Festival Number 6 hopes to build on last year's runaway success

Friday 30 August 2013, 11:31

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As inaugural events go, the 2012 Festival Number 6 in Portmeirion couldn't really have gone any more swimmingly.

It scooped the Best Small Festival at the NME Awards and Best New Festival at the UK Festival Awards - where New Order also picked up Best Headline Performance for their Portmeirion gig - and received 5* reviews in The Guardian and the Independent.

Not bad for a festival which was merely a concept in January 2012 and didn't officially launch until April last year.

But has that early success raised the bar too high for this year? Not a bit of it says festival director Bradley Thompson.

Soaking up the sun at Festival Number 6 in 2012 Soaking up the sun at Festival Number 6 in 2012. Photo: Danny North

The main music line-up includes James Blake, Everything Everything, Neon Neon, Badly Drawn Boy, Tricky, My Bloody Valentine, my absolute Glastonbury favourite, Chic featuring Nile Rogers, as well as a surprise performance from the Manics, who are supposed to be taking two years off and are not playing any other festivals this summer - quite the coup for a festival of just 8,000.

Although ticket prices have had to rise to cover costs – from £129 last year to £170 plus booking fee this year – Brad believes the hike was necessary to ensure the festival maintains its unique offer and the range of smaller cool cultural events that accompany the big name headline acts.

"It just wasn't sustainable at the lower price and if you think of the standard of the content and the unique setting, it is definitely worth the extra money," he said.

"We want to keep the festival as a reasonably boutique style event with it only ever growing up to 11 or 12,000 punters in the future and to do that we had to raise ticket prices.

"The success of last year was completely unexpected and surprised us all. I guess it worked because we have a good collective team of people with a range of experience."

The team includes Luke Bainbridge, who used to edit the Observer Music Monthly Magazine, as well as David Exley who is the agent for bands like the XX and Friendly Fires, and all sorts of producers and promoters helping out and utilising their contacts books.

Live music at 2012's Festival Number 6 Live music at 2012's Festival Number 6. Photo: Danny North

Brad admits part of Festival Number 6's success has to lie in its stunning setting - a breathtaking Italianate village designed by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis on a peninsula on the southern shores of Snowdonia, overlooking Cardigan Bay.

What organisers have been keen to do from the outset is to show the beautiful backdrop off to its best advantage, while making full use of its incredible staging opportunities.

Aside from the main festival field, events will be taking place in the historic town hall, on a stone boat on the estuary, in the Colonnade Gardens, in dance tents overlooking the bay, as well as off the beaten track in Tangle Woods.

The range and offer of arts and cultural events is pretty mind-blowing for a festival in its infancy.

Stuart Maconie from BBC 6 Music will be hosting a mixture of spoken word, poetry, comedy and acoustic acts on the Piazza stage in the heart of the village, with appearances from John Cooper Clarke, Caitlin Moran, Paul Morley, John Niven to mention a few.

Faber Social and Caught By The River are again curating the Estuary Stage, with acts including DBC Pierre, Tracey Thorn, Viv Albertine, Bob Stanley and many more.

The audience at Festival Number 6 at Portmeirion The audience at Festival Number 6 at Portmeirion. Photo: Danny North

Beyond the headline favourites, Brad admits he is looking forward to seeing just what the composer Joe Duddell creates with musicians like Daughter, Mike Garry and The Poet.

"I think there's pockets of things people will stumble across which will prove the real favourites, like the events with Tim Burgess who has got some big names in the Dome Gallery at Portmeirion. It's a venue that will only hold 50 people but has some incredible acts lined up to appear, whether it’s for acoustic gigs, readings, talks, DJ sets, musical bingo and even Northern Soul dance classes.

"I also can’t wait to see what people make of the amazing DJs we've got lined up for the stone boat on the estuary – people like Andrew Weatherall, David Holmes, Frankie Knuckles and Carl Craig.

"But there’s also events like the Literary Death Match, Guy Garvey in conversation with Stuart Maconie, a talk by Declan Lowney, the director of Father Ted and the Alan Partridge movie and an appearance from the illuminated drummers Spark that I’m really excited about."

Portmeirion was made famous as the setting for numerous films and television shows, most notably serving as The Village in the hit 1960s television series The Prisoner. Several events are planned along that theme with human chess and a special procession through the village.

Thrill-seekers can enjoy a bit of stand up paddle boarding and power kiting in the estuary while The Gwyllt Woods will come alive with the Don't Tell Stories woodland trails, bespoke installations and raves for adults and children alike.

Festival Number 6 is set in the Italianate village of Portmeirion Festival Number 6 is set in the Italianate village of Portmeirion. Photo: Danny North

Brad added: "The Colonnade is my favourite venue as it's in the heart of the village and has got performances right through the day and night, ending with the Brythoniad Male Voice Choir each night which will just be amazing."

The choir proved one of the unlikely stars of last year's festival with audiences raving about their cover of New Order's Blue Monday and this year they have been commissioned to record a version of Good Times in homage to Chic featuring Nile Rogers.

"We've got a unique location in Portmeirion which other festivals in the country don't have - the aesthetics and the locations and feel which I think appeals to an older, more refined audience," Brad added.

"Portmeirion was the vision of Williams-Ellis and he was very forward-thinking in terms of what he wanted the place to be - he wanted to open it to as many people as possible and his grandson now manages Portmeirion and carries on that vision. This festival opens it up to an entirely new demographic.

"The people of Portmeirion have been very supportive and we engaged with them right from the start which I think helped- I think most people see the benefit in promoting the area to a new audience."

Festival Number 6 takes place from 13-15 September. For full details and ticket info visit festivalnumber6.com.

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