Boomtown (music festival)

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Boomtown Fair
Boomtown Fair logo.svg
Boomtown 2019 Lion’s Den night.jpg
The Lion's Den stage at night during Boomtown Chapter 11 (2019)
GenreMusic festival
FrequencyAnnually
Location(s)Matterley Estate, Alresford Road, near Winchester, Hampshire, England.
Coordinates51°03′05″N 01°14′44″W / 51.05139°N 1.24556°W / 51.05139; -1.24556Coordinates: 51°03′05″N 01°14′44″W / 51.05139°N 1.24556°W / 51.05139; -1.24556
Years active11 years
Inaugurated7 August 2009 (2009-08-07)
FoundersChris Rutherford, Lak Mitchell[1]
Most recent7 August 2019 (2019-08-07) – 11 August 2019 (2019-08-11)
Next event11 August 2021 (2021-08-11) – 15 August 2021 (2021-08-15)[2]
Capacity76,999[3]
Organised byBoomtown Festival UK Limited[4]
Websiteboomtownfair.co.uk

Boomtown (also known as Boomtown Fair) is an independent immersive five-day theatrical music festival held annually near Winchester, Hampshire on the Matterley Estate in South Downs National Park. It was first held in 2009 and has been held in its current site since 2011. Its diverse line-up of bands, DJs and speakers perform on many different stages each a part of a district with its own unique theming. Each yearly event is known as a Chapter and expands on the storyline from the previous year, told through the sets, live actors and many forms of alternate reality games. The festival site is split into several districts, and the narrative is reflected in the design of the districts, streets and venues, which are populated by hundreds of actors to play the role of inhabitants.

The event is centered around a set of common beliefs and principles, mainly supporting the progressive ideas of environmentalism and social equality.

The festival is run by Boomtown Festival UK Limited Company Directors Chris Rutherford and Luke Marcus Mitchell, both from Bristol.[5] The large scale of the sets and infrastructure require six weeks of construction, and a month of disassembly for each event.[6]

In July 2019, the organisers were granted a capacity increase by Winchester City Council, bringing the total number of people allowed on site to 76,999. This number consists of 58,000 ticket holders, 17,999 crew, artists, traders and guests plus 1,000 local residents with day tickets.[7] The increase was to come into effect from 2020, until Boomtown 2020 was cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.[8]

The festival is set to return in 2021 with a reworked layout and reset story with Chapter One: The Gathering.[9]

History[edit]

2000s[edit]

Boomtown Fair was first created by Christopher Rutherford and Lak Mitchell in 2009 after having grown up in the festival scene.[10] [1] Their experience with music festivals led them to believe that the events they were attending lacked atmosphere, and that many genres were being overlooked, which became a goal for the pair.[11] The first chapter, Boomtown Begins, took place in 2009 and was held at the Speech House Hotel, Coleford, in Gloucestershire on 7 August. The second event saw the festival move to the Stowe Landscape Gardens in Buckingham, Buckinghamshire and for the third event, the festival was relocated to the Matterley Estate in Winchester, where the festival has remained since.

2010s[edit]

The seventh chapter, in 2015, saw the introduction of Psychedelic Forest, the first psychedelic trance stage.[12] The 2016 fair saw further expansion with Sector 6, introduced as a way to even the spread of bass-heavy music across the site, and Whistler's Green green fields area over the top of the hill between the Lion's Den and Downtown areas, mostly secluded from the rest of the site.[1]

The tenth chapter, in 2018, brought the new districts Disorder Alley, Paradise Heights (in place of Mayfair), and Copper County (in place of the Wild West). The same year, festival organisers hoped to increase the capacity of the festival to 80,000, but the application was rejected. Instead they were allowed to open a day early, but only if attendees arrived using 'sustainable transport', in coaches, shuttle bus or cars with more than three people.[13]

Hippie Highway, a central route through the site, at night in 2019
Cigarette butt ballot bins at Paradise Heights in 2019

In August 2019, Boomtown were granted licensing approval to open a 3,500 capacity event space at their Bristol headquarters, which opened in November as Area 404.[14] The year's fair installment, chapter eleven, introduced the new Area 404 district in place of Sector 6 providing the festivals home for techno and acid house music. The event was focused around the "Leave No Trace" mantra. Encouraging attendees to take all their rubbish and tents with them as they leave, and also banning single-use plastics from all of the on-side stalls. As a result of this push, the festival saw a 50% reduction in tents and equipment left behind in 2019.[15] The festival introduced cigarette butt ballot bins as a part of this initiative in an effort to encourage responsible disposal of cigarette butts. Built by TerraCycle, attendees can vote on opinion polls by putting their butt in one of two slots, where their waste will later be recycled into furniture.[16]

2020s[edit]

Chapter twelve was to see the introduction of a new district Forgotten Valley as a replacement for Whistler's Green. The new district was to encapsulate the Kidztown and Floating Lotus stages, but see the replacement of The Lighthouse stage with a new area known as Ancient Futures.[17] On 30 April 2020, Chapter 12 was cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.[8]

The festival's return in 2021 saw a storyline reset and, like the very first year, was known as Chapter One and subtitled The Gathering. With this change in canon, the event also saw a redesigned layout, consolidating the site into three main areas: The Main City (located in what was previously Downtown – the Matterley Bowl), The Forests and Woodland areas, and the Campsites and their villages. The move meant that the majority of stages and venues were now located within the natural bowl, with the campsites able to occupy more of the flat land in the surrounding landscape.[9]

Ethos and values[edit]

The event is centered around a set of common beliefs and principles, mainly supporting the progressive ideas of environmentalism and social equality.The event explicitly defines these ethos through the event's vision code, referred to as The Six Pillars of Boomtown.[18]

Respect Yourself: In a world that can make us doubt our own worth, we want to provide a space for self-empowerment and freedom of expression.

Respect Each Other: In a world that is deeply scarred by the open wounds of racism and prejudice, we want people of all backgrounds, beliefs, ages, gender identities, sexual orientations, abilities and races to know that you belong and are safe in our city.

Respect the Planet: In a world that is burning, we call on our collective humanity to come together to find solutions and care for nature, as she cares for us.

Creativity: In a world where conformity is valued over creativity, we want to provide a platform that nurtures artistic freedom and pushes the boundaries of creative expression.

Connection: In a world where digital connection so often replaces physical connection, we cherish the depth of togetherness that comes from the gatherings of humans.

Celebration: In a world that can so often feel overloaded with negativity, we want to celebrate the very best this beautiful planet and all humanity can achieve, in one almighty party where everyone's welcome!

Storyline[edit]

Prologue[edit]

The prospecting geologist Nickolas Boom, having discovered a Gold-bearing vein in the hills, founds the town with settlements of his crew of miners. Word of this discovery spread throughout the region, and soon other prospectors began wanting a piece, marking the beginning of an eternal power struggle for dominance over the vein. Boom tried to bring order to the town but lawless rebels only drove further chaos.[19]

Chapter 1: Boomtown Begins (2009)[edit]

In an effort to restore order, local officials succeeded in driving away the rebels. The towns annual fair was set up to unify the community. The fair attracted musicians and entertainers from far and wide. Farmers and merchants from neighbouring villages came to the town, selling their produce and goods. The fair was a success and the people were uplifted. Only that same week, the gold ran out. Once more, violence set in and the streets descended into anarchy.[20]

Chapter 2: External Forces (2010)[edit]

Recession struck the town, and looting and fighting were commonplace.[21] The Kaptin began an attempt to contain this anarchy. Boom was outraged at this interference, and with the Pirate Captain and Gypsy King, swore to keep The Kaptin from making progress and ruining their freedoms.[22]

Chapter 3: The Disappearance of Boom (2011)[edit]

With new settlers, the town expanded into new districts and brought new attractions. Only the wealthy lacked any areas of prestige, and so the town officials budgeted a huge amount of money from their urban redevelopment fund towards such an area – Mayfair Avenue. Having had enough, Boom returned to the mountains in search of a fabled temple in the forest, with treasure guarded by lions. With this wealth, he would buy the land of town and restore the peace and freedom, without the rules of a state. Boom was never seen again.[23]

Chapter 4: An Alien Presence (2012)[edit]

Arcadia stage at Boomtown 2012

With further expansion, the town became a city and with this progress came taxes and troubles. With a comet-like crash, an unearthly structure arrived. Arcadia had landed and The Kaptain declared a stage of emergency in the town, declaring himself Mayor.[24]

Chapter 5: Declaration of Democracy (2013)[edit]

The docks of Oldtown were revitalised as a wave of trade and immigration hit the port. Travellers from the far east formed a vibrant oriental quarter known as ChinaTown, and those from Latin America founded the Latin Quarter. After pressure from citizens, The Mayor announced free elections with district councillors being appointed, and the following year even the mayoral office would be subject to vote.[25]

Chapter 6: The Loopholes of Time (2014)[edit]

From the elections of the year prior, Comrade José became mayor. She introduced the citizenship test, and began on her plans to unite the districts. Defeated and regretful, the ex-mayor turned to the aliens of Arcadia for help, who agreed to send him back in time to the inception of the town. He set off to the west, and reached an isolated town. The ex-mayor told Sheriff Bane of the town about the newly constructed mines and the grand city Boomtown would become. Initiallly skeptical, the Sheriff agreed that if this did come true, that the ex-mayor could call on their aid when he found himself in trouble.

After this agreement, the ex-mayor found himself back in present-day, surrounded by a district that previously hadn't existed – Wild West Street. He once again met Bane who was ready to stick to the promise he had made, and handed over his Sheriff badge making the ex-mayor the new Sheriff of the Wild West.[26]

Chapter 7: The Palace Has Risen (2015)[edit]

Chapter 8: The Revolution Starts Now (2016)[edit]

Chapter 9: Behind The Mask (2017)[edit]

Chapter 10: The Machine Cannot Be Stopped (2018)[edit]

Chapter 11: A Radical City (2019)[edit]

Chapter 12: New Beginnings (2020)[edit]

Chapter One: The Gathering (2021)[edit]

Layout[edit]

Across the four areas of Temple Valley, Hilltop, Downtown and Forgotten Valley there are 14 unique districts, each with a unique identity seen through the set dressing, wandering theatrical performances, and music genres on show. Each district has at least one main stage and a selection of smaller street or theatrical venues as well as small and medium-sized music venues.[27] The festival contains over 25 'main' stages and an additional 80 street venues.[28]

The large main stages of Relic, Nucleus and Lion's Den differ from standard stages as they are designed to accommodate crowds several thousand strong, with vast stage sets at the centre with food and drink concessions in their own arenas. Kidztown is the dedicated children's area at Boomtown, introduced in the second year, co-ordinated by qualified child and youth experts, including play-workers, early years specialists, artists and performers.

The 2021 installment is set to feature a reworked and scaled-down site layout as apart of the festival's recovery measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Aside from the Forest Party stages, each of the districts will be relocated to inside the Matterley Bowl in a new, more condensed layout for the Downtown area. Some of the campsites will be moved to the fields immediately surrounding the Bowl, and the overall footprint for the event is down-scaled.[29]

View from the top of Hippie Highway, the main route between the areas of Downtown and Hilltop.

Districts and Stages[edit]

Map of districts and main stages

The site layout evolves and changes with each installment, with new areas and venues being introduced and previous itterations renewed. A number of the stages have remained consistent throughout the history of the festival, including the Kidztown, Lions Den and Town Centre stages which have featured since the 2011 fair, through many different incarnations.

Area Key District / Main stage Picture Stage(s) and Venue(s) Main Genre(s)
Temple Valley 1 Area 404


Acid Leak • Fallout Disco  • The Grid  • Nucleus  • SP:23 Street Party Techno • Acid house • Rave
2 Forest Parties


Psychedelic Forest Psychedelic trance
3 Lion's Den The Lion's Den at Boomtown Fair.jpg Lion's Den Reggae • Ska • Mixed Genre
Hilltop 4 Copper County


Croaker Club • Flying Moustache • Foggers Mill • The Forge • Wrong Side of the Tracks Ska • Folk • Blues • Drum & Bass
5 Forest Parties


Tangled roots Psychedelic trance • Dub • Dancehall • Reggae
6 Tribe of Frog
7 Old Town


Buskers Wharf • Mama Jynx • Oldtown Square • Rimski's Yard • Shamrock Folk • Punk • Rock music
8 Paradise Heights Paradise Heights at Boomtown Fair.jpg Copper Feel Cabaret • Hotel Paradiso • Paradise Ballroom • The Bandstand • Villa Avarice Disco • Soul • Jazz • Afrobeats
9 Town Centre Town Centre stage at Boomtown Fair.jpg Bad Apple Bar • Boomtown Bobbies • Job Centre • Town Centre Pop • Hip-hop • Mixed Genre
Downtown 10 Barrio Loco 24 Hour Garage Girls • Kaotik Kartel • Loose Lips Block Party • Pirate Studios • Poco Loco
(+ an unannounced stage new for 2020)
Garage • Hip-hop
11 Diss-order Alley Diss-order Alley at Boomtown Fair 2019 01.jpg Earache Factory • Hangar 161 • The Bunker • The Freak Boutique
(+ an unannounced stage new for 2020)
Metal • Rock
12 Dstrkt 5


Broken Core • Cyberdrone • Dystopia • Scrapyard • Sub Lab Gabba • Hardcore • Jungletek • Drum & Bass
13 Forest Parties Boomtown-2019-hiddenwoods.jpg Hidden Woods Dub • Dancehall • Reggae
14 Metropolis


Dubtendo • Fashion Haus • Little Pharma • Pagoda Plaza • Zenith House • Funk • Disco
15 Relic Boomtown-2019-relic.jpg Relic Drum & Bass • Jungle
Forgotten Valley 16 Forgotten Valley


Ancient Futures • Floating Lotus • Speakers Corner Acoustic • Soul • Folk • Spoken word • Spirituality • Activism
Kidztown


Raucous Rascals Family friendly performances of

Drum & Bass • Hip-hop • Regae • Dancehall

Evolution of districts and main stages (at Matterley Estate)
2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Lion's Den
Kidstown
Town Centre
Mayfair
Arcadia
Hidden Woods
ChinaTown
Barrio Loco
Oldtown
HolditDown District
Tangled Roots
Tribe of Frog
Wild West
Bang Hai Palace
DSTRKT 5
Psychedelic Forest
Whistlers Green
Disorder Alley
Sector 6
Metropolis
Paradise Heights
Bang Hai Towers
Copper County
Area 404
Relic
Forgotten Valley

 – Previous district / main stage.  – Current district / main stage.

Location[edit]

Boomtown (music festival) is located in Hampshire
Boomtown (music festival)
Map showing the location of Boomtown within Hampshire.

The festival takes place in South West England on the Matterley Estate in Hampshire on the grounds of the South Downs National Park, 3 miles from Winchester. The grounds are situated between the A31 and A272.[30]

The grounds have been the home of a number of music festivals and concerts over the years, including Creamfields in its inaugural year of 1998, Homelands from 1999 till 2005 and Glade Festival in 2009. Because of this long history with a number of iconic events, many consider the grounds to be firmly entrenched in the roots of many notable acts and genres, especially with regards to dance music, underground dance music and other electronic music.[31]

The bottom of The Stairs, another route between Downtown and Hilltop

The fair is situated at grid reference SU 52919 28297. The site is split into 3 areas: the Downtown area is contained within the Matterley Bowl, the natural valley Temple Valley features the area of the same name, and the Hilltop area extends across the crest of the hill that is the mid-ground between these two areas – it is also the geographical centre of the site.[32] The site is divided by the steep hill between the Downtown and Hilltop areas with participants taking either Hippie Highway or The Stairs to travel between the two. A number of stages feature within the natural features of the sites. The Hidden Woods, Tribe of Frog, Tangled Roots and Psychedelic Forest stages are set within forests under tree canopies. The Lions Den stage is also set within a natural amphitheatre.

Elsewhere on-site, the motocross track within the Materley Basin has in the past held the British round of the World Championship, as well as the Motocross of Nations.[33] The site has also hosted the Tough Mudder endurance test series.[34]

Line-ups[edit]

Chapter Dates Headliners Ticket price
Boomtown Begins (2009) 7–9 August Negative increase £45[35]
External Forces (2010) 13–15 August Negative increase £58[36]
The Disappearance of Boom (2011) 11–14 August Gogol Bordello, DJ Zinc and Ms. Dynamite[37] Negative increase £93[38]
An Alien Presence (2012) 9–12 August Reel Big Fish, Caravan Palace and Shy FX[37] Positive decrease £63[39]
Declaration of Democracy (2013) 8–11 August Negative increase £149[40]
The Loopholes of Time (2014) 7–10 August The Cat Empire, General Levy and Chas & Dave[37] Steady £149[41]
The Palace Has Risen (2015) 13–16 August Protoje, Noisia and Mr. Scruff[42] Positive decrease £120[43]
The Revolution Starts Now (2016) 11–14 August Madness and Damian Marley[37] Negative increase £135[44]
Behind The Mask (2017) 10–13 August The Specials, M.I.A. and Cypress Hill[45] Negative increase £195[46]
The Machine Cannot Be Stopped (2018) 8–12 August Gorillaz, Die Antwoord and Limp Bizkit[47] Negative increase £246[48]
A Radical City (2019) 7–11 August Lauryn Hill, Prophets of Rage, The Streets, Chronixx, Chase & Status and Groove Armada Positive decrease £244[49]
New Beginnings (2020) 12–16 August Wu-Tang Clan, Underworld, Kelis and Pendulum Trinity[50] Negative increase £249[51]
The Gathering (2021) 11–15 August Not yet released Positive decrease £199[52]

Charitable activities[edit]

Donations to various charities are made each year from the festival's profits;[53] in 2015 these were the Energy Revolution Initiative, Winchester Youth Counselling and Trinity Winchester. Tickets are donated to charity for raffles and competitions, and the festival works with Oxfam, MyCauseUK and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance who provide stewards. The festival also produces a fundraising CD at Christmas.[54] Since 2014, the festival have provided free children's arts & craft workshops at a pop-up event in nearby Winchester.[55]

For the 2019 event, Boomtown partnered with TreeSisters, an organisation focusing on reforestation with women, to plant one tree for every ticket bought (48,000). After the event, it was announced that the partnership planted 71,725 trees.[56]

Incidents and deaths[edit]

During the 2011 festival, Deborah Jeffery, 45 from Winchester suffered a fatal heart attack after taking ecstasy.[57]

In 2013, Ellie Rowe, 18 from Glastonbury, Somerset, died after consuming alcohol and ketamine. The incident occurred the same day Ketamine was reclassified from a class C to class B drug in the UK.[58] In the years following the tragedy, Wendy Teasdill, Ellie's mother, has become an advocate for on-site drug testing, saying the facilities may have saved her life.[59]

The following year, Lisa Williamson, 31 from Hereford, was found hanged in a campsite toilet after using drugs.[60]

In 2016, Olivia Christopher, 18, from Chesham, Buckinghamshire, was discovered dead in her tent after a suspected drug overdose. It is believed she had consumed a cocktail of cocaine, ketamine, LSD and MDMA as well as alcohol while at the festival. The police seized £79,000 of drugs at the festival, with an additional £55,000 worth being placed in amnesty bins at the gates.[61] The same year, a discarded cigarette started a fire which destroyed more than 80 cars.[62]

In the weeks leading up to the 2017 event, the construction of the city was hampered by bad weather, which contributed to delays at the gates, with some guests queuing for up to 10 hours to enter the site. Despite the problems on the gates, the rest of the event proceeded without incident.[63]

In 2019, the festival saw very high winds, causing widespread damage to tents in all camping areas, as a result of fencing barriers blown into the festival. In addition, the Relic main-stage stage was closed during a performance by Shy FX on Friday after a piece of debris from the stage fell onto the crowd during the high winds. All subsequent acts that day being moved to the Lion's Den stage. It was re-opened the next day. No injury was reported.[64]

Awards and nominations[edit]

DJ Magazine's top 50 Festivals[edit]

Year Category Work Result Ref.
2019 World's Best Festival Boomtown Fair 23rd [65]

Drum&Bass Awards[edit]

Year Category Work Result Ref.
2017 Best Festival Boomtown Fair 2 [66]
2018 Best Event 2017 3 [67]
Best Festival 1
2019 Best Festival 2 [68]
2020 Best Event 2019 1 [69]
Best Festival 2

A Greener Festival[edit]

Year Category Work Result Ref.
2019 A Greener Festival Boomtown Fair Commended [70]
2020 Commended

UK Festival Awards[edit]

Year Category Work Result Ref.
2018 Best Festival Production Boomtown Fair Nominated [71]
2019 Best Festival Production Nominated [72]
The Greener Festival Award Nominated

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Interview with Boomtown co-founder Lak Mitchell | Festival Mag". Festivalmag. 23 February 2017. Retrieved 9 February 2020. Interview with Boomtown co-founder Lak Mitchell
  2. ^ "Boomtown Update 2020 ❤️". Boomtownfair.co.uk. Retrieved 30 April 2020.
  3. ^ "Boomtown 2020: Organisers granted 76,999 capacity". Boomtownsource.com. 30 July 2019. Retrieved 31 July 2019.
  4. ^ "BOOMTOWN FESTIVAL UK LIMITED – Officers (free information from Companies House)". companieshouse.gov.uk.
  5. ^ "BOOMTOWN FESTIVAL UK LIMITED – Officers (free information from Companies House)". companieshouse.gov.uk.
  6. ^ "Interview with Boomtown co-founder Lak Mitchell | Festival Mag". Festivalmag.com. 23 February 2017. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
  7. ^ Warrenger, Sam (31 July 2019). "Boomtown capacity increase to 76,999 approved by council". TheFestivals. Retrieved 31 July 2019.
  8. ^ a b cancelled
  9. ^ a b "Chapter One has landed!". Boomtownfair.co.uk. Retrieved 1 October 2020.
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  11. ^ "People profile: Lak Mitchell". Leisure Management. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
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  14. ^ Murray, Robin (1 August 2019). "Bristol looks set to get new 3,500-capacity event space from Boomtown". bristolpost. Retrieved 15 August 2019.
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  21. ^ "Chapter Two | Town History | Boomtown Fair 2012". 17 June 2012. Archived from the original on 17 June 2012. Retrieved 10 March 2020.
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  40. ^ "Declaration of Democracy". Boomtownfair.co.uk. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  41. ^ "The Loopholes of Time". Boomtownfair.co.uk. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
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  54. ^ "Boomtown Charity Support". Boomtown. Retrieved 2 June 2015.
  55. ^ Neal, Charlotte (31 May 2015). "Boomtown Fair organisers bring carnival fun at Winchester workshops". Hampshire Chronicle. Retrieved 2 June 2015.
  56. ^ "Boomtown festival aims to plant one million trees this year". Hampshire Chronicle. Retrieved 1 October 2020.
  57. ^ "Mum, 45, died from Ecstasy overdose at music festival". Southern Daily Echo. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
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  62. ^ "Fire at Boomtown music festival in Hampshire destroys 80 cars". 13 August 2016.
  63. ^ Horton, Helena (11 August 2017). "Festivalgoers reportedly faint in queue for Boomtown fair after festival ramps up security". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  64. ^ Murray, Robin (12 August 2019). "Piece of stage 'ripped off' and landed on crowd at festival". bristolpost. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  65. ^ "DJ Mag's Top 50 festivals 2019". Djmag.com. 3 January 2021.
  66. ^ "Drum&Bass Awards 2017 Results". Drum&Bass Awards. Retrieved 8 April 2020.
  67. ^ "Drum&Bass Awards 2018 Results". Drum&Bass Awards. Retrieved 8 April 2020.
  68. ^ "Drum&BassArena Awards 2019: The Results". UKF. Retrieved 8 April 2020.
  69. ^ "Drum&Bass Awards". Drum&Bass Awards 2020 Results. Retrieved 8 April 2020.
  70. ^ "A Greener Festival announce 2018 award winners – Powerful Thinking". Powerful Thinking. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
  71. ^ "Shortlists 2018 | UK Festival Awards 2019". UK Festival Awards 2019. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
  72. ^ "UK Festival Awards reveals 2019 shortlists – CGA". CGA. Retrieved 9 February 2020.

External links[edit]