With the continuing roll-out of the vaccination programme, the hope of a return to live music is finally beginning to look like a reality, and the Joyzine inbox is slowly filling with news of gigs, tours and festivals to look forward to.
One in particular that has us buzzing with anticipation is the Wakefield-based Long Division Festival, returning for its tenth year on 25th September with a spectacular line-up which so far includes Joyzine favourites Big Joanie, Beans on Toast, The Lovely Eggs and headliners The Futureheads, with plenty more still to be announced, and being run as a Community Interest Company with a commitment to a gender balanced line-up and to supporting local bands and independent venues, a mentoring programme and with tickets priced at just £30 (and £1 for under 18s!), they’ve got their hearts in the right place too.
We caught up with festival director Dean Freeman to find out more about the festival and what they have in store for us in September and asked him to share a playlist of some of the artists confirmed so far.
With the festival having been cancelled in 2020 and postponed from June to September in 2021, how does it feel to finally begin unveiling the line-up and putting tickets onsale?
It’s pretty crazy really. What on the surface shouldn’t be a big deal for us after so many years really feels like it. The last live show we did of any kind was our original launch gig in Feb 1st 2020, so it’s a huge amount of time to be inactive – publicly at least. Just being excited to see a poster design, I’ve not felt that way since our first year!
And a cracking line-up it is, what do you take into consideration when booking artists for Long Division?
We’ve only announced the first batch; that first announcement is about getting some more notable names out there, setting out your stall a little bit as we did with our International Women’s Day surprise announcement (in which they made their first line-up announcement with 9 all-female or female-fronted bands). It’s only when it’s all there at the end does it really tell a story free of marketing. So I guess I am saying that it’s not necessarily those top names that are the big deal for me. I’m excited to bring The Futureheads to Wakefield and I love dropping in a leftfield (for us) booking like Beardyman. Most festivals now are pretty sensible affairs. And part of that is booking to a genre, because that is easier to sell to people. We don’t do that. I much prefer the lineup to be like a mixtape your friends made you. There’ll be things you don’t like and that’s as important as the ones you do because it encourages discovery and that’s what we need in the world.
This year’s event marks your 10th festival – have you got plans for anything special to celebrate?
Just happening will be a celebration to be honest! Last year would have been our tenth festival. This year is now our tenth festival and tenth year so it is a big deal, but in light of all that’s happened just returning is all that matters. We are looking at running a live/streamed event on our actual 10th birthday in June – look out for that.
Long Division has gone some way towards puting Wakefield on the musical map, but for those travelling there for the first time, what can they expect?
Wakefield is a bit of an odd place, and that’s great. We use a real mix of non traditional music venues like Theatres, Chapels, Libraries so I think to new people there’s always a sense of, where am I? What is this place? We really encourage movement around the city, but the centre is small so it’s not stressful. We just want to help people dig under the surface a bit. You’ll see bands you love in places you’d never expect to see them, and you’ll find new bands you never knew anything about whilst you explore.
Alongside the excitement of the return to live music comes a degree of nervousness – will you have anything in place to reassure any anxious potential festival-goers?
We’re just trying to be open with people. We called our original postponement early and turned out to be right. Since then, we’ve just been honest about where we are at and we’ll continue to do that. Practically, we have slashed our capacity in the short term. And we’re telling people that, instead of these larger festivals who are seeking headlines by claiming a sellout, without admitting their capacity has also been slashed. That will mean we can grow it as things return to normal, but if they don’t it’ll simply be a high quality but smaller festival. It’s more important that those who are there get the Long Division experience rather than trying to squeeze people in. We’re also looking at longer artist turnarounds and easier means for people to travel around the city.
Long Division is a Community Interest Company – what does this mean & how does it affect the way that you operate?
We setup as a CIC in 2017 to add some formality to our more community focussed work. That’s grown into our education programme #YoungTeam and other mentor programmes. Being a CIC basically says we are non-profit and any profit we do make goes back into community programmes. Wakefield needs more than an annual festival, so this is our way to develop the grassroots infrastructure in the city.
What are you most looking forward to about the festival’s return?
Just people in a room watching music together really. I suppose we’ll have all done that by the time September arrives. I love Long Division because it’s this social thing; it’s as much about bumping into friends or even bands on the streets and just the buzz of activity of deciding where to go and what to do. I think that will feel very free. I’m also looking forward to feeling useful; a year of doing very little has been at best dull and at worst utterly depressing. So in my head, it’s going to be the most beautiful sunny weekend with loads of great people. I almost won’t mind what music is playing!
Long Division 2021 takes place at venues around Wakefield on 25th September. Tickets, priced at £30 + booking fees are available online here or from local record stores Wah Wah Records (Wakefield), Jumbo Records & Crash Records (Leeds) and Warren Records (Hull).
Find out more about the festival and the latest line-up additions at longdivisionfestival.co.uk
Interview by Paul Maps