Only a couple of years old, Bluedot is one of the more youthful yet invigorating festivals we have seen emerge from the UK festival scene over the last decade, with a science focus, utilising their extraordinary location, Jodrell Bank. Having recently announced one of their headliners, Kraftwerk, it is not just the location that’s extraordinary about this festival.
Emma Zillmann, whose job it is to programme the music strand of the festival, spoke with The Fountain about what it is that makes Bluedot special as well as the perks of her job.
TF: The Bluedot Festival is still fairly youthful, this will be it’s fourth year in 2019, what inspired you to curate and programme a science-based festival?
Lots of people talk about how saturated the festival market is now; the industry has come a really long way in the last 10-15 years alone, and even just the independent festival sector contributes over £1 billion to 11the UK economy annually. So it’s really important to stand out from all the ‘cookie-cutter’ festivals out there. Adding a USP to the traditional music festival is an absolute must when launching a new event. And our USP is a full and credible lineup of science speakers, alongside award-winning arts and culture, and of course the world’s third largest steerable radio telescope!
The inspiration for the programme is definitely the site. Jodrell Bank is a fully operational deep space observatory and programming content that would traditionally only feature at dedicated science festivals for a more mainstream audience has been really well received.
TF: And what is the type of programme you are bringing to the festival in 2019, do you have anything set in stone yet?
Bluedot 2019 falls on the 50th anniversary of the moon landings, so there will be a lot of moon-based content and culture at next year’s festival. There’s some really exciting, ground-breaking ideas that we’re working on but can’t disclose just yet. On the music side, the line-up is looking to be the best yet!
TF: How do you know what to incorporate into a festival programme, how do you find the process?
My responsibility is the music booking, and the first rule is to book artists who will appeal to the ticket-buying audience. But the great thing about Bluedot is that our audience seem to be naturally curious, open-minded and eager to learn. So there’s a lot more scope to put something in front of them that will be challenging or experimental. You can have a lot of fun with it!
The process itself can be painful and slow, waiting for other people to make decisions that could literally save or ruin the festival. But confirming a big artist is a great feeling…
TF: There are obviously so many festivals in the UK these days, what is it about Bluedot that makes it so special?
I think it started off as being the unique site, but it has grown into an event that people want to revisit for many other reasons. The people who attend the festival are the ones who make it special; they are a conscious and mindful bunch. They barely drop any litter and we have almost zero crime, plus it’s become a target for families despite not purposefully aiming it at them.
TF: What have been some of your personal highlights over the years? What is it about Bluedot that makes your job exciting?
Seeing a crowd go nuts to something that you’ve programmed is the best feeling. The programme is really just a spread sheet up for the months leading up to the event. It all becomes very real when you see loads of people turning up and bands setting up to go on stage. One of the things I love is discovering what everyone else on the team has been up to. I love being surprised by the art installations in the woods, or the science exhibitions onsite, or the telescope projections which seem to get more exciting each year.
My personal musical highlight was Soulwax in 2017, with their three drummer live set up in the Orbit stage. I abandoned duty and got myself right down the front; it was wonderful. The ISS flying over the main stage while Chemical Brothers were playing this year was pretty epic too!
Photos courtesy of one.eye.in.
Keep an eye on their website to see their line-up formation for 2019.