Photo by Laura Lee Wade

Audio Farm Festival 2021: A Special Communal Experience

We headed up to Kidderminster to see what Audio Farm Festival had to offer. The independent festival ran for 5 days, but we came to see the Sunday lineup consisting of sets from Goldie, 2 Bad Mice, Euphonique and Bryan Gee. 

The setting of Audio Farm was certainly unique, offering an atmospheric and peaceful environment. The festival took place within a walled Georgian estate, surrounded by a lake, forests and rolling hills. It’s a festival to unwind at, but also one to rave at with an eclectic mix of music, ranging from drum and bass, house, techno and reggae. 

We headed down to the Sun Dance stage to catch a set by V Recordings’ Bryan Gee, who never disappoints. However, the real highlight of the night came from Euphonique. The Subwoofah Records boss showcased an extremely energetic set, with a seamless execution of dark drum & bass. As the sun started setting, we marvelled at the stage production lights with Goldie closing the night. He delivered a magnetic performance, with a huge smile on his face throughout, which seemed to be infectious as the crowd were having the time of their lives. 

A distinct feature of Audio Farm was the sense of community. We only stayed there for a night but met an immeasurable amount of amiable and attentive people. Perhaps it was because the festival was small, so you tend to bump into the same people multiple times. However, there definitely was an underlying welcoming aura that we haven’t experienced at other events. We struck up conversations with festival-goers at Goldie’s set that only had nice things to say about Audio Farm, “I didn’t know what to expect, but the attention to detail has been exceptional”.

Photo by Laura Lee Wade

As the music acts came to a close, people wandered off to the fire pit, a stone’s throw from the Sun Dance stage. We noticed that there was a good balance of areas to unwind or party. Nothing ever felt too overwhelming and there was always enough space to dance, which is quite refreshing for a festival. If you’re looking to go to a camping festival for the first time next summer and not a fan of being elbowed in the face, then definitely give Audio Farm a go.

After a (maybe) heavy Sunday night, festival-goers had the option to partake in chilled programming on Monday to unwind and relax to. It seemed like no one was ready to venture home yet, especially as the heatwave from the weekend extended into Monday. Attendees could spend the day drinking cocktails by the lake or taking part in any of the healing and holistic activities on offer. There were also DJ sets throughout the day if you weren’t ready to stop just yet. 

What is even more admirable about the festival is that all their profits go to charity. This helps fund the work of The Green Paw Project, a charity that saves the lives of helpless and vulnerable animals in third world countries.

Smaller festivals have gained popularity over the years and it’s easy to see why. After frequenting other small festivals this summer, it seems that people are valuing stripped-down events and making connections with people after being isolated for so long. 

In summary, the best way to describe Audio Farm festival is wholesome, but hardcore.  We definitely need more festivals to follow their example of community and contribution. We’re excited to see what’s in store for next year’s edition of Audio Farm. 

Photo by Audio Farm

We caught up with festival director, Matthew Hunt, to delve a bit more into what Audio Farm is about.

How did Audio Farm start?

Audio Farm started as a club night back in 2009 in Manchester by a group of best friends from north wales. We set out to bring our passion and enjoyment of festivals and music, into the nightclub space, bringing a different angle to traditional nightclub entertainment. Before this we had put on free parties for years in secret locations in north wales. Over the years it evolved into an actual outdoor festival and gradually we’ve been able to expand our shared creative vision and array of entertainment. We’ve also evolved internally from being just a group of lads into a larger group of directors with an equal and inclusive balance of male, female and non binary. It’s been an incredible journey that has evolved and matured to where we are now.

What makes Audio Farm different from other festivals?

Audio Farm is a proper independent, roots festival. Nothing about it is commercial, and we continually strive towards fighting the good fight in keeping independent arts and culture alive. The UK faces a battle to keep events such as this alive and has definitely become harder since the madness of covid. What makes us different is our spirit, inclusivity, super friendly and chilled vibe and determined ethics (we’re a vegan festival, not for profit organisation). Anyone is welcome, no discrimination here, just open arms and a smile.
Is there a particular moment or memory that stands out for you?
In terms of Drum and Bass the one that stands out for me is Calibre at One Tribe Festival 2017 (our other festival alias) which was utterly sublime and an emotive tribute to the late and great Marcus Intalex who we’d booked to perform at One Tribe that year, but sadly passed away. Goldie, Euphonique, LSB, DRS and LTJ Bukem tore it up this year. Further afield you’ll always see some equally as good sets from our residents and regulars such as Rich Reason, DJ Pheeva, Blindside and Bane.
Photo by Laura Lee Wade

What do you look for when booking artists?

With regards to Drum and Bass bookings (we do a lot of other genres too such as house, techno, disco and live music) we tend to go for the deeper, liquid, techier sounds, but always have a healthy dose of jungle and heavier sounds too. We look for bookings that continue to push drum and bass forward, but also compliment the aesthetic and feel of our psychedelic gathering.

What was the biggest challenge you faced this year?

Planning and executing the event in such a short space of time with covid regulations was tough and intense. It was a quite stressful at times for the crew this year, and we faced many tough challenges which we managed to navigate safely, albeit with blood, sweat and tears along the way. I think it says a lot that we managed to not have a covid outbreak on site, and the festival itself. There was a lot of pressure and more stress this year but we did it, and the feedback and afterglow from the people who went has been very heartwarming and humbling.
Photo by Laura Lee Wade
The popularity of small festivals has risen over the years – what’d you think is the future of larger festivals? Will festival goers seek smaller or less expensive productions in a post-pandemic era?
We love large events and many festivals such as Glastonbury and Boom Festival (Portugal) have been a big and obvious influence to our festival. It’s difficult to say how people’s habits will change in relation to bigger / smaller festivals. As long as the demand is there and similar to pre covid times, then larger festivals shouldn’t have a problem as they tend to generate more profit and tend to have sponsorship deals to help buffer them. Smaller independent festivals such as ours face more issues as inflation has occurred across nearly all aspects production and hire, and you simply have to grow the festival capacity more to make it sustainable. I think it’s fair to say it’s tricky for any sized festival right now but hopefully we can keep this beautiful culture moving forward with the times.
What do you hope to see with Audio Farm in the future?
We’d like to grow this festival organically, but we don’t ever want to be a large festival, higher than say 5k. There’s a special communal experience at our festival that is in large part due to its more intimate capacity. We just want to continue to attract more open minded, beautiful, diverse, and creative performers and ticket buyers to our gathering to ensure it maintains that inclusive ethos, whilst staging a platform for the future generation.of musicians and performers.

Follow them on socials here for updates on Audio Farm 2022