What we’ve learned from the Dalston Music Festival

Interview, article, photos: Celine Vignes, Raphael Saint Bris, @cordww

Last Saturday was the first edition of the Dalston Music Festival, an unique local initiative emerging from a bunch of passionate people. The idea originally came from Andrew Bunsell, who runs the Dalston Music Studios.

While an enthusiastic crowd was dancing on The Heatwave’s reggae sounds, we sat down in the Stamford Work’s courtyard to have a chat with Gareth Bell-Jones, one of the organizers, and Niel Campbell aka Astral Social Club, one of the performers at Dalston Pound. Working for the Wysing Art Center in Cambridge, Gareth has been invited to curate the music for Stamford Works and Dalston Pond venues.

The one-day festival was taking place in and around Gillett Square, featuring a free outdoor stage and music across eight venues: Dalston Pond, Servant Jazz Quarters, Stamford Works, Vortex Jazz Club, The Alibi, Birthdays, Dalston Jazz Bar and Morna Lounge. In total, more than 40 artists played 18 hours non-stop.

 Gilett Square #chill

What were the objectives behind this event ?

G: We wanted to encompass what was happening in this area. Dalston has an in-depth history and relationship to music – see for example the Dalston Lane Mural, that was like a march taking place in 1983, where everyone would play instruments. It was important to show the dimension of culture in Dalston and its relevance today.

“Dalston has an in-depth history and relationship to music”

We wanted to give an accurate reflection of things happening now, with many different venues having specific types of programming like the Jazz venue Vortex, and other places playing more hip hop, electro or afro beats. We wanted people to stumble across as much information as possible. There will also be, later on a serious party ! (laugh) But it’s not the standard stuff to organize, so it’s very challenging. Also it’s difficult to do something of a high level within such a small budget.

Camila Fuchs

Camila Fuchs @Birthdays

What about the line-up?

G: I guess the programming is people you think that would work together and you think are excellent. (haha) It’s quite straight forward. A lot of the people are locals and so really wanted to be involved.

It’s easier to work independently with the performers. Everyone is playing because they want to be part of it. All the artists and the audiences are mixed together and there’s no exclusivity to it. You can actually have a chat with the artists at the bar!

How would you define the power of music here?

NC: It’s an instant transportation. I like painting to escape, but with music you can go from 0 to 60 miles an hour very quickly !

NC is not the only one to find a parallel between art and sounds.

G: When people go to an exhibition, you stand and you try to understand what you’re looking at. With music, it’s much purer, you don’t need to figure out what’s going on, it tells you straight away. This is why music brings people together. It’s a mutual understanding between everyone.

Do you have partnerships ?

G: The festival is working with NTS radio who does a lot of programming for the main stage. Phonica records have their own sets as well, with Daphni (better know as Caribou) and a special guest: Four Tet. Each of the venues work with their own partnerships, so it is very exciting to watch this happen.

 Daphni

Daphni and Four Tet performing @Dalston Pond

Do you think brand partnerships can help sometimes ?

G: Anyone willing to support such a project will be a pleasure to work with as a partner… if it’s appropriate ! (laugh). It has to be a mutual benefit.

How do you imagine the future of this festival ?

G: Hopefully, we will expand it further and do it again next year.

We hope too !

GarethGareth Bell-Jones @Dalston Music Festival

Interview, article, photos: Celine Vignes, Raphael Saint Bris, @cordww
Phonica Records: http://www.phonicarecords.com
NTS: http://www.ntslive.co.uk
Birthdays: http://www.birthdaysdalston.com
Pond Dalston: http://www.pond-dalston.com
Vortex Dalston: http://www.vortexjazz.co.uk
Servant Jazz Quarter: http://www.servantjazzquarters.com 
Dalston Music Festival: http://www.facebook.com/dalstonmusicfestival
Wysing Arts Centre: http://www.wysingartscentre.org
Dalston Studios: www.dalstonstudios.com 
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