We’ve been big fans of the Red Rooster festival since it first started. Now the weather is getting better, although admittedly not up to Southern USA temps, it’s a perfect time than to catch up with organiser, James Brennan.
Red Rooster has been going for 3 years now, how has it developed in that time?
It’s been a very gradual process, we never bite off more than we can chew when a new festival is starting out. Budgets are vital at this stage of the game, in order to give it longevity and get everything just right. We’ve gone from one main stage and a small popup, with just a couple of food options on the first year, through to now the 3rd year, where we have a main stage, our little red rooster stage, a new late night party spot The Howlin’ Woods, poker dens, retro gaming and some of the best street food traders the UK has to offer. The Telegraph featured Red Rooster as one of the 12 best festivals of 2016, so it’s certainly developing well with festival audiences. It’s exciting times.
Have you achieved your objectives with it?
We set out to make a festival that would celebrate R&B and Americana and bring a taste of the Deep South to Suffolk; I think we’re really starting to achieve this. In an overcrowded festival market, all sharing the same lineups, Red Rooster stands out as something different. My other main objective was to offer a festival that was affordable. Early bird weekend tickets, started out at £38.50 – now they’re full price they’re still only £50 for the weekend, which includes 3 nights of camping and free parking. Kids are free, so a family can attend for £100. I wanted to expose these fantastic genres of music to a wider audience and making it accessible through a very good value ticket price is vital.
What are the biggest challenges when putting a festival on?
Biggest challenge is always the huge volume of work involved in putting on a festival. We’re a very small team at this stage, so it’s a lot of grafting. The other challenge is balancing a relatively small budget. Tickets being at such a low price, means I need to work ten times as hard to deliver the show within the budget. My suppliers take a beating from me on their prices!
The site is one of the best on the scene, do you think it plays a big part in the atmosphere of the festival?
Absolutely. It’s a stunning site and we’re very lucky to have it. The Duke of Grafton, or Harry as I know him was an old mate, dubbed The Rock n Roll Duke, having being on the road as merch co-ordinator with The Rolling Stones on the Bigger Bang Tour. You won’t find many a Duke that’s pretty much a roadie! We always talked about doing this kind of festival, so we got together and made it happen. Harry only likes rock n roll, so we’re lucky to be given access to hold the festival in the private gardens of the house, The Pleasure Grounds. The gardens were designed by Capability Brown and William Kent, two of the most celebrated landscapers in history. 2016 is the 300th anniversary of Capability Brown, so it’s very humbling to produce a festival in such a wonderful and historic environment.
You also seem to employ the friendliest and laid back staff, even including security!, is that a deliberate policy?
That’s nice to hear, they’re a great bunch. We’ve all worked on festivals for many years, but this is a festival created by the crew that are building many of the shows everyone loves, behind the scenes. With this, not only are we able to rectify all the problems that we see at so many events and get everything just right, but we are able to do this show with passion and a smile. There is no chain of command to go through, everyone can realise their own potential and each crew member can shine. To quote Blur, “This brings an enormous sense of well-being.” We even split 10% share of the festival to the core crew members. If a festival is happy behind the scenes, it passes onto the audience. They’re not just punters. They’re our guests. A friendly team at a festival is what our guests should be greeted with when they arrive. Even security are handpicked by our security firm to deliver the friendly atmosphere we all want.
Once again, you’ve booked a diverse range of acts, who are you most looking forward to seeing?
We’ve got some great acts this year. King Khan and The Shrines is one of my favourites. A hugely entertaining live show, the audience are always in the palm of King Khan’s hands. The Handsome Family are an incredible act. Since their music was used as the title song to the hit TV series True Detective, they’re being discovered by so many new people and it’s truly deserved, they’re a very special band. Their only other UK show is sold out, so very pleased to have the band join us before they head back to the States. The James Hunter Six new album, out with Daptone Records is taken him to a whole new league, it’s a fantastic record and I can’t wait to see those tracks in a live environment. I can’t forget to mention Bob Logg III also, a very entertaining show. A one man blues explosion, who plays wearing an astronaut helmet.
Do you actually get the chance to enjoy the weekend or is it still too hectic?
Most of the shows I work on, I don’t get a moment, but with Red Rooster being relatively small at this point, I do get a chance to watch a band and have a cocktail from the huge selection of southn’ style drinks we have on offer. Ask me that question in a few years – it’ll be very much the opposite!
How would you describe red rooster to a new comer?
A whisky sippin’, guitar strummin’, banjo pickin’ weekend of Southern Blues in the heart of Suffolk County.
What makes it stand out from other festivals?
A very different music policy to other festivals. We celebrate genres that most don’t. If you like your R&B, Blues, Americana and Country, you won’t have to stay at one stage at a festival or watch that one act and be indifferent to the rest of the lineup. This whole festival at Red Rooster is designed for you. Even the food is bourbon soaked. You can dine on fried chicken from Mother Clucker (Buzz Feeds No.1 place to eat fried chicken before you die) and Orange Buffalo’s wings (Winner of the first national wings competition), Ribs and Brisket and pulled pork from BBQ champions Man Meat Fire, unbelievable Chili Dogs from Oh My Dog!, Gumbo from the incredible Cray Fish Bob or American breakfasts from The Breakfast Club. If you’re vegan, we have the best vegan burritos you can imagine, made out of jack fruit, from the wonderful Club Mexicana.
Working on many festivals, we know the drink offering can be very poor – most offer a warm overpriced can of cheap lager. Meantime Brewery take care of all our beer, Four Roses take care of our whiskey and we have a huge selection of Deep South inspired cocktails. Our food and drink won’t be beaten.
Which bands would be on your dream line up?
Blimey, there’s too many. Most just aren’t alive anymore!
You always seem to have great weather, have you booked the sunshine again this year?!?
First thing we booked. Took a lot of negotiation and I sold my soul at the crossroads, but it was worth it.
Thats the kind of dedication and commitment that we expect from a festival organiser!!! Sunny weather or not, we are sure that you will have a great time at Red Rooster. As James has said, it represents brilliant value for money and is a unique and excellent festival. Tickets are still available, so head on over to http://www.redrooster.org.uk and get yours now!!