The Resurrection of Hevy Festival

It's not all hevy in this festival's history

The Resurrection of Hevy Festival
The Resurrection of Hevy Festival

By Chris Marshman

Jul 31, 2015 18:02

The resurrection of Hevy Festival is almost here. In little over two weeks’ time, a couple of thousand or so music fans will be descending onto Port Lympne to enjoy one of the UK's leading small festivals. The line up once more boasts some pretty huge UK exclusive performances, including headliners Thrice and Coheed & Cambria as well as a supporting cast consisting of album performances from The Get Up Kids and The Fall of Troy, amongst countless other bands you should be watching.

“this is the first year that I’m wishing the weeks away because I can’t wait for August,” says Hevy Festival director James Dutton. He does admit however that there is “always a degree of nervous anticipation.” It’s little surprise that this is the case.

Originally starting back in 2009 with acts such as Feeder and Ash headlining, it wasn’t until the 2010 event that Hevy became the festival we know today. When you look back, it’s difficult not to realise how big a risk the concept of Hevy Festival was in the first place. Bringing the likes of Glassjaw and Gallows to the middle of an animal park in Kent to headline a music festival takes guts and a huge belief in the scene you love.  It became quickly clear that Hevy was unlike any other festival, something James believes gives it an edge.

“Being able to see some of the most influential bands from across the globe converge on my doorstep, and then being able to wander across the road to meet Port Lympne’s resident animals – it’s a surreal and fantastic combo. It’s what makes Hevy Fest totally different to any other festival,” James muses, and it would seem that most people agreed with him.

The 2010 event received a massive amount of positive reaction from the press, the bands and festival goers alike – praising its unique setting, size and atmosphere as well as its line-up. It did its job in creating a name for Hevy and so the stage was set for its 2011 event, when the festival really came into its own.

It was a combination of things that made it so. The incredible weather that greeted fans on the Friday afternoon, the festival wide conga that was incited by an early evening set from Straight Lines. Maybe it was the absolute decimation of the main stage from Saturday headliner’s The Dillinger Escape Plan or maybe it was Make Do and Mend putting in a career defining set earlier in the day. Or maybe it was the fact that the Sunday had one of the best one day line ups in modern day festival history. La Dispute, Touche Amore, Man Overboard, Defeater, The Bronx, Living With Lions, Marmozets and more made sure there was something for everyone.

The fact that Funeral For a Friend more than made up for a disappointing headline slot from Four Year Strong by proving that maybe they should’ve been atop the bill that day was the icing on the cake. The festival ended, a downpour came and a thunderstorm waved off Hevy 2011. Maybe it was a sign of things to come, but nothing could take away just how good Hevy Festival was that year.

It was in 2012 that Hevy Festival started to encounter some difficulties, despite the fact that the festival was now in a position to put together one of – it not its biggest – line-up to date. Weather problems forced the event to re-imagine its whole set up. Eventually deciding on joining up the two main stages under one roof, the problems caused by this detracted from the artists on stage and consequentially the atmosphere at the festival. Band’s sets were disrupted by bands soundchecking on the stage next door, rumours quickly swirled that some bands were ready to drop out of the festival altogether with others deciding against playing the albums in full that they were booked for and advertised to play.

The negative atmosphere followed onto its 2013 event as James readily admits. “It’s fair to say that 2013 was a disastrous year for Hevy,” he exclaims. Problems with the venue forced Hevy Festival to look elsewhere and with time running out the event was cancelled and Hevy had to start again.

“Off the back of the 2013 event, 2014 was a much smaller affair” says James, who returned back to basics for Hevy 2014. It was agreed that the festival could go back to Port Lympne, however, it was clear that Hevy was still rebuilding from the year previous. The line-up wasn’t as big and as a result the attendance suffered. However, what was clear was that this was a rebuilding job… this was to prove that Hevy was a festival that deserved to keep going.

This was to prove that with a little guidance and help Hevy could regain its momentum and follow through on the potential the festival clearly has. By the time Hevy Festival 2014 came to a close the immediate announcement of the 2015 event proved that it had achieved exactly what it had set out to do, and that was to form a platform on which the festival could rebuild itself.

The Resurrection of Hevy Festival

So, Hevy Festival 2015 is almost here and it seems as if it’s found its feet again. James and Hevy Festival as a whole are ready to show just how good the festival can be again. “The best thing we can do is listen to our audience. If we’re not giving them what they want, we’re not doing it right.” James says. “It’s really pleasing to see the same people who have been sceptical in the past get back behind us this year, and it’s with their support that we’ve been able to grow. We’re a small festival trying to deliver the best event we can. On the whole, I feel that people understand that, and are encouraging of our dedication to the cause.”

That’s just it; Hevy has proven its worth. It has shown that it has learnt from its mistakes and as result the line-up this year is absolutely out of this world. Yet James admits that there difficulties in putting such a line up together. “Building a line-up is always a challenge,” he admits. “It’s difficult to persuade the heavyweights to venture down to Kent for our little event when the likes of Download and Reading are enforcing exclusivity further down their line-ups each year. But this year I feel like we’ve settled into a perfect niche for our audience. Seeing these bands on the same bill is the stuff of dreams. You can’t please everyone, so we concentrate on a group of people that we feel aren’t well-catered for by the other UK festivals.”

It’s clear that anybody venturing to Hevy Festival this year is lucky. Not only that they have the chance to experience the magic of this festival back at its peak, but that the festival is fronted by a person that ultimately has the same ideals and wants from Hevy as they do. They’re lucky that on Saturday morning they’re going to be able to get up and go and spend a few hours in one of the UK’s best and biggest animal parks. They’re lucky that they get to watch some of the best bands within the punk, hardcore and rock scenes do their thing on stages that were designed for them.

This could well be the event that marks Hevy back amongst the likes of 2000 Trees, Secret Garden Party, Slam Dunk and others as one of the UK’s premier small festivals. If you’re umming and ahing about going, then stop. Get yourself a ticket and head down to Port Lympne in two week time. We’ll see you in the pit.