Festibelly Founder Andy Bell: "The Real Charm Is The Intimate Size"

It's a boutique festival in the Hampshire countryside that is going from strength to strength, but how did it get to where it is and what should attendees expect from it this year??
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Festibelly has slowly been solidifying its place in the festival calendar, with a dedicated fan base making the trip to Hampshire every year.   This year they have added a second night to the event as they look to expand and things are definitely moving in the right direction for this former small festival player.  Here we speak to Festibelly founder Andy Bell about how the festival's beginnings, who he's looking forward to watching this year, and Phil Collins...

Can you tell us about how Festibelly started.

I guess technically Festibelly’s first incarnation was as my birthday party (then called Glastonbelly!) in the same field 6 years ago – 100 people, a few tents and friends playing some lush music. The next year at uni Tom and I decided to base a university project around setting up a festival, and Festibelly was born.

How many people went the first year and how many people are going to be coming this?

The first year we had around 500 people, and this it’ll be 2500.

What are the main differences between running the festival when you started and running it now?

Fewer than you might expect! The main principles are still the same – a group of friends trying to provide a good party with a friendly atmosphere and great music, and trying to remember to ask the question; what would we want from our Festibelly experience as a member of the public? Although now we do have to take things a bit more seriously of course.

Do you get to enjoy yourself while it’s running, or is work/stress/work?

There are normally a few moments to chill and enjoy things a bit, but we need more of them! Everything is always manic leading up to the festival and over the weekend, it’s a great rush to see everything happening around you though.

How involved are the original team in it now?

Totally. Of course the team has expanded a little but it’s still a really small number of us putting everything together.

How much further do you aspire to take it?  Are you a Bestival in waiting?

We’ve always said let’s just see what happens. Any growth of the festival until now has been totally natural, not forced in anyway. We’d obviously love to see it keep growing, but then again the real charm of Festibelly has always been it’s small, intimate size, and people really appreciate that.

What is your personal favourite festival other than Festibelly?

Bestival has always been a favourite, bar last year I’d been to the previous 5. Secret Garden Party is a mind blowing festival and I’d love to see how the team behind that it develop Glade now they have the reigns.

Do you get time to get along to many?

Not enough. Plus it’s an expensive hobby!

Moving onto this year…what acts have you got that we might know on the line-up?

Hopefully a lot of people will know what Gold Panda’s about, or at least recognise some of his tunes. I think his album Lucky Shiner has a been a seminal record in the last few years of UK electronic music. Clock Opera and Bastille are doing great things right now, definitely bands to watch for the future, and of course Bestival honcho Rob da Bank and the legendary Ragga Twins!

And which acts have you got that we might not but should?

Kitty, Daisy & Lewis are definitely worth checking out, amazingly talented musicians and such good fun to watch. Real old school blues, soul, r&b, swing and more. I’m really excited to have VAZ, a new Swedish duo from Stockholm who will definitely be ones to watch very soon.

Is ‘Squeeze’ by Man Like Me going to a defining festival moment?

I hope so! I’ll definitely be down the front for that one. Man Like Me are always a favourite, I think it’s their 4th year now. 'London Town' was a massive anthem for me a couple of years ago at Festibelly and they always capture perfectly what Festibelly is about.

How do you approach booking bands?  Do you have one or two acts you definitely want and target providing the fee is appropriate?  How much is your personal taste and what you perceive to be the taste of your crowd?

We really try not to book anything we’re not totally in to. The lineup has always been a small sample of everything that we personally really like. Obviously it gets more difficult the bigger the acts you try and book, and fees and the interests of agents/management start dictating things a lot more, which can be tough. Often if you’re not perceived as a ‘priority’ festival to an agent then they won’t give you a look in, or they’ll simply demand higher fees than they would do a festival whose lineup they ‘have’to get their artist on, which is wrong. Balancing personal taste, the taste of the crowd and budgets is difficult, but it’s important to remember that it’s all about the music and follow your instinct.

In 3 words, describe the typical Festibelly attendee.

Good, bad, ugly.

What 3 things should anyone planning to come to Festibelly this year bring with them?

One item of Olympic Memorabilia to add to our flaming wicker Boris, a smile and your dancing shoes.

You are giving away tickets to people whose birthday is over the Festibelly weekend.  What's the deal with that?

Tom and my birthday’s are a day apart and always fall over the Festibelly weekend, which normally means they end up getting completely lost in the chaos of the weekend. So this is just a personal touch from us and we wanted to give other birthday boys and girls a wee little something! Hopefully it will remind us to have a little fun too.

Give us your 2 dream acts to headline Festibelly (a realistic one and an unrealistic one).

The Maccabees… and Phil Collins. Both pretty unrealistic really!

If Festibelly was an Olympic sport what would it be?

Wiff Waff

Pick up some Festibelly tickets here

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