JoeFest Presents: Beyond The Woods
Blog by Tom Davies - Event Director (and Joe's brother)
15th February 2019
If you've managed to find your way on to this, the first blog post on our new-look festival website, there's a decent chance you're already familiar with the JoeFest story.
In the summer of 2015 we held a party in our back garden to celebrate our friend Joe's 18th birthday. Nobody counted, but we reckon that the attendance was somewhere near the 60-person mark. It wasn't a number that was going to threaten the ticket sales Glastonbury, but it's a pretty decent turnout for an 18th birthday party.
Of course we decided to call it JoeFest, because that's what you call people's parties these days, and after we'd decorated the garden, listened to some music and sung happy birthday we all agreed that we'd had a thoroughly excellent time.
Except, of course, the story doesn't end there.
Nearly five years later JoeFest is still going, and it's quite a lot bigger than it was before.
This year we're looking forward to welcoming 2,000 people to Stourton Estates for 2019's installment of the festival, and that's not the only thing that's changed: There are bigger bands, more stages, and more toilets to order than we ever could have imagined when we were watching The Pylons perform on our mum's decking all those years ago.
Of course some things have not changed: Our love of putting on the festival, your enjoyment of it, and the fantastically warm and friendly atmosphere we all get together to create each August. That's what makes the festival really special, and we've no plans at all to get rid of that.
But in terms of the amount of stuff that's needed to make JoeFest happen, things have changed dramatically, perhaps unrecognisably, since we all gathered together to watch an 18-year-old blow out the candles on his birthday cake.
All of this, as you've probably guessed by now, is a fairly long-winded way of getting round to today's announcement, and it's not an announcement any of us are taking particularly lightly.
In fact, it's an announcement we've thought incredibly hard about for quite a few months. Over the last five years JoeFest has become a huge part of our lives, just as we hope it's become a big part of yours, and so of course we give any major changes no small amount of attention.
After some deliberation, however, we have decided that one more change is in order before August 2019: We're going to change JoeFest's name.
From today, we're pleased to annouce that our annual summer party will be called Beyond The Woods Festival.
Why Beyond The Woods?
There are a number of pretty good reasons for what is quite a significant announcement, and I hoped I'd take a moment to share a few of them with you here.
Of course, there are also more than a few reasons why retiring the name JoeFest has been a difficult decision. All of us on the organising team had become pretty attached to it, and are very sorry to see it go. Rebranding JoeFest is, however, a very important step for us to take for the future of the festival, and I hope you'll agree it's a sensible move in the long-term.
The first thing I'd like to say about the rebrand is that we're really proud of it. Putting everything to one side, we think that Beyond The Woods is an exciting concept and our graphic designer, Santiago, has produced some brilliant work in realising our vision for the festival.
In the coming weeks and months we'll be unveiling more of our ideas for Beyond The Woods, and we think you'll be really excited by what we've got planned.
Secondly, we've felt that the bigger JoeFest got, the less it was actually about Joe.
In 2016 there were two people on the organising team, then it grew to three in 2017, and now there are twenty-four of us - plus dozens of volunteers and hundreds more festival-goers.
The difference, really, is pretty startling, and we felt that we wanted to move forward under a banner that could better represent the huge range of people who make our festival what it is, from volunteers handing out wristbands to audiences singing along with the headline act.
Finally, and as you've probably guessed by now, there's a pretty sizeable dollop of realism involved in our decision too.
JoeFest has not got some huge coprorate backer and, as much as we'd like to be, we are not Roman Abramovich. One of the biggest things we've learned about putting on festivals over the past few years is that as much as they're about fun, they're also big, expensive businesses.
That does not for a minute mean that we're looking to turn Beyond The Woods into a rampant corporate machine, because we're absolutely not. Ticket prices, if you're interested, will range from £35 - £45 this year, and pints of beer will remain at £3.50.
JoeFest was never about making money from people (which is probably a good thing, because it never did), and Beyond The Woods will continue to put your enjoyment and ours at the absolute heart of everything we do.
However, what we've realised in our discussions about the festival's future is that whilst JoeFest meant a lot to us, and a lot to you as well, it doesn't necessarily mean the same thing to everybody else - i.e. people who we might come to rely on financially a bit further down the line.
And of course none of this is helped by the fact that there are five or six different JoeFests taking place at any one time, alongside the various SueFests and LeeFests and GordonFests all popping up across the country.
Basically, there was a very strong sense that we needed to future-proof the event we all love so much, and we're sure you'll agree that in Beyond The Woods we can start to build a brand which will be in much better shape to tackle the challenges that are to come.
So Actually, What's Changed?
Having said all that, what's actually changed? Probably very little.
Joe and I are still working with the same incredible team of volunteers, who are all giving their time to help make the festival as good as it can be. This year's line up is shaping up to be just as brilliant as it was before (actually it'll probably be better - but work with me on this one). The food at the festival will be just as delicious, the campfire just as atmospheric and the people who attend and support our festival will continue to make it an unbelievable weekend when we all get together again this August. Only this time there'll be a bear on our t-shirts, rather than the letter J.
Of course we'll remember JoeFest very fondly, and we're no less excited about Beyond The Woods 2019.