It doesn’t take long to figure out Paul Fletcher, AKA Fletch, has seen a few things in his time. Manager at the Haçienda, that decade-spanning punk, indie, New Wave, Madchester, house and acid house institution which recently announced a huge collaboration with The Warehouse Project at Mayfield Depot, he also lays claim to four years at the helm of sorely-missed Mancunian clubbing Mecca, Sankeys — once considered among the finest nightlife destinations in the UK.
Today, though, he’s not speaking to us about either of those jobs, much as both have no-doubt afforded him a bounty of tales to regale. Instead, we’ve called him just ahead of the 2022 edition of Moovin Festival. Set in Whitebottom Farm, nestled within Etherow Country Park, Stockport, the event has firmly established itself as one of the region’s prime daytime summer parties, drafting the great and good from a broad musical spectrum, with electronic beats a unifying theme.
“Our main stage is a converted cow barn. The whole thing is a cow farm, hence the name,” says Fletch. “It started as a party just in that barn. I do all the management for the Haçienda, one of our regular artists, Herbie Saccani, I was working Sankeys at the time – I owned it for four years — but had a weekend off and he said come down to this party… So I did, and it was a party in a barn for about 800 people.
“It just had a really good vibe to it. I was like: ‘this is really something special’, the site is so beautiful. Herbie was like: ‘do you want to get involved in it’. That was 2015, after that I came on board,” he continues. “It has grown organically since really.”
Fletch points out that fabled first experience down on the farm was very much a DJ-focused event, but things have developed since he came on board. Attendees this year can expect more non-musical performers and performances, for example fire shows, and there’s a growing representation of live bands.
“There’s no real science behind it. We just sort of book things that were exciting me. One aspect of looking past dance music was the price of DJs. I mean, it’s fucking ridiculous. And the competition in dance music events is crazy. This approach has worked out really well and attracted a really nice crowd,” Fletch says.
“After the pandemic, when it all started up, if you put an event on you were basically printing money. People were so keen to get back on it. Since then it’s changed. I’ve looked quite deeply into this, and there are so many outdoor events classed as festivals but really you’re talking about a stage in a field, often run by people who were never promoters — they just saw the opportunity,” he continues.
The result, as anyone into festivals, and particularly electronic events, is a heavily saturated market and unpredictable demand. Dance music tastemaker website and ticketing behemoth RA reported in May a 66% increase in the number of DJ-focused festivals in 2022 compared with 2019, while the number of people buying passes close to the event — within 30 days — had also risen significantly.
The result is a nerve-wracking position for those putting money, time, and energy into the cause. One possible answer is finding a committed audience of returning party people. And the only way to achieve that is by creating experiences catered towards them, meaning plenty of intricacies and truly memorable elements.
“We always get regulars coming back year-on-year and it’s really nice. We had our first ‘Moovin baby’ last summer. Which was amazing. A couple met at the festival and then had a kid. It’s only like 5000 capacity, so it’s an intimate affair, and many people we know have made friends there and continue to be friends with those people. It’s just a really cool, friendly festival, half the time I wish I wasn’t working as I’d like to get more involved with people,” Fletch says of how Stockport’s finest established its loyal following.
“We have a décor team who have been on board since day one, and put a lot of care and attention into the look, the stages, the little details,” he continues of exactly why people are drawn back. “There’s a lot of attention to detail in the site, we always get lots of compliments about how things look. Production has gone up this year, too… and the soundystems have been upgraded. And we have the most amazing crew that pull it all together.”
That’s hardly surprising given who’s top billed. Orbital headline Saturday in that Barn: one of the most visceral live electronic outfits on the planet. We asked Fletch for more highlights, and he’s quick to point out King Of The Beats — better known as breakbeat legends Krafty Kuts, The Freestylers, and Plump DJs b2b2b. Then there’s also turntablist hero Jazzy Jeff.
“To be honest everyone we book is amazing, so if you’re asking me who to look out for it’s everyone,” Fletch adds as our conversation comes to an end, reiterating the fact that, as with any great festival, it’s about your own individual adventures on-site, which is why the thought going into creating those situations for us is so crucial.
Moovin Festival runs Friday 26th – Sunday 28th August 2022 at Whitebottom Farm, Etherow Country Park, Stockport. Advance day and weekend tickets are available.