Interview + Playlist: Ghost Road Festival gears up for live return in November

With the ongoing vaccination programme bringing a glimmer of hope of some sort of resumption of normality in the not too distant future, we can’t wait for the day when we can once again safely set foot in a music venue, and there are an increasing number of tour dates and music festivals beginning to announce their return.

Amongst them is Ghost Road Festival, which will be bringing a top quality line up of exciting up and coming talent to both Leeds and London in November. With a strong ethos supporting inclusivity, creativity, gender equality and opportunities for the young, Ghost Road aims not just to put on a fantastic weekend of live music, but to spark future events and collaborations amongst aspiring musicians, promoters and creatives.

We caught up organisers Lori and Alex to find out more about what they have planned and asked them to share some tracks from the line-up.

It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to talk with anyone about an upcoming music festival – how does it feel to finally be able to announce Ghost Road 2021 and start spreading the word about the event?  Was there ever a point at which you worried that it just wouldn’t happen?

It honestly feels amazing to be able to share the festival and get the word out – especially with Covid showing no sign of disappearing soon and all of the things it has ruined in the last year and a half. It has been a concern when we were looking at dates to book but we felt November would be a point that we should have returned to some sort of normality and could go ahead with the festival.

I guess we can’t ignore the big question looming over all live music events in the near future: how confident are you that the event will go ahead and what have you planned to make sure that it’s as covid-secure as possible?

Since the release of the vaccine and plans in place for socially distanced returns for other events, we are getting more and more confident that the festival will go ahead without a hitch and at full capacity! Obviously, this all depends on how things go during the year and if other things open on the proposed dates so we are considering our options just incase but everything looks to be going in the right direction – it’s been such a long time full of uncertainty that we can never be as confident as we were say a year ago – but to an extent, we just have to go with the current guidelines and hope people adhere to the rules to give normal a fighting chance again. 

What can festival-goers expect from Ghost Road – will it be a traditional gig/festival experience or has the ‘new normal’ thrown up any unexpected opportunites to do things in a new and different way?

We are hoping for a return to the traditional festival/gigs, with the government’s time of the opening of other places in the old ‘normal’ standards we are hopeful that our festival is going to follow suit. That being said, we are going to do everything in our power to keep everyone safe, if that means wearing a mask or hand sanitiser in every available space then so be it. Making sure everyone is kept safe and enjoying themselves is our top priority, I guess we’ll have to assess this when the time comes.

Something we are very conscious of is the lack of interaction a lot of people have had in the last 18 months – we are currently compiling some ‘festival rules’ we ask our audience to follow, including no photographs whilst the bands are performing (unless you have applied for a photo pass) and being aware of people around you – we are having stewards around the event which gives people the chance to speak to them in complete confidentiality if they feel uncomfortable for whatever reason.

There seems to be a fantastic wave of new bands coming out of both of your host cities, Leeds and London, at the moment – what were you looking for in the artists that you’ve selected for the line-up?

We wanted to have a range of artists playing our festival – something we want to achieve from this festival (and hopefully festivals to come) is the support of up and coming artists and giving them opportunity to play alongside much more established acts. We want to make sure that there is proportional representation across the festival, something I feel a lot of shows are falling short on at the moment, and really there is no need for it as there are so many amazing acts in the circuit – that said we haven’t picked any bands just to fit a quota!

What can you tell us about your two venues?

We chose Kolis for London as Arno and his team are so lovely and welcoming – it’s a great space and really easily accessible (right next to Archway tube station) the venue is really supportive of new bands which is in the heart of what the festival is about. There’s also a great space outside of the main gig room to network, for the bands to sell merch and for people to chill out in a quieter area.  

Anyone that’s been to Belgave Cantina knows the amazing energy that comes from being there! Plus the gorgeous food they put on downstairs makes it a great place for the festival, it will give us a comfortable area for our guests to be all day. It’s location also makes it ideal for our Leeds venue, it’s easy to get to no matter what form of transport you’re using.

The festival has a strong stated ethos of promoting equality and inclusivity and providing opportunites for young people to get involved in live music – what have you put in place for the festival to achieve this?

We are offering a mentorship program for those wanting to learn the ropes of planning and managing an event like this. We are also offering the opportunity for paid work experience to help out on the day and see what’s going on and how to keep everything running smoothly.

We asked Lori and Alex to put together a playlist of the artists confirmed for Ghost Road so far and to introduce us to the performers.

The Virginmarys – a great band with an amazing arsenal of songs under their belts – Ally and Danny are really nice guys too, who have a clear passion and drive.

The Pearl Harts – A balls to the wall two-piece with some amazing songs and a great reputation, having supported the likes of The Kills, Skunk Anansie and Weezer it isn’t surprising.

Sheafs – We first discovered Sheafs on a This Feeling evening at Nambucca and instantly fell in love – the lads are super nice and have some really headbanging songs.

Weekend Recovery – Having just released their new album False Company, Weekend Recovery have real momentum behind them – named as Planet Rocks’ Ones to watch of 2020 this band are smashing it!

MOSES – Having been introduced to Moses by the amazing Caffy St Luce we instantly fell in love – with tracks such as ‘River Thames’ and ‘Basically’, you won’t stop dancing to these guys!

SNAYX – Having supported the likes of Nova Twins and Kid Kapichi this band are going from strength to strength and I’m sure you will be hearing more and more of these.

Novustory – Fronted by the powerhouse Imogen this no-nonsense band is the latest addition to the line-up – championed by the likes of Kerrang they are not a band to miss.

You Want Fox – Another hard-hitting two-piece You Want Fox are sassy, full of attitude and paired with great songs are ones to watch!

Ghost Road Festival takes place on 6th November at Kolis, London and 7th November at Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds. Tickets priced at £20 are available from ghostroadfest.bigcartel.com – keep an eye on their Facebook page for further line-up announcements.

Interview by Paul Maps

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