Standon Calling festival director on this year's line-up and headliners
PUBLISHED: 10:22 27 July 2018 | UPDATED: 14:22 30 July 2018
©2018 Kevin Richards - all rights reserved
This year's Standon Calling has begun. Alan Davies talks to festival director and founder Alex Trenchard about the annual music and arts extravaganza, its 2018 line-up and headliners Paloma Faith, George Ezra and Bryan Ferry.
Almost a decade ago a relatively unknown singer-songwriter took to the second stage at a still fairly newish Hertfordshire music festival.
Her name? Paloma Faith. The festival? Standon Calling.
Tonight (Friday, July 27) the now chart-topping, BRIT Award-winning international star will return to the fields of Standon Lordship to headline the main stage.
There are parallels between quirky Paloma’s career progression and the festival’s journey from a birthday party to popular boutique family festival with everything from music, art, comedy and even a dog show.
The four-day feast of entertainment will attract around 16,000 to 17,000 festival-goers over the weekend.
With recent number one album The Architect under her belt, Crybaby singer Paloma’s return to Standon after playing the tent in a late afternoon slot back in 2009 is one of the many stories festival founder and director Alex Trenchard shares as we chat in Humphrey’s Cafe at Campus West in Welwyn Garden City.
“Paloma Faith’s is a wonderful story,” says Alex. “She played almost 10 years ago, and I think that’s indicative of where the festival has come.
“I found her old Facebook post on her personal page. ‘I’m playing Standon Calling on the main stage’. Actually, she was on the second stage, but she packed the tent out.
“It’s interesting. Her sound was slightly different from what it is now, but you always knew she had a talent. She was always incredible live, but now there’s much more soul with how she performs and she’s a household name.
“She puts on a fantastic show.”
Putting together a festival line-up is a tricky business. But Alex and his team are trying to make the line-up as inclusive as possible.
“It’s about the mix,” says Alex, who celebrated his 40th birthday yesterday.
“We have a lot of families coming, so it’s about thinking what acts the family can enjoy together.
“And then maybe an act the parents know and want to introduce their kids to.
“And then an act that will give us an edge, to keep the festival’s bill on the right side of credible, not go too mainstream.
“So in a weird way, Paloma Faith is all of that. She’s probably the most Standon Calling act we’ve ever had.
“Her sound has gone from being more niche to the mainstream but in a cool, interesting, credible way. And that’s kind of what I’m trying to do with Standon Calling.”
He adds: “I think Paloma’s well on her way to becoming a national treasure. You can see her being around for a while.”
When Paloma first played Standon Calling, the music festival was still in its early days.
What started out as a garden party has grown significantly in size and, crucially, credibility since Alex first celebrated his birthday with his mates in the grounds of his family’s manor house between Ware and Stevenage.
Standon is now a full-time operation and is currently the county’s biggest music festival.
Summing up Standon Calling’s ethos, Alex smiles: “It’s a party.
“It’s about bringing people together, having a great time, and exploring music but in a fun and open way, and not being too muso – as that’s just boring.”
As well as Paloma’s Standon return, this year’s festival will feature an eagerly awaited headline slot for chart-topping Shotgun singer-songwriter George Ezra.
Ezra’s homecoming show – he grew up just down the road from Standon in Hertford – has ensured day tickets for Saturday, July 28 have sold out.
“I’m very excited about it as George is from Hertford,” admits Alex.
“You walk around Hertford and everyone’s got a George Ezra story. It’s really funny. I went into the cake shop and said, ‘I run the Standon Calling festival and we’ve got a local artist performing. I was wondering whether you could make him a cake for when he comes on stage?’
“And they said ‘is that George?’
“It’s going to be a really special homecoming show.”
After the likes of Cazels and Do Me Bad Things headlined the first ‘proper’ Standon Calling festival back in 2005, it says much of the event’s pulling power these days that both Friday night headliner Paloma Faith and Paradise singer Ezra have enjoyed number one albums in the past 12 months.
Ezra’s second album, Staying at Tamara’s, even knocked the unstoppable soundtrack of The Greatest Showman off its perch at the top of the charts.
Alex adds: “I’ve been trying to get George Ezra to come and play for a while, partly because he’s local.
“It’s great that we’ve managed to time it with his new album and single Paradise.”
The festival also supports Mudlarks, a Hertford-based charity that supports adults with learning disabilities and mental health issues.
Due to close the festival on Sunday night will be Bryan Ferry.
Almost 73, the legendary Roxy Music singer will bring a touch of style and class to proceedings, armed with a back catalogue of hits such as Virginia Plain, Do The Strand, Slave to Love, Avalon, Jealous Guy, Let’s Stick Together and Love is the Drug.
Alex is delighted to have the hugely influential singer close Standon.
“Bryan Ferry has been a performer for years, its the 45th anniversary of the first Roxy Music album and he’s coming on stage at the age of 73,” says Alex.
“As time goes on, we realise more and more how many bands were influenced by Roxy Music.
“It’s a great way for the festival to end. It’s a nod to our love of musical history, combined with Bryan Ferry’s credibility.
“There’s not many acts you can get now that span that number of years.”
And, as Alex says: “Standon Calling is not just about the music, it’s about the performance.”
As well as the main stage headliners, the eclectic Standon line-up also features the likes of Django Django, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Horrors, The Amazons, Morcheeba, Supergrass singer Gaz Coombes and Goldfrapp, who will play the Sunday before the hugely influential Bryan Ferry.
“In any other year Goldfrapp could have been headlining,” says Alex.
The DJ line-up includes 2ManyDJs and Pulp star Jarvis Cocker.
However, due to illness, 2017 Britain’s Got Talent winner Tokio Myers has had to cancel his appearance at Standon.
With such a varied line-up, Standon is hard to pigeonhole, meaning it is not affected so much by the fickle nature of fans and music’s ever-changing trends.
But Standon Calling is so much more than just a music festival.
There’s the annual dog show, a themed fancy dress parade, an outdoor swimming pool, comedy shows, a programme of arts and crafts, children’s activities, and DJs spinning tunes into the early hours.
Alex is particularly proud of the festival’s expanding comedy offering with Lucy Porter and Seann Walsh among the acts this year.
Standon’s track record of spotting emerging talent and booking acts before they become household names is legendary.
Florence + The Machine played the festival just months before hitting the big time, as did Bastille and Munford and Sons, while Clean Bandit headlined last summer having also previously appeared much lower down the bill.
So, if you take a look at the acts appearing on the smaller stages you might just be watching the next big thing.
And that’s one of the beauties of Standon Calling.