Meet the Members
Anna Wade – Communications and Strategy Director of Boomtown Fair
A bit about you: I’ve worked within the festival industry for nearly 20 years, starting out as a steward, then artist liaison then moving into PR and Comms, where I got to work with some of the most loved independent festivals in the UK. I’ve been involved with Boomtown since 2010 seeing the festival grow from 3,000 people to the current capacity of 66,000, which has been an incredible journey. As Communications and Strategy Director of Boomtown, the role is never dull that’s for sure! The thing I enjoy the most about it is the sheer variety of topics and specialisms you need to engage with on any one day; one moment you can be part of creating in depth make-believe worlds and creative storylines and the next moment it can move on preparing for an incoming hurricane…
Greatest career success to date: the successful Harm Reduction (Drug safety) strategy at Boomtown
Most significant challenge: Implementing the Harm Reduction (Drug safety) strategy at Boomtown.
Women’s Day Shoutout: I’d like to give a shout out to ALL the women that make events happen… more often than not festivals are owned and set up by men, but in most cases you will see a very strong amazing female in a senior position, with a wider team of equally outstanding females in roles that don’t seem to get the spotlight quite as often. It’s to all those women that I give a massive shout out to, your work and passion is so valuable.
If you could make 1 change in how the music industry supports women, what would it be?
For the focus to be less about headline grabbing ‘artists equality’ and look at the industry as a whole. So often the shorthand for a festival that isn’t doing enough for gender equality tends to rest on the gender split of the line up, but this is so surface level it misses a huge part of the conversation. I’d like for a serious conversation to happen around that, and focus on the value of women working in the industry as well, rather than just arbitrary targets to make people feel that they’ve achieved a quota, without actually addressing the causes for why those quotas feel they need to be in place to begin with.
Hopes for the future (for you or for women in music more generally):
For our industry as a whole my hopes are for us is to have a future and for the independent festivals to survive this current situation and not have to lean towards additional backing or financial support from the multinational companies in the industry, so we can maintain the pure beauty of our independent sector and the incredible and unique range of events we represent. For women, I’d like for our voices to be part of creating the conversation more, rather than being what can sometimes feel like a token representation of a female in events, I’d like for more women to be at the forefront of leading the conversations industry wide.
Becky Ayes – Managing Director of Sound City Festival
A bit about you: I am Managing Director of Sound City which is the UK’s independent festival for new music. I have been working in the industry for 14 years. Bez once told me I was a ‘top lass’
Greatest career success to date: The first Sound City festival I ran when I became MD was three weeks before I had my son. Doing both in one month was exhausting, but a huge achievement
Most significant challenge: Running Sound City during the pandemic. Keeping staff going and morale up as well as well as adapting to the dramatic change in fortunes of the live events industry closing overnight has been tough but it has really kept me on my toes and made me adapt
Women’s Day Shoutout: Vanessa Reed who was CEO of PRS Foundation and is now CEO at New Music USA – she had been a driving force behind Keychange, the global movement for gender equality and has always been really supportive to me
If you could make 1 change in how the music industry supports women, what would it be? We need a greater understanding of how women from low income backgrounds are at a disadvantage when it comes to entering the music industry. Youth Music’s Blueprint Report (July 2020) cited that “the chances of women from lower income backgrounds to earn from music diminish dramatically compared to higher income men (60% v 29%).” We need to work collectively to provide more paid work placements to enable more women to be able to get into the industry from the early stages and train and inspire more mentors to work with them.
Hopes for the future (for you or for women in music more generally): That more women go into what are traditionally considered male roles like sound engineering, production and that more women are able to progress to senior level positions across the industry.
Goc O’Callaghan – Co-Founder and Director of ArcTanGent Festival
A bit about you: My name is Goc (pronounced ‘jock’) O’Callaghan and I am a Co-founder and Director of ArcTanGent Festival, a festival which curates lines up that you’ll not see anywhere else on Earth. ArcTanGent focuses on leftfield, experimental rock and music that doesn’t fit squarely in a genre. ArcTanGent started in 2013, however we had been working on it for months before the first festival, with our first meeting being May 2011. I also run an event and music management and consultancy company called Ubiqu Live. In September 2020, I stood down as Vice Chair of the AIF after being in that role for 3.5 years. I still remain on the Board of Directors for the AIF. My festival career started unexpectedly; it was not necessarily what I had planned to do professionally. However, it fit my dreams and aspirations of wanting to create memories for millions of people. I had the privilege of growing up in a little wooden house in a forest deep in the heart of the Kent countryside. This was a space I had thrown many a party in growing up, the earliest one being when I was about 9 years old. When I graduated from university in 2006, I threw a party in the woods which lasted for 3 days: it had a full line up of bands, psychedelic yurt tents, dance floors in flint mines, DJs in trees, solar powered stages…and I put it all on without any event production experience. The party was invite-only and free to attend, with 500 people partying. This ‘little’ party grew year on year until the last one in 2010. So, you could say, technically I have been working in the festival world since 2006.
Greatest career success to date: Experiencing Meshuggah play such an incredible set at ArcTanGent undoubtably feels like one of my greatest career successes to date. The stage set and lighting was huge for a festival of ArcTanGent size (10,000 capacity); the main stage tent was packed out with people with not an inch of spare space and the atmosphere was electric. During their set, it was like I was somewhere else, as though I could have been seeing the band in a huge venue but the realisation of all the hard work, not just to put on the festival that year (2019) but all the years prior had built up to that point. It was a huge end to 2019, and if only we had all known at the time what was to come during 2020…
Most significant challenge: 2020 was undoubtably not without its challenges, it was a challenge for all, particularly those in the festival industry where we have been first to close and will be last to open. However, 2020 is not unique, everyone experienced challenges. Running a festival means you are constantly faced with challenges. It is the unknown elements, the problem solving, and the challenges festivals create that I love. It’s what makes me tick.
However, when you’re burnt out, physically and mentally exhausted, having spent close to 3 weeks away from home knowing you have another week in a field taking everything down is a challenge like no other. You have to dig into your deepest depths for the last scraps of energy and determination to get the festival packed down.
It is a small team that run ArcTanGent, myself and two other directors, a small number of employed staff and a volunteer crew. The breakdown of a festival is always hard work; in the first year we had a team of about 7 people (that dwindled every day) to breakdown the whole festival site. The Mendip weather was against us with driving wind and rain adding to the hard graft and exhaustion. Playing a game of Tetris to try and fit everything into the shipping containers seemed like an impossible task. Finally closing those doors was a mixture of shear relief and elation…the first year of ArcTanGent had been a success, we had achieved what we set out to do. Getting in the car for the four-hour journey home, after being surrounded by the people who had made my dream a reality was quite an overwhelming experience. It’s a feeling I will never forget.
Women’s Day Shoutout: There are so many fantastic women out there in the music industry, pushing the boundaries and being inspirational, many of whom are carving their own path either as a freelancer or by running companies. Picking one is hard but I’m going to go with Gabi Urquiza of Glam Rock Agency. I met Gabi at Manitoba Music, Winnipeg, Canada in October 2019 and we travelled on together to BreakOut West in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada. Gabi’s company Glam Rock Agency is based in Mexico and does huge tours and shows in Central America. During the pandemic GlamRock Agency did a virtual festival showcasing a large number of artists. Gabi’s work ethic is second to none, she really is making waves in the music industry in Central America, whilst also raising a young child.
If you could make 1 change in how the music industry supports women, what would it be? Education around unconscious bias would help to reduce (and eradicate) chauvinism within the music industry. This is not specific to women in music but specific to anywhere that underrepresented demographics may lack a presence.
Hopes for the future (for you or for women in music more generally): I genuinely hope that in the not-too-distant future, it is no longer necessary to have events and articles about Women in Music; that women are so much a part of the music industry that it has become the norm. One of the best steps I believe we can all take to assist this in happening, is dropping non-industry specific categorisation from job titles: it is not necessary to include your gender in your job role. If you are a female who works in sound, you are a Sound Engineer, not a Female Sound Engineer; you’re a sound engineer who happens to have been born a female.
Helen Tytherleigh – Event Director of UK Tech Fest
A bit about you: I’m Helen, I’m the Event Director of the technical, progressive metal festival UK Tech-Fest. It’s a 4-day camping festival at Newark Showground where we showcase over 60 artists across 3 stages, from upcoming, unsigned bands to internationally renowned artists. As the Event Director I oversee everyone and everything at the festival.
I’ve been working in the music industry since 2013 when I started interning at the music management company Northern Music Company. I’ve always wanted to work in music but fell into the event industry when I got involved with UK Tech-Fest in 2014 in its early stages. Since then, alongside working on UK Tech-Fest, I’m a freelance Event Manager, Production Manager, Safety Officer etc – pretty much anything events based!
One extra fun fact is that my nickname is Disney. I was given it by Vicky Langham at Northern Music due to my ‘glass-half-full positive attitude’ and ability to see a silver-lining in every situation – even when we were dealing with broken down tour buses.
Greatest career success to date: I think my biggest successes have been in regards to funding. In 2014 I secured Arts Council funding to help take UK Tech-Fest to the next level. Then last year I was successful with the Arts Council’s Culture Recovery Fund. It was a massive relief to be rewarded funding and for the Arts Council to recognise our legacy and secure our future as a niche metal festival.
Most significant challenge: Weather is always the most significant challenge as it’s always unpredictable at UK Tech-Fest. We’ve had flooding, extreme heat and even tornados! In 2017 we had “3 months of rain in an hour” that flooded the back of main stage, but luckily our team was fantastic and everyone worked together seamlessly to ensure nothing got damaged.
Women’s Day Shoutout: It has to be a collective shout out to all the women I’ve worked for and alongside in my career. There’s still a huge amount of sexism in the music industry – particularly so in rock and metal – and it’s not going away by brushing it under the carpet and ignoring the problem. As women, we put up with so much but it is inspiring to me to see women supporting each other and calling out sexism and abuse. In my short career I’ve already seen change within the industry and I know our efforts will make the industry safer and a more inclusive environment in which to work in.
If you could make 1 change in how the music industry supports women, what would it be? There’s a lot of support out there already, like Safe Gigs For Women, which is fantastic to see. Recently the Musicians’ Union launched the MU Safe Space Scheme that allows musicians to anonymously report sexism, harassment and abuse in the industry, so one change I would like to see is something like that extended to all people in the industry to have the opportunity to report incidents and have a support network to turn to.
Hopes for the future (for you or for women in music more generally): I hope to see a safer industry with less reports of sexism, more accountability and more opportunities for women. I’m part of AIF’s Diversity and Inclusion steering group so I hope we will be able to make positive changes through policy and strategy for independent festivals and support the work of UK Music.