What an incredible nine months it’s been. At the end of last year I started this blog, talking in a positive way about all the inspirational people around me. It’s grown and flourished in ways I would never have predicted and I’m constantly surprised and amazed at the places it takes us. I definitely would never have believed that we’d be meeting the 80s music stars I grew up with and who have been my heroes for as long as I can remember this summer.
Earlier this year, I interviewed Chilfest organiser Steve Butcher as part of the business blog series. I’m a huge Chilfest fan and as the creator of the event, it was a must to get him on the blog. It came as a wonderful surprise when he suggested coming backstage to meet the stars and get a behind the scenes view on the event this year. On the one hand to meet the acts was a dream come true, but on the other it was also utterly terrifying! I grew up with the music of the 80s and in my mind there has never been anything like it — it has a gritty energy and fun that grips your emotions and leads you to a place far away from the stresses of everyday life. Stars such as Midge Ure I consider to be music royalty and hold with the highest possible regard. Chilfest has for the last four years has been the event of my year and and to be there, see the stars perform, listen to the music and soak up the incredible atmosphere is already such a thrill. The thought of meeting them in person was a whole other level of excitement! Of course — I’m not one to shy away from opportunity, however terrifying, so the only option was to go for it!
We’d discussed in advance how we could get the most out of our contact with the stars but in reality their time backstage was fleeting between their performance and heading back home or to another gig, so we just managed to grab a picture and a few words before they moved on. It’s a strange thing to meet your idols in this way; of course you’re in awe and it’s an absolute privilege but you also realise that everyone’s working and has a job to do. Their job just happens to be an impressive one with lights, dancing and music that gives the crowd that’s come to see them huge amounts of pleasure.
Meanwhile backstage the supporting cast were the team running the backstage bar (with an endless supply of snacks and Prosecco), another blogging duo (Choose 80s), Sally James the presenter, photographers and an assortment of band members and crew. I expected to see many friends and family of the crew and organisers backstage, but the reality was this was a working area. I was hoping to catch up with Steve, but his time in the area was brief as he was busy off on the site making sure everything ran smoothly. To Steve and the team that bring together this incredible event year on year, this is the culmination of months of work so there’s no time for reflection until after the event.
It was incredible to see the crew in action. You can see that for these guys it’s not just a job and it’s definitely not about making money. After years in the industry they have a love for events that defines them but also they’re whole reason for being is to give pleasure to the crowd. We chatted to one of the main guys (Spike) about a little girl he’d met and helped on a previous year. He explained that observing her joy at the show, combined with the thrill of the act he was watching at the time had actually moved him to tears. Spending time with these guys you can see they pour their heart and soul into the event and yet to the festival goers they won’t even be considered when recalling the amazing time they’ve had on the day. After spending a day behind the scenes, Matt and I were agreed that the story we wanted to tell was of the hard work and passion of all the crew and support staff, rather than a few brief moments with the acts.
Of course I can’t not talk about the music — it didn’t disappoint! Where do I start?! I mean these guys really are my heroes. Heaven 17 — always legendary, a crowd pleaser and pure party fun. Roland Gift — that huge, huge talent and incredible voice. So wonderful to hear him sing Elvis’ “Suspicious Minds” as well as all his great Fine Young Cannibals hits. I was pretty lucky to meet him after the event for a picture and a few words as I understand he’s normally very press shy. Midge Ure — well the man is one of the all time greats. For me hearing his Visage hit “Fade To Grey” was a dream. But actually the biggest and most unexpected highlight was seeing headline act, OMD. I’m the first to admit despite being a bit of an 80s nut, strangely OMD had formed a blackhole in my musical knowledge. I love to be surprised and this is certainly one of those times. They just have been my all time favourite Chilfest performances. Andy McCluskey gave one of the most energetic and heartfelt performances I’ve ever seen. It’s incredible to believe he’s been doing this for four decades! I love the electronic music for which they’re famed and it really sounded awesome bouncing off the Chiltern Hills. Guys — you have a new lifelong fan!
This awesome event never fails to disappoint and this year was no exception. With the mixture of feel good music, the relaxed atmosphere, the great weather and the fact it resides in our brilliant town it really is one, not to be missed. This year was the biggest ever with 9,00o people attending on the day. They had increased the area with a location specifically designed for the huge array of food and drink stalls and also a silent disco (didn’t quite make it there unfortunately…but spotted many an entertaining Instagram post!) Getting to go behind the scenes was the experience of a lifetime, not only to meet my idols but also to see the realities of what bringing together something like this takes. Big thanks to Steve Butcher and all the wonderful people that work on the event. You are the weavers of dreams! Now — how long is it until the next one….?
Photos by Matthew Bishop Photography