Next weekend not only sees another bank holiday weekend give us a lovely 3 day weekend but also the return of the ever brilliant Common People, with the even celebrating its third year in Southampton and second in Oxford. With the likes of Sean Paul, Pete Tong and Wild Beasts taking to the festivals Common Stage and a wealth of new talent allover the bill, The Indiependent sat down with head honcho and festival connoisseur Rob Da Bank about the plans for this year, dream headliners and Common Peoples big cousin Bestival.
Are you looking forward to this years Common People?
Yeah, can’t wait! It’s sort of come round really quickly and obviously we’ve got the 3rd year in Southampton and second in Oxford so its not like we are doing a new festival for the first time and its always exciting to get the festival boots on and get to it.
Are there any massive changes to the festival this year?
Not massive no, we like to tweak stuff as we go along. I don’t think festivals that change massively stick around because you have to try and stick to the vision you have for the festival and I think Common People, speaking broadly, has gone down pretty well with what we do; we just kind of do our formula and try to tighten up on the bits that people want less of like queues, cleaner toilets and stuff like that. Letting them enjoy the music really.
There was a few problems last year with the younger audience; was that a worry for you this year?
They weren’t underage or anything like that and were actually the right age to come to the festival but we’ve sort of tweaked our rules a bit so that under 18’s can’t come on site (unless accompanied by an adult) because we did feel that it could have become a problem. I don’t think it was a huge issue last year but its something we definitely want to sort of keep in mind because everyone just wants to have a nice, safe and mellow time. It’s not an anti teenager rule its just trying to make sure that everyone who is there is there for the right reasons.
What kind of new acts are you looking forward to who are on the bill this year?
There’s a lot of Southampton and Isle of Wight acts and then some of the bigger ones on the main stay as well, the sort of Isle of Wight and Southampton acts like Nakamarra and LST (both play on The Uncommon Stage on Saturday). I’m always interested in the new acts as much as the older ones but its good to see brand new stuff that I’ve never heard about. Theres a band called Feeble Grandpa who I don’t even know what they particularly sound like and they’re on the bill but thats good cause I don’t always say I know everything because someone else booked that band but it will be really good to see what the sound like.
You work with Ricky Bates from The Joiners on that stage?
Ricky books that stage so thats really nice, I’ve always been hands on but the past few years I’ve kind of said that that’s his area of expertise he knows the upcoming folk, indie and rock bands and I happily hand that over to him and he’s booked really great line ups in the past and having people like The Magic Gang and Black Honey playing thats definitely what I want that stage to sound like.
Is there a dream headliner for Common People?
Honestly hand on heart I sort of go for it year on year, with Common People we have to realistic because its a reasonably priced ticket and the budgets for the line ups aren’t huge. I think with the Pete Tong classical thing, with Sean Paul, Fat Boy Slim in the past and Duran Duran we are getting the right sort of acts in for that level of budget. There’s a long list of people but I wouldn’t say we will be having Stevie Wonder or Elton John over at Common People but having said that people love to do new and exciting festivals so never say never, maybe Kate Bush will turn up one day.
With Bestival moving over to Dorset, do you see that affecting Common People in anyway?
I don’t think so, no. I’d hope it would be a positive thing, the two things are completely separate, Common People is like a feeder show for our other festivals, families come to Common People then they might come down to Camp Bestival as well and then younger people might be coming to Common People as well as planning to come to Bestival. I think having all our festivals within the same two county’s is good, I think people know what they are getting and sort of trust our judgement on the levels of bands and the production that we provide. The day ticket market is obviously getting bigger and more people are coming to these shows but thats a whole new set of people that don’t go to festivals normally, I think Bestival is selling really well and much better this year; moving off the island sadly for the island but good for the rest of us so it’s a positive step.
Having a really good line up for Bestival this year has probably helped?
Ah cool, yeah thank you for saying so. I think last year we had a couple of things drop out and we didn’t get our ideal dream line up but I think this year we are back to a good classic Bestival line up, we’ve got old and new and every sort of style represented and the line up seems to have gone down really well so thats great.
It’s only Common People’s 3rd year but has there been a highlight so far for you personally?
Right from year one I thought we did really well, Grace Jones was amazing, I thought Craig David last year was obviously a huge thing for Southampton but then launching last year in Oxford as well. We don’t sit on our laurels, every year is a fresh year because you never know who is going to turn up or whats going to happen so you’ve really got to be on the ball. Walking around seeing people enjoying it is what’s exciting for me; its not necessarily one performance, just the general vibe really.
As you’ve mentioned the Oxford event is only into it’s second year this year, what made you want to do a twin Common People event there?
We looked at all the work we were putting into Southampton then people were kind of cherry picking our line up and adding it to their festivals the same weekend or in the immediate area and we thought rather than let that happen why don’t we put on another show thats far enough away that people aren’t necessarily going to make it to Southampton. It’s fair to say as well that Southampton and Oxford haven’t had brilliant festivals, they have got some great ones but they’re not over burdened with festivals so we tried to make our own little niche in both places. We’re definitely getting both our feet in the door there and just trying to give these 2 places a festival to shout about.
Was the initial idea to make a smaller urban Bestival style festival with Common People?
It’s obviously going to have its reflection of Bestival because thats what we do but I think it’s got as much Camp Bestival in there as Bestival and I think its got a whole new sort of slant of trying to make sure we are catering for a day crowd because theres no camping, people who come along might not be that used to large crowds everywhere. It’s a mellower version of Bestival thats for sure but we still want it to have that feel of going to a festival for the hardened festival goer. Its kind of a tight rope but I think we are getting the right extra stout.
The feel of Common People is a boutique festival in the middle of festival which is very rare…
With Southampton I think people that aren’t actually from Southampton think of the Common or they hear the common and think its a bit of scrubland in the middle of the town but Southampton Common is a beautiful green field site that once your in there you don’t even think you’re in a city. It’s a fantastic site.
Can we expect the old cliche of ‘this one’s going to be the best one yet’?
I hope so man, someones just told me that the weathers supposed to be picking up again for the next few weeks so I think thats really important people do love a sunny festival, all the acts are excited. I’m interviewing Pete Tong tomorrow, he’s really vibed about coming down so everything’s looking the right way; we’ve got a lot of boxes to tick but I’m confident that we’ll get there.
Theres been a lot of talk about Sean Paul playing and a lot of people looking forward to it, that will be a great close to the festival?
He was great at Bestival last year and he’s a real showman, even for people who aren’t big fans he does an hour of hit after hit. Sorry not even an hour, 75 minutes.
As you’ve said Sean Paul headlined Bestival and so did Duran Duran the year before they played Common People is that something you look at when getting Bestival headliners or do they just happen to be happy coincidences?
It’s more coincidental really, both of those acts work in the sense of coming to Common People as well because not every act could headline the sort of show Common People and some acts are just to big to headline Common People. Your not going to see that every year its just the way the cookie crumbles I suppose. I don’t think The xx will be playing Common People next year but again never say never.
We’ll take take that as confirmation as Pet Shop Boys headlining Common People next year then?
(Laughs) They would be great at Common People so let’s make that work.
It’s been a pleasure Rob, thank you.
My pleasure, thanks for having me.
Common People takes place on the 27th and 28th May 2017 on Southampton Common and South Park, Oxford respectably. Tickets can be found on the official website or by clicking here. For more information and full line up head to the official website here.