The Good Life Experience – Charlie Gladstone Interview
Given the explosion in festivals in the UK over the past years, there is more and more pressure on organisers to make them attractive to the average punter. The Good Life Experience achieves this by providing a huge variety of acts, events and experiences. We were grateful to get the chance to interview organiser Charlie Gladstone to find out what is going on this year.
We understand that the good life experience came about after a discussion with Steve Abbott. How did that conversation go?
Steve and I worked in the music industry together a long time ago and were good friends, but had lost touch. We bumped into each other in Rough Trade Record Shop three years ago with Steve’s wife Cerys, and got to talking. We’d both independently thought about doing a festival before but we didn’t want to make it a normal festival. Steve had the music industry skills and contacts and we could cover the other areas; food, speakers, The Great Outdoors, and our farm in North Wales makes a brilliant location with its proximity to so many great cities in the North West.
Were you a keen festival goer yourself?
Yes. Big time. I’ve done it from both sides, having managed the bands that played at festivals, and I’ve been going to them since I was a nipper. I don’t think you could even dream of running a festival unless you were a keen festival goer.
What were your objectives when setting up the good life experience?
To create a festival that is truly different to all the other ones, and that appealed to people like me who were either tired of, or didn’t want to go to the bigger festivals any more.
Do you think you’ve achieved them?
Yes. Given the massively positive response to the first two years of the festival, and the rapidly increasing demand for tickets, I’d say that we have.
We expect that there are a lot of highs and lows when organising a festival, how has planning for this year gone?
The more we learn, the more we realise there is to learn. There are new challenges on a weekly basis which we are constantly working out how to best overcome. But we’ve also been overwhelmed by the numbers of people who want to be involved in the festival, so many of them giving their time and skills for free, wanting to be involved in something so positive and exciting.
Is it easy for you to actually enjoy the weekend or even at that point is it hard work and quite stressful?
It’s stressful of course and incredibly hard work, but if it goes well that is all we need.
The number of festivals in the UK has exploded, why do you think this, almost cultural, shift has happened?
The reason for the explosion is that people have realised what good fun they are. And all consumers want experiences now, that’s why it’s happening I think.
Lots of people will know of Cerys Matthews’ involvement in the festival. Anyone who listens to her 6 music show will know she loves a huge spectrum of music. How responsible is she for booking the music acts and do you ever have to rein her in!?
Cerys and Steve are completely responsible for every aspect of the music line-up, and they do it brilliantly. We never rein her in as we trust her decisions completely. Last year some of the most popular bands were the ones cherry picked by Cerys that nobody had heard of. We had a whole field of people dancing along to Cuban rhythms, and Big Boss Man was a huge hit. Cerys brings fantastic variety to the music, this year we have just announced that Max Richter’s Vivaldi Recomposed will be played on the Sunday by Mari Samuelsen and The 12 Ensemble, and we look forward to Mercury Rev’s DJ set on the Friday night.
There’s a whole lot more to the festival than music, what else can people experience?
Music is just one part of the festival. On top of that we have some incredible chefs, from Thomasina Miers of Wahaca to Bill Granger, Tom Herbert and more, all of whom we have challenged to cook over the campfire. We also have over 40 traditional craftspeople coming to the festival to do demonstrations and run workshops on everything from Bushcraft to charcoal making. There will be talks from authors and adventurers, and we have masses of outdoor activities, including tree climbing, axe throwing, abseiling and lots more. Plus there’s a 1930s vintage fairground with limitless free rides all weekend, so there is so much to do for all ages.
What at the festival are you personally looking forward to hearing, seeing or doing?
The Campfire Cooking Sessions.
We expect it will be easy to be overawed, given all the stuff going on, what advice would you give to someone going for the first time?
Have a scan of the programme on the Friday and work out what you want to see, make sure you sign up for some workshops first thing on Saturday morning, and otherwise just soak it all up. Try something completely new, throw an axe, have a go at swing dancing or playing the ukulele. It’s will be a weekend full of new experiences, even if you’ve been before.
We often ask what type of people go to a festival but, for a change, what type of person wouldn’t enjoy the good life experience?
That’s a tough one. With such a huge variety of performances and activities, it’s hard to come up with a type of person who wouldn’t enjoy it.
Finally, what to you is the secret for a good life?
Doing more of what you love, which I live by.
Well, we love going to festivals so that makes The Good Life Experience a must for us this year. We suggest that you make some room for some fun in your life by getting yourself a ticket now before they sell out.