The rising star of the UK dance festival scene, We Are FSTVL has had a breakneck three years since debuting in 2013.
In no time at all they've swept up Best New Festival (2013 UK Festival Awards), Best Medium-Sized Festival (2014 UK Festival Awards), Best International Festival (2015 DJ Awards) and Best Dance Festival (2015 DJ Mag). We caught up with Bojan Ambrus from the festival team to find out how they've done it.
How did We Are FSTVL get started?
We started off as a one-day festival with just over 25,000 fans – now we’ve grown into two days, and we’re expecting to have 60,000 fans over this May Bank Holiday weekend.
We’ve always been dance music fans, going to festivals and enjoying the festival lifestyle. We just wanted to replicate that, with a slight change: making the fan experience the number 1, rather than the music itself. So making sure the production as well as the music was a focal point for the fans.
We've made it our primary focus to listen to our fans and understand what they like, what they don’t like, where improvements need to be made. And then we do our best to make sure we act on that advice, rather than just thinking “we know best, we’re going to do what we want to do.”
What do you think are the best bits of the We Are FSTVL fan experience?
It’s all about providing something new for all your senses – a visual and immersive experience. So we have teams on site to help make sure it's a really special day. We spend a lot of time trying to come up with something new for our design and production concept: we’ve actually just revealed our Main Stage design this week, which is a lot bigger, a lot better, a lot more special effects, and we've also got bigger screens to keep everyone involved.
It always seems like the stage design and colour scheme is a big part of the festival's feel.
Yeah we’re a very colourful brand, we don’t shy away from being loud, vibrant, energetic. These are all things we want to bring to the festival. A lot of new festivals are trying to be very dark, and we want to be quite the opposite. Some people might perceive it as being childish, but we just want to make sure there’s a lot of colour and a lot of fun involved!
And of course the lineups are always pretty impressive…
Yeah, we're really proud that we've been able to bring some huge names to the festival, and not just once but some have come back three or four times, just because they know that they’re going to get a great atmosphere and experience a unique festival alongside the fans. They know they’re going to have a good time.
Is diversity something you specifically aim for?
Absolutely, we want to make sure we cater for all dance music fans and not just one genre. We actually have two techno warehouses this year, and we’ve increased the size of our site at the Airfield of Dreams to make that possible, so it’s going to be massive. A lot of fans are coming just for that.
We also start at 10am and run up until midnight, so that’s 14 hours of non-stop dance music throughout the day. Our tickets aren’t the cheapest, but we have a huge lineup and we want to make sure that people get great value for money.
Do people actually come at 10am?
Yeah, they do! And we’ve got some surprises lined up for people who make it at 10am, though I can’t divulge that information just yet! But there will be additional artists playing as soon as the gates are open, so that the hardcore fans get something truly special out of the experience.
So what's the site going to look like this year?
The Ancient Realm will be where the main stage is, and it’ll be very Aztec in theme. Then there will be the Warehouse District, where we’ll have the two techno arenas; the Favela Fiesta Zone, the Disco Tropics VIP area, and then the Island Hideaway where we’re going to add a lake and trees and make it feel like a real island!
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