ANY music lover will have whiled away many an hour fantasising about staging their own festival: picking the bands, negotiating deals with agents, naming the stages, coming up with a running order.
It’s the kind of job any budding Michael Eavis would kill for – and it’s exactly what music fans Willie Slight and Scott St Clair Gunn have done.
With no experience in the festival organising business whatsoever, the pair have spent the past year tirelessly putting together the first ever Grown in Scotland event, a one-day festival within the grounds of Dalkeith Country Park in Midlothian.
And with Scottish indie favourites The View headlining next month’s event, they have shown that despite being amateurs when they first embarked on the daunting adventure, they have quickly picked up the skills needed to put on an impressive event.
Friends and business partners Willie and Scott – who run their own catering company, The Scullery Ltd – first came up with the idea for Grown in Scotland after catering at last year’s Tough Mudder event at the estate. “We could see the potential to fill that park with people,” explains Willie, 49. “We thought it would be a great place for a music festival.”
Work kicked off almost straight away. After booking the venue, their next big task was to book bands – but because it was a new festival and they had no experience, this was much harder than they had anticipated.
“We had a real hard time getting a band that would take us seriously. We tried every Scottish band you can think of – I think Rod Stewart was about the only person we didn’t contact! Then we managed to get The View on board. That was a real coup for us.”
As well as The View, the festival boasts an eclectic array of Scottish bands to fit in with the Homecoming theme.
These include Big Country, 90s dance band QFX, Eric Faulkner’s Bay City Rollers and ska favourites Bombskare. Up and coming band The Merrylees and local battle of the bands winners The Rebel Westerns also feature on the bill.
But while the line-up has fallen into place nicely, Willie says it’s the list of relentless paperwork that has to be completed that has presented the biggest challenges for him and Scott.
“We had never done anything like this. We had licences to get organised, an event management plan, risk assessment insurance. It’s all quite difficult if you’ve never done it before.
“There’s 1000 things to do when you organise a festival. At least once a day we think ‘why are we doing this?’ But things pick you up along the way, like when you’re handing out a flyer and people say that they’ve got tickets already.
“The whole process has been very colourful.”
He adds: “If you have got a short temper or not a lot of determination then organising a music festival is not for you.”
In fact, despite the stresses – made worse by the fact that Willie and Scott have self-funded the festival – they plan on making Grown in Scotland an annual event.
“I think we are talking about a long-term plan if this all goes well. If we break even this year we will certainly go for it.” He adds: “We’ve taken this up a bit later in life, but we can stroke it off the bucket list.”
Grown in Scotland opens a series of cultural events that form the week-long Midfest celebrations.
“The area does lack things like this,” says Willie, who lives in Dalkeith with his wife, Liz. “This is the first of its kind and that’s very relevant – no-one has taken on this kind of thing before in Dalkeith, so this is groundbreaking.”
The event has been backed by Midlothian Council.
Councillor Bob Constable, cabinet member for arts and creativity, says: “The Grown in Scotland event will kick off a week-long celebration of music, arts and comedy in Midlothian and the opening event is sure to be a spectacular day, with some great bands involved.
“It also provides a platform to highlight the other events that week, from a comedy dinner at the Melville Castle to famous opera singer Iain Paton coming home to perform at Rosslyn Chapel.”
n Tickets for Grown in Scotland are £37.50 for adults and £5 for children 12 and under and are available from www.tickets-scotland.com.