06 Dec A Q&A with Georgia Black – Founder of the boutique festival ‘Littlegig’
These days all you need is a DJ and a food truck, and bam, you’ve got yourself a festival. They’re popping up (and disappearing) like mushrooms. They’ve all but replaced night-clubs, and they’re perfect for people who like partying en masse. But not all festivals are created equal. Boutique festival Littlegig is a whole new experience in curation. We speak to founder, curator and promoter Georgia Black to find out a little more about the innovative new festival.
Owning a music festival must be the best job in the world…
Owning a music festival is for the most part pretty high up there on the list of fabulous things to do with your life. It is, however, not for the faint-hearted. At a party recently, the manager of a big South African band told me of a music industry saying that putting on a festival is like putting a match to a great big pile of money and watching it burn. One of the owners of the lovely (but alas, folded) Nu Music Festival added that the only thing you really need as a festival promoter – other than said pile of cash – is nerves of steel. Something I don’t claim to have!
What is Littlegig?
A 24-hour music, food, design and camping festival that happens once a year, 40 minutes outside Cape Town. Every aspect is highly curated; we work with some of the best designers, chefs, winemakers, curators and of course musicians in the country and everything is included in the ticket price.
How did it all start?
A few years ago I realised that there were fewer and fewer places where I wanted to hang out. I’ve always been interested in music as a vehicle for bringing people together, so I decided to start a series of curated music concerts in interesting settings. They sold out quickly and attracted an interesting crowd, but I wanted to push the boundaries of inspiration and curation, so I decided to expand the concerts into a festival.
In 2015, I went to SXSW (South by Southwest, in Austin, Texas in the US – the biggest music showcase in the world) to listen to music panels featuring several founders and organisers of the world’s most famous festivals. The numbers were astounding. Rock in Rio, for example, has well over 1 million people, Glastonbury has 175 000 and Coachella has almost 100 000. A festival of 20 000 to 30 000 people is considered ‘medium-sized’. There’s a reason for this of course: Festivals are (or should be) businesses, and the general rule is that the numbers only start making sense at high volumes of people. The quest for numbers has reached a point where some festivals are more like miniature cities. It was clear that what I wanted to create didn’t yet exist. Littlegig wouldn’t be about big headline acts that we relied on to draw crowds, but about a collection of inspiring pop-up experiences, all delivered by creatives at the top of their game.
Who are these creatives and how do you find them?
Many festivals start out as private parties and this was the case with Littlegig festival. I hired a location scout and found the ultimate festival venue located 40 minutes outside Cape Town, in a forest, on a swimming lake, and held my 40th birthday there. After that, talented friends – architect/artist duo Sean and Justine Mahoney, designer Porky Hefer, Taste editor Kate Wilson, former Mail & Guardian editor and muso Chris Roper, photographer/set builder couple Kevin Macintosh and Daryl McGregor, artist and fashion designer Shirley Fintz, and winemaker Miles Mossop – offered to help with design and curation for the first Littlegig. It was a roster of talent that no first-year festival would ever have been able to afford; one that set the benchmark for curation and collaboration at the highest level.
The first edition of Littlegig was an amazing sell-out success. There was a festival fashion concept store selling one-off pieces, a free store for cigarettes, suntan oil, sweets and chocolates, an all-day food menu by award-winning chef Bertus Basson, a dance floor on a basketball court tucked in a forest, a sunset concert featuring American headliner Diane Birch, and everyone slept in pitched dome tents, pre-grouped next to their friends.
Back for more international research? (See? It’s a great job!)
I had been told by one of the panel members at SXSW, that the best example of high-level festival curation is Wilderness, a UK festival now in its sixth year. In August, I went to Oxfordshire to experience banquets by some of the world’s best chefs, talks by Nobel Prize winners (really), hundreds of different bands, an electric bike ride through the forest and next level glamping (with a private bathroom). I expected to be blown away and to return to South Africa lamenting the limitations of running a small festival at the tip of Africa, but the opposite happened. Make no mistake, there were moments of inspiration, and from a production point of view it was incredibly impressive, but the sheer scale of the event made it difficult for me to be moved by the experience. Once again, I returned home having learnt some important things: that there’s magic in staying small if you can figure out how to make the numbers work; that curation is almost more importantly about what you leave out rather than what you add, and that what you decide to go with must be creatively exceptional.
So, what’s planned for Littlegig 2017?
We’ve added a few exceptional experiences. Our headline chef is Rasmus Munk, the 25-year-old wunderkind from Copenhagen who is taking the food world by storm. Violinist/producer Seth Schwarz from Germany will headline the Basketball Court Night Stage, LA DJ/producer Captain Planet (founder of cult music blog Mixtape Riot) will play at the new Tropical Bass tent on the island and house music legend, Culoe de Song, will DJ at sunset from an art car that we’ve converted into a DJ stage. There’s a secret after party away from the tents, so for the brave, the music never stops. All-day food is presented alongside a Chef-and-Farmer tasting featuring three of the country’s most talented chefs (Chris Erasmus of Foliage, Jason Lilley of Jason Bakery and PJ Vadas of the Hoghouse), and there’s a wine tasting with nine top wine farms from the Simonsberg region (where the festival is held). The free hair and makeup store is triple its previous size, the concept store has triple the stock (which we’ve spent a year commissioning and sourcing), and we’re working with a small group of exceptionally talented stylists, artists and designers (amongst them are Xandre Kriel, Atang Tshikare and Rowan Smith). We’re doing small collaborations with a theatre company and with directional LGBT party Diskotekah. In addition to the festival camping tickets, there are three levels of glamping, and day tickets for those who prefer their own beds. There are six bars and six stages that open and close as the festival journey progresses. All food and drink is still included in the ticket price. Oh, and we’re staying small, at 1 200 people, because it’s tough to deliver all of this to a bigger crowd.
Let’s talk ticket price.
Because all food, drink, and your pitched tent (if you’re camping) is included, Littlegig tickets seem expensive when compared at face value to other festivals (where the cost of your ticket just covers the entrance fee and the music.) This ‘all-included’ model to my knowledge doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world. Once you’re at Littlegig, it’s like a private party, where every detail has been thought out, and everything is provided in conscious abundance. Day tickets are R1 950. Festival Camping tickets are R2 500 per person. Glamping tickets range from R3 150 to R4 500 per person.
Littlegig takes place on 28-29 January 2017 on the Wiesenhof farm in the Simonsberg mountains in Stellenbosch. No under-21s allowed. www.littlegig.co.za