Interview with Long Division’s Dean Freeman
Dean Freeman, Festival Director of Wakefield’s landmark music event Long Division, talks to us about the growth of the festival, working with the Backstage Academy students, and his highlights from 2013.
Has the festival grown from last year?
The festival has grown in almost every possible way. It was a sell-out on its main day, the Sunday Fringe festival, with various arts events bigger than ever and the response from attendees and press has been overwhelmingly positive. The festival has always had great feedback, but with the chances we took in growing it for 2013, we could have lost that grassroots support. Instead, it was bigger than ever.
How many people this year and how many acts?
There were 2,500 people in attendance over the weekend. Around 75 bands performed, as well as additional talks, readings and discussion panels on the Sunday.
Your personal highlights?
My personal highlight was on the Sunday. We arranged for Greenmount Studios to travel over from Leeds and set up their recording equipment in the disused library. They use vintage tape machines and really old, but brilliant mixing desks. We set them up on a stage in the middle of the room, alongside a band called Mi Mye. The band then played a live set and it was recorded directly to tape, with the mixing done live. The audience all had pairs of wireless headsets and could hear the mix live, as it happened. It was the best gig I’ve been to / organised. It was just so intimate and special and scary and funny. The live show will be released on CD as soon as the artwork is done.
Why do you do the festival?
That’s tricky to answer because it is the result of lots of years of doing different things. There are lots of reasons; it was a natural extension of running a fanzine that tried to improve perceptions of Wakefield and get its music heard by more people, there was the fact that other attempts at festivals were not representing Wakefield music, and I guess it was also because I have a day job that I hate and needed some way to challenge myself creatively and organisationally, to see if I could do something on a scale no-one in Wakefield even thought possible. That’s how it all started; I continue to do it because it turns out I’m quite good at organising events. I think Long Division has a good mix of very detailed organisation and creative thinking and an unorthadox nature, which suits what I want to do perfectly.
Why did you want to get Backstage Academy involved in the festival?
Long Division is about celebrating the homegrown talent we have in the city, whilst also drawing people from far and wide to show them that Wakefield can be a great place to visit. But it is also about the future, and building foundations for even greater things. Backstage Academy are doing just that themselves, and the potential positive changes they can bring to the city are off the scale, particularly with the creation of a student population. So it made sense to find a way to work together.
If you hadn’t used the students for the production team where would you have sourced crew?
We have always relied on the goodwill of volunteers. And since the festival was born from a strong DIY community of fanzines and record labels, that was fine – to a certain point. But in order to grow beyond those initial expectations, we needed a larger team to help take things forward, and Backstage Academy allowed us to do that.
What did you think of the students in terms of ability and attitude?
The students I dealt with over the weekend were very courteous and engaged and eager to help out. They were proactive too and seemed to engage with the spirit of the festival. I appreciate all the unpaid work that is put in to making the festival a success, and it’s great when you see students in their twelfth hour of working still full of energy and commitment. Being technically proficient is one thing, but you have to love what you are doing too, and I sensed that in the ones I worked with.
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