INTERVIEW: Moving North [Sept 2015]

By Conor Mackie

So, Kieran Kelly, how’s it going? You’re pretty big time these days, booking huge shows left, right and centre but I think it’s really nice to see you stripping ManchFESTer back a little for 3.5 and scaling back the line-up. What inspired this move? Was there just too much stress to come from booking a huge, multi-day show?

Last year kinda snowballed into a three day beast, we had Masked Intruder, Gnarwolves and The Smith Street Band (albeit a secret appearance) all on the same day along with 10 other bands. Coupled with Manchester Punk Festival that we had a hand in organising in April, I thought it was time to slow things down a little and just have a bunch of bands we’ve had along the way in a small room for one day and night.

Obviously with ManchF3Ster, you had 3 days of shows with Losing Sleep, Modern Baseball and Spraynard on Day One, the covers sets on Day Two and then a mammoth all dayer on Day 3 with bands like Masked Intruder, Apologies, I Have None, Bangers, WOAHNOWS and, shit, The Smith Street Band making a secret appearance. How was the experience of doing the 3 days? Was it hectic as shit?

Should have read this question before answering the previous one. It was and it wasn’t. It was because I was actually on tour in Throwing Stuff with Masked Intruder for the Thursday and Friday so I wasn’t even there and had to sort every little thing out before I finished work and jumped on a train to get down to London in time to play our set. And it wasn’t because I’m lucky enough to have a bunch of people around me willing to help out and make sure everything runs smoothly on the night itself, so that was great to be able to enjoy being on tour knowing it was in safe hands.

You were also heavily involved in the hugely successful Manchester Punk Festival that happened in April of this year. Did working on the ManchFESTer shows help prepare for you this? I know that everything went so smoothly for you all and, considering it was a DIY festival, that’s no mean feat. Do you think that there’s a space that DIY festivals could take over where more corporate festivals fail?

And this one.
MPF was something that TNS Records, Anarchistic Undertones and Moving North had been working on non-stop for the best part of a year, and when I say non-stop I mean it. All day, every day we were discussing what to do, who should play, where they’d play, all down to the very last detail and I think that all paid off on the weekend as it went brilliantly, minus a few after party hiccups. We put on around 50 UK bands and nearly sold it out, that was so reassuring. We’re hoping to grow and grow and hopefully become a UK version of The Fest. There’s no other city in the country that can handle that responsibility better than Manchester in my opinion, and we’re working towards it.

With ManchF3.5Ter, you’re bringing back some old favourite with Bangers, Great Cynics, Former Cell Mates and Above Them all playing again. It feels like this show has almost a nostalgic feel to it, going back almost to the very first ManchFESTer that was held in The Oxford (right?! Or am I misremembering the venue?), where no-one really knew what we were doing but it somehow ended up being amazing. As well as the old classics, you’ve also got new bands like Twisted (who are fucking amazing, by the way, I caught them at Deadpunk and they were one of my favourites) and Gut Model, as well as Selmer Thurma. Is giving newer bands the opportunity to play cool and guaranteed-busy (as all your shows are, you magnificent man, you) shows something that’s important to you?

You remember correctly! Giles opened it up before Great Cynics were even a thing, he even opened up the first ever Moving North show (that Bangers and Above Them played too). Every ManchFESTer I try and mix it up, I do like the fact that bands who may never play in front of most of these people get the chance to. Control are a hardcore band from Durham who are fucking brilliant, but they don’t “fit” on many bills that I put on, so this is a great opportunity to get them in the mix. Selmer Thurma (I actually spelt it wrong on the flyer) are some of my best friends and I’ve not heard a single note, but what’s the point in running these sort of things if you can’t help your friends out? It just makes sense. (I hope they don’t suck).

You’ve built up a super impressive following in Manchester and it feels a lot like a community, rather than just a bunch of different groups of people going to a show separately. At every ManchFESTer I’ve been at (every one except maybe 1.5, I think?), it always feels almost like the closest thing we have to something like Fest, which is insane and you should be super proud of that, props. Was building that sense of community something that you aimed to do? Or was it merely the result of putting on great shows at affordable prices?

You played 1.5 you bastard! Didn’t you? Calvinball did. (Conor’s note: Calvinball did, I was in hospital so I didn’t!) I think that atmosphere comes naturally to be honest, all I ever want to do with gigs is throw a big old party and get to see a bunch of friends. If I can put on 13 bands on a Saturday and pay all the bands well, and tickets are £10, then that’s fucking great and I’ll do it. Ticket price being as low as possible whilst getting the bands a good deal is a real tricky thing to achieve, but I like to think Moving North manages it most of the time.

With tickets this year, you’ve given people the choice of donating £5 to the Nick Mann Memorial Fund, which is obviously a really important charity and, last time I heard, every ticket purchased had chosen to donate. That’s pretty awesome. Is being involved with charitable work something that you’d like to do more of in the future? Obviously punk has all kinds of roots in activism and, given the relative ease of collecting money for charities via shows, it seems like you’ve sort of landed on a win-win situation.

Fundraising and activism is definitely something I’d like to look further into. Moving North’s second show raised about £150 for Cancer Research after my good friend Jugs lost his Dad to Cancer the month previous. But the following shows were more like parties and I never really had any money myself to do things with whilst at Uni because I was an idiot then. I’m in a very fortunate position now where I have a “real job” and this level of kind of comfortableness has really brought other things into perspective. When I was a student I really didn’t think twice about homelessness but now it’s something I think about every single day. I think it’s ridiculous that I can walk to my job where money is moved around like it’s nothing and I get paid for doing what I do, whilst I walk past three of four homeless people on the way. This is a 10-15 minute walk. It doesn’t add up to me.

Every gig we’ve had this year, if the bands have hoodies or hats, I’ve been asking for donations to take to a homeless charity and help distribute when winter comes. It’s little things like that where I’m trying to use what Moving North is as something bigger than just the punk rock show for 4 hours.

I’d been wanting to incorporate some charity aspect to gigs for a while and when Nick passed away, it put a lot of things into perspective. He was such a generous guy and had such a great impact on the people he met. I’m really rambling but the main point is: always look out for each other, always help each other, use whatever you have to help someone who’s in a worse situation than you when possible.

This is your sixth ManchFESTer, if I’m counting right. How many could you see yourself doing?

Well, they’ve never been “once a year” because I don’t want to have to put one on for the sake of it, I just want it to be a good line-up and when things fall into place, then the time is right. ManchFESTer 4 better have a Calvinball re-union on it though!

MANCHFE3.5TER is on Saturday! For ticket links and line up info head to Facebook.

Try these three interviews

Interview: Greywind [Reading 2016]

Interview: Arcane Roots [Reading 2016]

Interview: Trash Boat [Reading 2016]