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NTU Sustainability in Enterprise

Interview: A Drop in The Ocean Festival

1 June 06

"There won’t be any name bands from out of town this year. We took a conscious decision to make it as all-Notts as possible, because amongst other things, it is a celebration of Nottingham culture."

Drop in the Ocean is the biggest music extravaganza Nottingham has ever seen. Last year it spanned 24 pubs and clubs around the city. This year it’s going to be bigger than ever with 35 venues currently on board.  So what’s the best thing about DITO? Well, it gives Nottingham bands the chance to play out to audiences who can’t always be arsed to get themselves to city-centre pubs for the midweek slots they usually occupy. It also helps raise a serious amount of money for charity (£57,000 last year!). 

It’s a labour of love for all those involved, including the bands, the bar staff and those who simply go along to check it out. We put some questions to the organisers Ste Allan, Ash Dilks and Al Needham about the work they do to make it happen…

Tell us a bit about yourselves as individuals…
Ash: I’d been working in the Marketing Department at New College Nottingham until I realised that I needed to devote more time to this, so I quit. I also dabble in graphic design and I’m not bad with a set of Devil Sticks.
Al: I’m a freelance writer who saw an article about Drop last December on LeftLion.co.uk and flung them an e-mail offering to do a press release. Next thing I knew, I was in the Dealmaker offices every day for the next four weeks.
Ste: I’m an inside informant for a large pharmaceutical company, posing as an activist starting a localized resistance movement against the global power coup of multinational corporations merging with the government.

How does the workload break down between you?
Ash: Well it’s not just the three of us for a start. We rely on a load of other people to make the festival happen. Personally I have been dealing with the business side of things. I also liaise with the Family Care Foundation charity, the council, event sponsors, advertisers and other supporters.
Al: Ste spends his entire life chasing up bands and venues, Ash lives in the Council House doing organising things and I write about what they’ve done and nag other media types to big us up.
Ste: I run around town with a Blackberry attached to my head, Ash wears a suit a lot, uses big words when he’s on the phone and is often flossing a fresh word document. Al talks. A lot.

Who else is involved?
Ash: How long have you got? In a nutshell, everyone. The whole Nottingham scene. It’s like living in a massive village in terms of everyone knows everyone. We just tap into what’s already there and get them all together to put on a big music festival.
Al: Steve Pinnock, one of the original devisers, has stepped back a little but sorted us out a load of eclectic artists. Charlotte Kingsbury has joined us to give us a bit of administrative backbone, which is a godsend. But really, thousands of people involved like bands, volunteers and venue staff are more important than us on the day. If they didn’t give up their time and skills for us, we’d be up Arsehole Street.
Ste: Nottingham!

What do you think it was that made last year’s festival such a cool event?
Ste: No mardy drunks. Everyone was happy drunks!
Ash: It was a festival that everyone could enjoy, the atmosphere across the city reflected this and our police record for the day was immaculate with not an ounce of trouble. Funny how that didn’t make the papers though.
Al: Everybody won. Bands got exposure to new audiences, punters had a magnificent doss on a mingy Sunday afternoon, venues got rammed out on the deadest weekend of the year and we raised a packet for tsunami relief. You could actually see people thinking “Fucking hell…we’ve got a bit of a scene here.” I only saw about three bands that day, I spent all morning with a fag and a pint on mithering about what would happen if you put on a festival and no-one turned up. The rest of the day was spent walking into a venue, seeing it was rammed out and jumping up and down.

You raised £57,000 last year. What did you spend the money on?
Ste: An orphanage.
Ash: It was predominantly for children who became orphans after the Tsunami, but also including kids that would otherwise not be able to appreciate an education.
Al: We didn’t want to bung it over to a big charity, where it’d rest in a safe for ages. We decided that seeing as Nottingham has put itself out for us, we had to do the right thing and build something that would be a gift from Notts.

What have you got lined up for this year’s event?
Ash: There’s a 24-hour DJ marathon, fleets of canal boats going down the Trent, hog roasts, Afghan percussion collectives, renditions from West Side Story, live webcasts from a number of venues and more!
Al: Drop ’06 will make the original look like your nana’s anniversary do at Top Valley Social Club. There won’t be any name bands from out of town this year. We took a conscious decision to make it as all-Notts as possible, because amongst other things, it is a celebration of Nottingham culture. Although we want to raise as much cash as possible, we’re aware that the knee-jerk reaction to a tsunami isn’t going to be there. The major goal is to nail it firmly to the Notts calendar and build on it year after year.
Ste: Lots and lots and lots and lots of really good live music.

How do you decide which band plays at which venue?
Ste: Jim Morrison came to me in a dream….

Who are your personal favourite bands in Nottingham?
Ash: I like anyone with a good name like You Slut!, Chimp Biscuit, Beat My Guest, Fat Lady Singh and Gunfight at Argos.
Al: Karizma is absolute skill. Left of the Dealer, Lost Project and the Hellsets keep getting better and better. But Majik are my personal faves. Although having said that, I’ve just realised that I’ve seen Stav’s nipples more than anyone else’s over the past three years, which is particularly depressing.
Ste: Lost Project, Karizma, Kids in Tracksuits, Special Whity, Non-Thesp, Blu Monkey, The Sicarios and Foz. Aside from them I'm well into Hellset. I saw them at the LeftLion New Years party and they we’re sick! Old Basford and Mas y Mas and Vaccine.

Has it been more or less difficult to organise the festival this year?
Ash: Without wanting to sound to vague, yes and no.
Al: Not harder or easier, just different. We knew when we started this year’s Drop we wouldn’t get the massive outpouring of help we got last time. But virtually all the venues involved last year were well up for it. We got deluged with bands, and the Council, GNEP and the transport bodies have been totally understanding of what we’re doing.
Ste: It‘s been a lot more difficult in some respects, but that’s because this year we’re also cementing the foundations for an annual music festival for Nottingham that has the potential to grow into a full-on carnival. In the future, this can be for music what the Edinburgh Festival is for theatre.

Anything else to say to LeftLion readers?
Ash: Come to the festival innit?
Al: If you don’t come out and represent Notts on the 11th, we’re going to pull your pants down in the street and laugh at you.
Ste: Increase the peace to decrease the police.

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