Strawberries and Creem, and Cambridge Club Festival organiser William Young says more great headliners are on the way
Headliners pulling out, ever changing Government guidance, challenges around providing enough sanitiser...Organising a music festival is tough going in 2021.
Not one to shy away from a challenge, William Young is doubling up - putting together the classy Cambridge Club Festival and the younger, if not hipper, Strawberries and Creem this summer. Who would want such a responsibility?
“There are far worse jobs,” laughs William, whose more LinkedIn-ready official title is managing director of S&C Productions.
“We feel very excited to be here and it has been an exciting period. It has given us time to reflect and think about what we want to do with the festivals.
“Making the festivals separate is an idea born from the lockdown. It has been annoying, frustrating; cancelling and refunding has not been pleasant. But we are still here.”
As we speak he is a week or two away from announcing the new headliners for both festivals - which are now set to take place in a later than usual date in September because of the pandemic. Original Cambridge Club headliners Van Morrison and Chic have now pulled out because the revised dates clashed with their schedules.
But even before the replacement bill toppers are announced, there is still plenty to enjoy with folk rocker Jack Savoretti, queen of the dancefloor turned Zoom disco sensation Sophie Ellis-Bextor, and soul living legend Beverley Knight.
The more urban-centric Strawberries and Creem (neither a misspelling or likely to include 60s rock icons Cream) is also due announcements - but already contains a line-up to the envy of many events.
Sean Paul, Bugzy Malone, Koffee, and PartyNextDoor, are just some of the names on the initial poster.
“They will hopefully be really exciting announcements,” William said. “I hope they can make up for the disappointment of last year.
“Jack Savoretti for Cambridge Club will be really cool. And I think Shalamar will be great, providing a disco flavour and party vibe that people have missed.”
William says the festival is still growing, despite the setbacks, as the events enter their eighth years.
He adds: “I think there will be people who might be a bit nervous about getting back out after such a long period. But the majority will be really excited to be back outdoors.
“Obviously these are outdoor festivals. You are not in a cramped indoor venue, you are in the countryside. Hopefully the virus is behind us.”
Government guidelines allow mass gatherings from June 21, meaning the majority of the audience (especially the typically older Cambridge Club crowd) will likely have been vaccinated.
The Cambridge Club Festival is set to be held from 10-12 September, one weekend before Strawberries and Creem. Both are set to be held at Childerley Orchard in Cambridge, a new venue for both events and a new time frame. Most festivals on the same site need a whole year to recover - so how will organisers cope with two in two weeks?
“We used to stage them one day after the other,” says William, “So to have a whole week in between is actually a relief.”
He adds: “We are not sure what some of the regulations will be. But we are working with local authorities.
“From cleaning to hand sanitising, everything will be covered as soon as we need to implement it. We’ll make sure to tick all the boxes.”
All ticket holders for 2020 had the chance of a refund, but the majority appear to have taken the option of keeping their ticket for 2021. Unlike many festivals, organisers have never fretted about the financial implications should the event have needed to have been cancelled again.
“We are very lucky,” William said. “We have received support from the Culture (Recovery) Fund, it has taken some pressure off. We also have a partnership with Sony.
“The fans have stuck with us now through two rollovers which has been great.”
Glastonbury Festival has again been cancelled for 2021, but with this and news of other events - such as concerts at Thetford Forest - being cancelled, William said his team have kept the faith.
“One thing we have done well as a team is to make decisions early,” he says. “We have an advisory team in place and we have picked dates and stuck with them.”
William says that Boris’s announcement preceded ticket sales ‘going pretty crazy’, especially with younger audiences. Organisers had actually decided on staging the festival in September before the ‘road map’ announcement to give the best possible chance of going ahead - while still putting them in with a chance of some half decent weather.
“Who knows,” says William, reflecting the general mood of the neverendingness of the pandemic. “But it is looking good.”
For many people being back at a festival among a crowd will be an almost unimaginable moment - a sign perhaps the pandemic is on the way to being over.
William says he has his own personal moment that he is holding on for.
“I think it is Sunday at Cambridge Club, and it is the last act, the sun is setting in the distance. And there is a light coming on stage.
“If we can get to that final performance we will have achieved the comeback. Hopefully it will be a full house and everyone will be having a great time.
“It will be pretty emotional.”
For more information visit www.thecambridgeclub.co, or www.strawberriesandcreem.com