Let’s start right back in the beginning for those that are interested. From a very early age I have had a major love affair with a broad range of music to the point where I really couldn’t imagine living without it. It has allowed me to meet wonderful people and deal with many different emotions in my life. Every penny of my pocket money was spent at the local record shop in London and there was always music on my parents ‘Reel to Reel’.
In 2004, one of my very closest school friends Chris phoned me up to say he was running his own festival. They had run it as a 40th birthday the year before with a few bands in a field and after a drunken night around the camp fire, they decided they were going to do it every year as a proper venture. I had never been to a music festival and was excited to go along. It was fab and rough around the edges. They now have a capacity of 5000 and the ‘Endorse-It in Dorset’ Festival is now quite rightly a major player in the festival calendar.
Fast forward to my 39th birthday and I’m sat on the settee wondering what I could do for my 40th. Friends reunited had given me a link to so many old friends from school and army cadets (I was a cadet and adult instructor for 13 years). Why don’t I get all my mates and their families to come camping? One big reunion! I must point out I am very sentimental and loved my old school days (people more than lessons!).
This idea grew from some mates to some mates with a mate’s band playing to why don’t I do what my friend did and have a little one day festival. To make it more appealing, I decided that I could charge everyone a very small cost and get some good old tribute bands along. My Dad would help and Mum and Dad would run the bar. So off to see Chris I went for some tips and contacts.
I will never ever forget what he said to me that night. “You’ll be doing this every year!” “I can assure you I won’t” I replied with a very confident tone. When I returned I phoned the 2 bands I really wanted to play, Legend, the Bob Marley Tribute and Definitely Mightbe, the best Oasis Tribute ever. Legend had one booking in the diary for summer of 2008 when I phoned them in late 2007 and it was on Saturday 6th September..... My birthday! It was then it became a two day festival/party. My friends would arrive on the Friday, watch some bands, camp over, watch more bands on Saturday and have a fab time meeting up with old friends, what could be simpler?
To cut a long story short, I enter with a head full of dreams, a tight budget and lots of naivety! Found some land, visited the land and the long mad process began. Along that journey to the ‘One Off’ Festival, the guy I booked then land with, changed his mind, my friends took some persuading and everything seemed to be quite difficult! The summer of 2008 seemed to arrive for a few days in May and then disappear.
As each rainy weekend went by, I was working on the fact that an Indian summer was more likely in September, well I was wrong! A few days before the big day we started to set up and by the Thursday evening, I sat on a ‘HUGE’ main stage and looked out on an arena that reflected the map I had drawn on some programmes that awaited my guests. When I was woken up noise that sounded like a hurricane outside on Friday morning, I peered out just in time to watch the majority of the marquees ‘take off’ and land in a big mangled heap. The back of the main stage was now horizontal and flapping madly in the wind, shedding shredded pieces of industrial strength vinyl with it. My heart sank and I phoned the marquee firm and they came and removed the wreckage without saying a word.
One marquee from another firm remained standing and in it was a 8ft square makeshift stage made by some friends with their scaffolding. This was meant for one man acoustic acts. I don’t think I’ve ever felt lower. The responsibility of 325 people all due in a few hours was huge. So, my Dad and Wife took over and non-physically shook me and slapped me into reality! Let’s make this work! The next few hours flew by and before I knew it, my friends had arrived, battled the wind and erected their tents and were squidged into the last remaining cover to watch the first of many bands play on cardboard covered wet grass. As soon as Ian for The Police Force (Police tribute band) played the first note of Message in a Bottle, the crowd went bonkers and the weekend was off. What a fab weekend but ever so slightly disappointed that it hadn’t gone to plan (I’m a Virgo and very much a perfectionist, never happy until its right! lol).
Susan arranged a fantastic cake as a surprise, complete with my Mini, Scooter and Parka!
The highlights of the first one were without doubt the bizarreness of being in one marquee with loads of fab friends and great music singing Hey Jude with Sgt Pepper’s Only Dartboard Band and Nigel from DODGY. Nuts!
After a few weeks the talk of trying to get it right by restaging it again had started and one night it was decided. It had after all been great fun and in a weird way I had enjoyed the huge challenge and roller coaster ride I and others around me endured. Not quite sure they enjoyed it in the same way but they agreed to join me again! Due to September being a wash out and right at the time when the kids go to school, I decided to move the dates to July. It was no longer about me and about the challenge of creating an event based on what we had learnt from the first, about what people enjoyed and didn’t. I had still not been to any other festivals apart from my friend’s one in North Dorset.
I am fussy, that I know but I had no idea there was so much talent, unsigned in the UK and introducing them to the ToneFest crowd is what I love the most. In small way, it’s my contribution to keeping really good music alive in the UK, when talent shows seem to control too much of what we are fed by the media. The slight downside is that I had made a loss and still not got everything right. Not to worry, I would try again, this time in May 2010 and this time it would be a 3 day affair over a bank holiday weekend. The reason for the loss in 2009, was probably totally down to very poor advertising on my part. A fear that by shouting about it too loudly would mean security issues and more people coming that I didn’t know than people I did.
My ethos has always been to let it grow organically and by word of mouth. With this come problems, not all my friends are into festivals, many have become very dull and boring with old age and the worsening financial climate didn’t help either I’m sure and in early May 2010, what was to be ToneFest 3 was cancelled! I was devastated, but relieved. It wasn’t fair to put my wife and family thought the stress of being bloody minded.
As you can imagine, the festival wasn’t mentioned again for a few weeks. A few friends came over on the weekend it should have happened along with the band Fearne and Bob Fletcher and we had an alternative festival in the garden and raised some money for charity.
I can’t remember when it was but Susan my wife mentioned it to me first. She said that she was blown away by how much the festival meant to so many people. Something had been created and you’d think that we lived in an entertainment deprived area! Inevitably, the subject came up and ToneFest 3 Mk2 was born. I chose July again this time and the weekend the kids break up from school. I booked some bands and services and everything was a little bit easier than before. I now knew lots of people and also which ones were good at what they do and which ones weren’t.
All was good, until........ The landowner called to say he had another group on his site and they had caused some issues. He didn’t want to upset the local council as he was applying for some planning and therefore no more events on his land. “********”!! Where would I find some land? Ariel photos were scanned and the word put about..... Quietly!! I didn’t want anyone to panic Mr Manwaring! Then out the blue, a new friend I met through helping with Ratrace, a local Ska band messaged me to say that he used to camp on site locally that would be perfect. He made some enquiries and we went to visit. It was perfect! From then on planning went into overdrive and I’ve never felt so positive.
ToneFest 3 happened in July 2011 and not only did it sell out but I made a profit! All of which we gave to the Youth Cancer Trust. £2,600 matched by Santander up to £1,400 via Lauren (one of the team). So £4,000 went their way because of the festival. The sun also shone all weekend and the festival had arrived. Like any business, the first three years have been tough and at times more challenging than I could have ever imagined.
ToneFest is now on the festival map and people are talking about it with passion and belief. It looks likely that future events will continue to attract amazing musicians and a lovely crowd and best of all sell out faster and faster.
To all the unsung heroes who have helped, picked me up and gone that extra mile to make it all possible, I am truly truly grateful.