In Conversation With: The Brains Behind Boomtown 2022

© Giulia Spadafora / Soul Media

For nearly three years, the festival community has waited with bated breath for the return of one of the finest cultural events the UK has to offer. And in just a few weeks’ time, the world-famous Boomtown Fair will finally be back in our lives! The 2022 instalment sees some of the biggest changes in the festival’s history, from the lineup through to the storyline and setting.

We were able to grab some time with Lak Mitchell, co-founder of Boomtown, to hear about what to expect at Boomtown’s rebirth: Chapter One – The Gathering.

The West Review: Right off the bat: have the last three years simply been a series of ups, downs, bookings, cancellations and constant changes to any plans you were able to put in place? As a team, how have you managed to keep the ship on the right path?

Lak Mitchell: The last few years have been hard on the festival and live-events industry as a whole. Although difficult for us all, it did give us the chance to take a step back and reflect on what Boomtown is at its core. This time has really allowed us all to take stock and bring the festival into an exciting new direction.

TWR: Perhaps one of the biggest changes this year is keeping the lineup secret. At what point over the last three years was the decision made?

LM: We spent a long time debating whether it was the right thing to do, and what we did all agree was that there are many aspects to the way the music industry is run that simply don’t work for independent festivals [like us]. In the end we decided that by approaching lineups in this radical way, we can create even more diverse and phenomenal lineups.

TWR: We absolutely love this idea and always felt ‘music festival’ was a disservice to what Boomtown really is. This will almost definitely champion discovery and interaction with other elements of the festival too. Was this intentional?

LM: Absolutely a part of our decision was to encourage attendees to get excited about everything that Boomtown has to offer, rather than the name at the top of a poster. Alongside hosting world-renowned musical artists, we are also a fully immersive theatrical experience. Citizens will really get the most out of what we have to offer by interacting with the actors that flood our street venues and city.

TWR: Boomtown 2022 promises some of the biggest wholesale changes, perhaps in its history. Can you tell us a bit about what to expect this year compared with past events?

LM: The changes for 2022 are sure to be some of the most exciting yet! 

Origin, the colossal new main stage set to a backdrop of waterfalls, fire and real nature, will play host to the best reggae and drum and bass. 

Grand Central, another one of the biggest new stages for 2022, is at the heart of Boomtown and will connect all the districts. By day Grand Central will pulsate with the full force and breadth of the best live bands, from wicked, feel-good classics to some of the most exciting new music projects in the world. As dusk turns into night and on into the early hours of the morning, the pace goes up another level with the frontline of forward-thinking electronic artists!

A refuge for the lawless, AREA 404 welcomes all to their newly squatted, radical revolutionary paradise. As light bleeds through the cracks in the walls, the residents dance faster and harder than ever. The Last Gang in Town and Earache Records showcase a mixture of punk, ska and metal at ‘Hangar 161’. The sound of hardcore and stomping techno bellows from within ‘The Scrapyard’ whilst ‘The Grid’ and an array of late night venues open their doors for the new skool junglists, and forward-thinking garage and bass heads.

Credit: Derek Bremner

TWR: The narrative side of Boomtown is all-change as well. Are there any particular performances/shows/areas or anything else fans should check out to be brought up to speed on the new story?

LM: For 2022, there will be multiple storylines that citizens can get involved in. By participating and interacting with the actors, attendees will be able to mould the story and even create their own. Get involved as much as possible!

TWR: Back to the music for a second: personally speaking, I thought that Boomtown 2020 was one of the best lineups I’ve ever seen at a UK event. Can we draw any comparisons from that lost lineup to this years’?

LM: The lineup is being kept a secret until just before the festival, but Boomtown has always and will always represent music from across the globe and throughout the underground. 

We have a long history of celebrating the best in reggae, roots, folk and world music as well as being home for ska, metal and punk. We represent all underground sides of the electronic spectrum from house, disco and techno, to drum n bass, jungle and hip-hop all the way through to heavier styles of gabba, hardcore and psytrance!

Credit: Garry Jones

TWR: Sound has often been a talking point at Boomtown, with 2019 seeing some notable upgrades, particularly Downtown. Is this something that will see further growth in 2022?

LM: We’ve put a huge amount of work into providing the sound experience we’d like to attendees, whilst remaining within the limits of our sound licence. This saw huge improvements in 2019 and of course we are always working to improve!

TWR: Lastly, which particular element(s) are you personally looking forward to seeing in action after such a long time away from the Boomtown family?

LM: With so many exciting changes for 2022, it’s hard to choose specific elements over others. Mostly, we’re excited to dance together again, get back to our roots and interact with everything that Boomtown has to offer.

Boomtown 2022 is hosted in Hampshire this August, from Wednesday 10th until Sunday 14th

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