An interview with Matthew Boycott-Garnett as A Carefully Planned Festival returns to Manchester’s Northern Quarter for its fifth year

A Carefully Planned Festival, now entering its fifth year

A Carefully Planned Festival, now entering its fifth year

The year is 2012, the month October and the location Manchester’s vibrant Northern Quarter. Upstairs at Gulliver’s, a crowded room stare in disbelief at the stage, on which three men known as Alpha Male Tea Party are causing a real math-rock ruckus. Everyone in the room is losing their shit at what they’re hearing, yours truly included. A set packed with incredible songs, each one greeted with enthusiastic applause from the swelling crowd. As soon as they’re finished, the room rapidly clears. People dart to locations all over the Northern Quarter, clash finders in hand, hoping to squeeze into yet another packed room and possibly uncover a new musical gem.

That historic moment was all thanks to the folk behind A Carefully Planned Festival, with that weekend in particular being part of ACPF#2 – a wonderful weekend of too many good bands and too many beers. Looking back on it now, the line-up over that weekend was insane. Packing out venues across the Northern Quarter were the likes of This Town Needs Guns, Tall Ships, Brontide, Shapes, &U&I, Cleft, Dad Rocks!, Wot Gorilla?, Delta Sleep, Vasco Da Gama, Bad Grammar, Bearfoot Beware, Ninetails, Quadrilles, Axes and even a band called Lynx Africa!

A Carefully Planned Festival has become a yearly tradition and a staple of the social calendar. With acts of all shapes and sizes, it tries to cater to all tastes and usually ends up doing so in spades. Each and every year it’s always a blast, with popular watering holes up and down the Northern Quarter full of music fans from across the land.

In tremendous news, A Carefully Planned Festival will return to the Northern Quarter this October for its fifth year. The wonderful weekender will be gracing its usual haunts, with bands appearing at Gulliver’s, The Castle, Soup Kitchen, Mint Lounge, Night and Day Café and two further venues still to be announced. As well as that, those top lads in Big Scary Monsters and Alcopop! Records will be venturing North to curate their own stage!
As for the bands, take a little peek at the poster below for those announced so far (with more to be announced over the coming months!):

A Carefully Planned Festival #5

A Carefully Planned Festival #5

Thanks to the line-up announcement this morning, excitement has already started to build for this year’s ACPF and early-bird tickets are already being swept up.
The one man who is probably most excited about the announcement is festival organiser Matthew Boycott-Garnett, who very kindly answered some questions on the upcoming weekender.

BCFB: This year sees A Carefully Planned Festival celebrate its fifth Birthday. What sort of things have you got in store for this momentous occasion
Matthew: Yeah! Five years! Crazy; I don’t quite feel like we deserve to celebrate a milestone yet though. I still feel like we’re quite a young festival. There seems to be a lot of people approaching organising their festivals with a sort of ‘grow or die’ kind of attitude. Things have certainly developed for us over the years, but it’s not perfect as it is and so I don’t feel like we need to move on to the next level yet. I feel like that’s what getting to a milestone ought to be. When we truly feel like we’ve achieved what we set out to achieve and we feel it’s sustainable, that’s when it’ll be time to celebrate. I reckon maybe ACPF#10 would be an appropriate time for something particularly special. Until then, we’re just focussing on putting on another great weekend much like the previous events.

How does it feel to have this much-lauded weekender now reaching its fifth year?
I’m glad we’re doing another one. I think I said in an interview like this last year that it’s never guaranteed that we’ll keep going. ACPF#3 was destined not to happen for a while and it took a big U-turn from me before we made the decision to go again that year. Last year happened much more naturally/smoothly but it’s always something we think about before powering on and I know something must be going right as here I am announcing ACPF#5!

From this year’s line-up, who are you most excited about putting on?
I’m still putting the line-up together at the moment, but of the bands we’ve announced today, I’m probably most proud of having In Gowan Ring on the bill. He was previously based in Portland, Oregon but is now living in Leipzig and is coming over, perhaps with a band, just to play our festival (at the moment – maybe he’ll plan some other shows over the next few months). I’ve been aware of IGR and Birch Book for probably 12/13 years and he’s an incredibly interesting/mysterious guy. As far as I’m aware, he regularly plays instruments he’s made himself. His music is often sort of medieval-sounding and always distinctly ethereal.

More recent discoveries that I’m particularly excited about are The Great Albatross and Speak Galactic and it’s also nice to have some faves who’ve played CP events before back again. Most notably, Gaunt Story, Baby Brave, Chuman and Napoleon IIIrd. Just had another look at the line-up and there’s loads more I want to mention now too. I best keep it at that though.

The running of the ACPF weekend always seems to go pretty smooth on the surface. What’s the situation like behind the scenes over the two days?
You know what, the last two festivals were SO different for me. I felt so busy the whole time at ACPF#3 and I really did struggle to find enough time to enjoy myself. Obviously there were some wonderful moments, and the impression I get is, as you say, that on the surface, things appeared to run pretty smoothly – but I felt completely snowed-under the whole weekend and ended up drinking far too fast to try and escape some of the stress! Last year, I had an amazing time and I think that was due to the reaction to how things felt at ACPF#3. One of the most valuable things about our approach to CP, as a team, is how we recognise when we need to persevere with something and when we need to learn from mistakes. Mike, Adam and Nick who’ve all been involved since ACPF#2 have helped to establish and maintain that collective mentality and the understanding and confidence that we’re doing what we’re doing for the right reasons. As such, it’s not the end of the world if we disagree or we don’t always stick exactly the plans, because eventually we’re all pulling in the same direction and when that’s the case, being part of a team is great. Admittedly, ahead of the festival last year I started doing a lot more of the preparation myself, and this year, the core team has pretty much been myself, Mike and Jess, but the roots and the trajectory and the objectives are the same and as long as that’s the case, whether it’s hard work or a load of fun, I’m glad and proud to be involved.

Casting your mind back to the very first ACPF, how much has changed in the running of the festival between then and now?
Very basically, we just have more people now. The first one, if I remember correctly, we had a bunch of people doing the doors, and me and Mike just did everything else. Or at least I did until I got too drunk, then I just got in the way and Mike did everything. Last year, we had somewhere between 70 and 80 volunteers including the core team, and we’ve gradually figured out the best way to manage people’s time/responsibilities. Eventually, everything didn’t feel quite so hectic last year, and I’m hoping the same will be true of this year too. Anybody who has volunteered is amazing, by the way,

Did you ever have a game plan going into ACPF?
I have always loved festivals and I’ve always loved putting gigs on, so I think that I would end up being involved in organising something like CP Festival was inevitable really. I definitely don’t recall ever thinking “Right, I’m going to organise a multi-venue, two-day festival in the Northern Quarter and it’s going to be THIS, THIS and THIS”, I just did what I wanted to and did what I could and it ended up this way.

Mention of the festival always brings back memories of Kraak Gallery and Gullivers for me – Have you got a favourite NQ venue or somewhere new this year you’re looking forward to showcase?
We do have a couple things up our sleeve with regard to the TBA venues this year, but they’re top secret. I think my fave CP venue is The Castle. Her Parents playing in there in 2012 was mental! And, of course, that’s where CP in the Northern Quarter started, back in 2010 (I think!).

Over the years you’ve put on some tremendous bands, &U&I being a massive highlight for me, as well as discovering Alpha Male Tea Party and Cleft. Who have been some of your favourite names to play ACPF over the years?
Maaaan that is a tough one. It’s hard to know where to start really. Having Alasdair Roberts play at ACPF#2 was a particularly proud moment as a festival organiser since he’s been one of my favourite musicians for many years. In terms of my favourite performances at CP though, hmmm. I don’t know which to single out! I think my favourite acts each year have been The Middle Ones, Ajimal, Richard Dawson and Shana Tova. Also, my memory of it is a little blurry, but Human Pyramids at Soup Kitchen was probably one of the best things that has ever happened!

For someone who’s not been to ACPF before (Not me, mind – I think I’ve been to most of ’em…) how would you sum it up for them?
Without trying to make it sound too much like another bloody advert, it’s a load of really sound people, watching a load of really good bands, in a load of decent spaces, in one of the coolest parts of one of the best cities in the world.

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