With festival season 2017 firmly in the birthing canal of readiness, it seemed about time to get to grips with what this years’ deal is. One local festival doing great things for new music (and creative innovation as a whole) is the not-for-profit, Exeter’s creepily situated Poltimore Festival. This has little to do with Exeter, more to do with the festival’s backdrop; the burnt out ruins of an old hospital, which, because obviously, started life as an aristocratic seat. I interrogated the organisers on what’s happening, why it’s happening and why we should brave the inevitable hauntings…
Now festival origin stories go from the conventional to the out of hand house party. What’s the tale of Poltimore?
Poltimore originated essentially out of a theatre-club. A group of people who were making and watching great theatre stumbled across the ruins of the House and had an idea to host shows there. It picked up a small audience, and then elements kept on being thrown at it and showcased: art, poetry, comedy, film, sculpture, photography, creative workshops… you name it. And then music joined the party, and Poltimore Festival was born.
So we know that Devon’s a breeding ground for great music and great festivals, but what is it about Poltimore that makes it stand out?
There are a few things I guess. There’s the local line – we emphasise bringing students and the community together to share the best music and art in the South West – and then there’s the non-profit line – that none of the team putting this big day on gets anything from it, other than a love of and excitement for what the day brings. But I suppose Poltimore’s main selling point has always been the venue. You won’t find anywhere quite like it. Poltimore House has been everything from an old aristocratic house to a public hospital and home of refuge during the war, but was burnt down a few decades ago and has never quite recovered. There’s a massive tin roof and scaffold structure that surrounds the building, so when you walk into the House you have the impression of being inside and outside at the same time. The whole place looks like a film set, with birds and bats nesting in the rafters.
What’s firstly your Poltimore highlight, and secondly your big festival highlight?
There are way too many to choose from. Delmer Darion’s live debut two years ago was a special moment for us, as was last year’s headline set by Wildwood Kin, who’ve now been picked up by Whispering Bob Harris and Radio 2. It couldn’t be more deserved. It’s always a great feeling when acts we’ve had play at Poltimore start getting the recognition they’ve worked so hard for.
As for big festival highlight, we’re going to have to go for Latitude. It was at the moment The National headlined in 2011. I’d been waiting for “About Today” like an excited little child, and hours of their set went by without hearing it. They then walked off, only to come back and encore the eight-minute live version of the song, and were cheered off again while Leonard Cohen played on the monitors. It was that moment – as people sang along to “The Stranger Song” smiling their ways back to camp – that made me realise I needed to be around live music as often as possible.
If you could work at any other festival, which would it be?
We’d have to go back to Latitude again – we see it really as our (much) older brother. We haven’t yet got around to dying our sheep pink though.
Describe Poltimore in 3 words…
“Exeter’s edgiest festival”… this was a press comment from last year. We’re not sure we’d entirely agree but we’ll definitely take it.
If you met a typical Poltimore punter in the pub, what would they look like?
There isn’t a typical Poltimore punter, that’s partially the beauty of it. But now if you asked what that pub would look like…
What should someone who’s never been before expect? Hit me with your best Poltimore pitch.
Expect the unexpected. Poltimore is full of surprises – whether that’s roaming street magic, two miscellaneous astronauts hanging-out their laundry in the Devonshire sun, or stumbling across bathtub you can sit on in the middle of the Lawn Stage. It’s a place to discover the best music and culture that’s happening right on your doorstep. Expect to enjoy what you never thought you might enjoy, and expect to do so at the cheapest price you’ll ever pay for a festival ticket.
Competition aside, what’s your favourite (non Poltimore) Devon festival?
We absolutely love the work that the guys at Altitude are doing, and their ethos towards music. They’re another one we can see are in this purely for the love of live music and we really respect that.
Can you give us any juicy line-up secrets for this year’s Poltimore?
We’ve got some really exciting things lined up. Naming no names, but expect a debut live performance from one of BBC Introducing’s James Santer’s very own favourites in the Poltimore Courtyard.
Where do you see Poltimore being in 5 years?
Hopefully it’ll be an established name in the South West for supporting local and independent music and culture. We’re not dreaming of becoming Glastonbury here, we just love what we do and we want to do it for as long as we can.
Poltimore will take place at Poltimore House, Exeter on 28th May 2017.
For all festival related news, check out their Facebook or their site, http://poltimorefestival.co.uk/ youtu