Split Festival Special

Posted: September 6, 2011 in Festivals, Split Festival 2011


This year Split Festival showcases some big names including Saturday’s headliners The Drums and Sunday’s closing act The Charlatans.

Additional performers include: Frankie and The Heartstrings, Ganglians, Mystery Jets, The Rifles, The King Blues, Dinosaur Pile-up, Little Comets, Beth Jeans Houghton, Hyde & Beast, B>E>A>K, The Dutch Uncles, Leatherface, Tomahawks For Targets, The Dauntless Elite, Vinyl Jacket, Grandfather Birds, Shields and We Beat The System

I spoke to one of the festivals organisers Martyn McFadden and asked him how Split first started and where the idea came from.

Split started off when Paul from Ashbrooke Sports Club bumped into Barry from the Futureheads on a night out and asked the band to play a benefit gig to raise some money for the club. The Futureheads had played their first ever gig there ten years previously so they thought it would be quite a nice way to help out as the club had given them a leg up by providing somewhere to play a gig when they were unheard of. Instead of just having themselves play they thought they’d have a whole day of bands playing as well. It was organised in about six weeks and was a bit chaotic but it all came together and was a success.

Why the name Split?

I think it was Dave Brewis, or was it Peter I’m not sure, from Field Music who came up with it. There’s a number of different stories but traditionally Sunderland has been a city that’s split by the river and before the bridges were built the North side was a lot bigger area and there was an equal amount of people on either side of the river. We’ve also had two stages at Split.

This is Splits third outing and this years line up looks like the biggest and best so far. Who are you most looking forward to seeing?

There’s a lot of my favourite bands playing. It’s quite weird because Futurehead Ross Millard who programmed it came in with a list of bands that he wanted to approach and I looked down it and said “have you been through my CD collection?” I felt as if I’d written the list myself. There were certain bands we just had to have like Frankie and the Heartstrings. You wouldn’t normally have bands play three years in a row but the first year they were unheard of, the second year they’d had a single out but now they’ve toured America and Japan, done all the festivals, had an album out. We like to think that it shows how much a local band can achieve and it sort of parallels the progression of Split. Of the two headliners The Charlatans are a classic band that’s been around for 20 odd years with all the hits and everyone knows who they are, then the Drums are more of a new cool band. I’ve always liked the Mystery Jets in sort of a quirky way. They have the same ethos as The Cribs where they could be a lot bigger but they just want to stay at that level where they’re under the radar but they’re doing alright making a decent living but at the same time no one’s forcing them to bring a new album out on a certain date with a certain sound. There’s loads of other bands. I really like The Din who are playing in the Fringe Tent. Hyde and Beast whose new album is brilliant. It’s just a really good mix of music and I think Ross has done a brilliant job.

What have been some of the highlights of previous festivals.

I was incredibly stressed the first day of last year I’m not quite sure why, to the point where my shoulder actually locked and I had to go for a massage to release it. I couldn’t even hold a pint in my hand which is obviously no good if you’re at a festival. Then I decided to calm down a bit and enjoy it. After it finished on the Sunday last year I just had an overriding feeling of as if we’d accomplished something, I had a really good buzz, I just felt like we’d put on a really good event, people were going home with smiles on their faces and everyone I spoke to seemed to have really enjoyed it. It just felt the right kind of thing to be doing. Having promoted a lot of gigs at a smaller level it just seemed like a nice step up to be working with the Futureheads who I have always admired and Rich from Coal Train, I always liked This Ain’t Vegas. It was just nice to see people get off their backsides and do something. Nobody seemed to be in it for the money, everyone was just saying let’s do something for the area.

Each year there seem to be more and more festivals both locally and nationally. Does Split do anything differently or special to stand out in this growing marketplace?

The Futureheads have played loads of festivals, so we’ve been able to take the best aspects of the good festivals and pick up tips for Split. This year we’ve tried to improve the Fringe Tent. We’ve got Stacie Stewart from Masterchef helping us and we’re trying to bring better food to the festival. We’ve tended to try and cherry pick. We’ve spent a couple of days going round just eating lots of food and going to different restaurants and checking out what they’re actually cooking instead of just getting some burger van in. We’ve tried to get local companies like Borneo Bistro the number 1 place to eat in the North East as voted on Trip Advisor, Judge Khan who is putting on Indian food with a pantomime experience, Juniper’s Panrtry are providing more traditional British treats, Hendon butcher Alf Smith will be cooking up a quality BBQ and Oldfields Restaurant will serve their famous venison bangers and mash.

Times are tougher this year for many people money wise and some festivals have gone under due to poor ticket sales or lack of organisation. How have you ensured Split survives in todays economic climate?

Just by pushing it as hard as we can through social networking. We’ve tried to keep the ticket price down as low as possible. We’ve tried to keep the beer prices down but we have to try and run it as a business as well otherwise you’d end up losing money so we try to provide a good product at a fair price. We believe in our product and because we’ve been going a couple of years we hope people are getting into the habit of coming to Split. Some people maybe start festivals because they think it’s a good way to make money but they don’t realise what hard work it is.


The Futureheads are heavily associated with the Festival. How important has it been to have The Futureheads involvement in organising the Festival?

They’ve been involved since day one, initially through Barry. They’ve headlined a day each year and they’ve all got their own strengths and they’ve all brought their own things to the table and they’re all really good lads. I think from a media point of view it’s seen as the Futureheads festival and that’s really helped us but also because of their contacts we’ve been able to book a lot of bands a lot easier than if it had been Tom, Dick or Harry running the festival. We’ve been able to cut better deals which has enabled us to get more bands. Ross goes to a lot of local gigs and he’s always looking out for new music. He’s always looking for new bands and new sounds. I think he was the obvious choice to take on that mantle.

There’s a thriving music scene in the North East at the moment and this is well represented by Split at Transmission, Parade and the main Festival. The region has been growing steadily in reputation in recent years for great music with Maximo Park, Field Music and The Futureheads and more recently Frankie and the Heartstrings finding wider success. Can you tell us which local bands you think are next in line from this years bill.

I would hope that Little Comets would be progressing. I think they are a really good band but I think it’s quite hard for musicians at the minute although they’re playing a lot of good gigs, there’s not a great deal of money in record sales. I think one of the things that is holding a lot of bands back at that level is the financial aspect of the industry. Festivals are thriving but sales of music aren’t.

Split Parade sounds like it will be one of the highlights of this years events. There’s a parade and loads of bands playing. Can you tell us how the parade is going to work? Will people be able to see everything or will things be running at the same time in different locations?

It’s like a warm up for Split and it’s a chance for some of the local bands that we couldn’t fit on the bill for Split to get a chance to play. We had hundreds of bands apply. Barry sat in the house for a couple of days and listened to every single one. We’re trying to give as many bands as possible the chance to be part of Split.

For any local bands wanting to get involved next year can you give any tips or clues as to what the organisers are looking for?

Just work as hard at it as you possibly can. We’re hoping bands will see Split as something to work to and to aspire to. We can only fit a small percentage of bands who apply onto the bill but I still think we have more local bands on the main stage than any other festival and we’ve got a lot of local bands in the fringe tent as well.

Here’s Buzzbands selection of some of the best North East bands playing the main stage at this years Split Festival
Tomahawks For Targets – The Modern Hunter – Follow us on Twitter

Grandfather Birds – Higher Bridges – Follow us on Twitter

Shields – Spires – Follow us on Twitter

Little Comets – One Night in October (Directed by Matt Brown – Flashlight Films) – Follow us on Twitter

Vinyl Jacket – Painting Stations (Directed by Matt Brown – Flashlight Films) – Follow us on Twitter

Hyde + Beast – (and the) Pictures in the Sky (Directed by Ian West) – Follow us on Twitter

B>E>A>K – The Yellow Edition Promo – Follow us on Twitter

For more info see the Split website at: http://splitfestival.com/
Follow us on Twitter

Tickets are still available. Get yours now.

Standard tickets (from 01/09/11)
£25 Saturday
£25 Sunday
£40 Weekend ticket
Ticket link: http://split.over9stores.co.uk/

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