?

If you are a bit lazy or think it’s easy you will run into trouble later. It takes years to build it up. It will take you places you didn’t know exist, some good some bad.

For more information on Bearded Theory, you can visit the official website here.