The Story Of Big Love Festival

Getting ready for our takeover… On a massive fire engine!

All roads lead to south Wales in late July as we host our first takeover at Big Love festival.

July 18 – 21: headliners include the mighty likes of Arrested Development, Dr Meaker, Molotov Jukebox, The Allergies and breakbeat super troupe King of The Beats AKA Freestylers, Krafty Kuts & Plump DJs.

Meanwhile our own takeover on Saturday July 20 includes Aries, Mrs Magoo, Kaya Fyah, Jessi G-Shellz, 4K, Glitchgirl, Rua Tui, Ransom b2b Sheppa D, Double A Side & Rhi N B, Blondy, Zoner, Just Jackson, NonRev, Kaybee and NoDave.

How about that for a line-up?

What’s more, we’ll all be playing from a massive rig on a laser-blazing fire engine!

There’s plenty more to love about Big Love, too.

Rolling since 2016, and now in its third year on its current site in Monmouth just on the Welsh border, Big Love has attracted a unique community of regulars and developed a great reputation as an open, welcoming and artful space where everything from clubbing to cabaret is celebrated.

It’s also now a full family festival for the first time, making it even more welcoming, wholesome and special as they bring in aspects such as graffiti, DJ, music and circus workshops, hip-hop yoga, family raving and loads more.

Wrapping up our current run of festival takeovers, Big Love ticks every box we need a festival to tick and has community and culture at its heart. Its back-end is steeped in UK festival history too… Launching at Baskerville Hall (a historic Welsh manor which was specifically built for social functions and parties in 1839), Big Love is part of a highly influential cannon of UK events and its booker is Kaptin Barrett, a man who’s spent his whole career in festivals and was the main booker for Boomtown for 10 years.

We linked with Kaptin to find out more about the festival’s roots… And what to expect for our takeover!

There seems to be a great legacy of events that have come from Baskerville hall. Balter, Free Rotation… It’s historically a party house isn’t it? And have you been involved since the start?

Boomtown and Green Man have a history there too. And Big Chill did some events there in the past. It’s an amazing space for party vibes, as you say, it was built for that purpose. And it does seem that Baskerville is the nucleus of when you go from being a big party to a festival.

For Big Love, it started with an event called Troyfest. I played every one of them and by the end of Troyfest and the start of Big Love I’d play the final set. Not always the same style. Big swing ones, drum & bass ones, but over the years it’s become a big hands in the air soulful house thing. So as a DJ I’ve been there since day one.

How long have you been a programmer for them?

Yeah I started just before lockdown, 2019 was the first one I programmed completely but I’d always had a hand in, suggesting names or linking them up. In 2018 they had a great year but there were a few bookings that didn’t quite fit so I asked to come on board to do the full programming and help them find their identity.

At first it was just about them booking the bands and DJs they like but a festival needs to have an identity and it’s been a journey for Big Love to find out what that is. But over the years we’ve worked out that it’s fun, it’s colourful, inclusive, friendly. That’s all part of their identity. It’s been an interesting journey working that out.

I bet! What a cool exploration

Yeah it has been and it helps to solidify things. It helps you explain things to people as well. That’s something I had a lot of experience with from Boomtown. We felt what it was but it was hard to explain that to people. We knew if an act was a Boomtown act but trying to explain Boomtown to people was difficult for a good 10 years. So that’s what we’ve been doing with Big Love. We took a long time to figure out who we are and how we do that.

I’ve not been to a Big Love yet but from all the line-ups I’ve seen it kinda has a bit of a Big Chill vibe, maybe a weeny bit Womad?

I’d say the closest comparison is a really small Welsh Shambala. That colourful, friendly vibe but more Welsh. Maybe I’m biased but I’d say a little warmer, too. And I do absolutely love Shambala.

Me too! It’s a family vibe too, right?

It is this year for the first time. A lot of regulars have got to that age where they’ve got kids and it’s always been safe enough to bring families. It made sense to make it more of an inclusive family festival. Of course with that comes some big responsibilities. You’ve got to make it worth the effort and provide something special for families. It can’t be just an afterthought, either.

That must be a big challenge?

Sure, but everything is challenging for festivals and always has been. It’s another hurdle in the race.

You’ve jumped a lot of hurdles over the years. What’s been the most complicated one?

The cost of everything doubling and tripling but wanting to keep it affordable. You can’t pass all the costs on to the punter because they can’t afford it. It shouldn’t break the bank to have fun and that’s the struggle. The rest of it is a walk in the park compared to that.

Yeah I bet! I think part of the solution is working on a more local level with communities and crews who are geographically linked or creatively in-tune. Less focus on the headliners and more focus on collaborations…  

It’s important. A lot of that came with knowing who are as a festival and knowing who we like and who suits the vibe. We’ve got strong links with Bristol as well as Cardiff and south Wales and it’s nice to highlight a common ground between the creative communities. And because it’s so small every band and act counts in terms of bringing the vibe. One bad apple in the pick and it changes the vibe massively. Everyone I bring in has to get it. And people have. I’m lucky, from working in the festival world for 20 years, I know a lot of people who are super talented and bring them in and know they’re gonna do an amazing job and not be a dick about it.

And you’ve worked with many bands before. I saw a flyer of yours for Arrested Development maybe 20 years ago or so. What a booking for you as a young promoter!

It was the deal of a lifetime. They were on a massive sold out tour but didn’t have a Sunday booked so it made sense them to play a lowkey show in town and essentially cover expenses. It was a legendary night and they are an iconic band. We met them then, I’ve met them since and they’re just the right people for Big Love. Musically and in terms of their approach. They have a real love for Wales, too, they’ve said in interviews, so it’s always nice to bring them back.

There’s a strong sense of place for you on this isn’t there? Wales is very important to the Big Love identity.

100%. You know this as a Welshman yourself! We are a very welcoming crowd, there’s no pomp or ego, people aren’t trying to be cool. If you’re a good person you’re welcome.

That’s what we want to be part of! Tell us about the fire engine that 1 More Thing are hosting…

Yeah it’s proper! It’s still got the hoses. You climb on top of it and play for the people. There’s lasers and big speakers, the crew who run it are lovely. It’s an honour to be working with them and have that as one of the stages at Big Love.

Wow.  How can we complement this? We don’t wanna let you down!

Just bring the vibes and we’ll take care of the rest.

Bring the vibes with us!

Tickets and information

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