For a decade, Kris Graham-Martin has been tirelessly bringing some of the brightest rock and metal acts together for an annual festival in support of Macmillan Cancer Support. 2019 is Macmillan Fest's swansong, so we caught up with Kris to find out about this incredible event's beginnings and endings...
Congratulations on an entire decade of fundraising and fantastic music promotion for Nottingham - that's an incredible feat. For people who don't know your story, can you please sketch out the events which inspired you to begin this journey?
When I was 16, my form tutor was diagnosed with a brain tumour. I heard Macmillan Cancer Support helped him through his journey and I wanted to do something as a thank you. I held a small fundraiser at the old Junction 7 (now student flats) in 2009 with just three bands and raised around £400. From 2010 onwards, I decided to carry on with the events under the name of Macmillan Fest. We started at The Central in 2010 (now the Karaoke bar on Huntingdon Street) and moved to our current homes of Rescue Rooms and its surrounding venues in 2011. Each year, I ended up meeting so many incredible people with stories about themselves or their family and it fed the desire to carry on doing this for a whole bunch of people who have been supported by Macmillan Cancer Support.
How did the Bristol connection happen? Will this be the last Macmillan Fest there too?
A friend of mine called Bonita, who use to work for DHP Family, suggested it'd be a great idea and to follow in the vein of what was at the time Hit The Deck Festival. I did so knowing that the music scene down there was incredible (it still is!) and it helped us spread the message of what Macmillan do and allowed a whole other group of people an outlet in which they could show their appreciation for the charity. Sadly this will also be its last year, but will end on a five year anniversary.
What has been your absolute highlight of the past ten years of the festival?
I don't think I could pick one, there are so many memories attached to these events now. Shaving my head and removing my extremely long locks of hair in Nottingham at the age of eighteen, which had been with me since the age of twelve or thirteen to a crowd of people and the clippers breaking halfway through – that is one highlight. Having the almighty Tesseract headlining our festival in 2013 was a huge turning point in knowing we could make a real nationally competitive festival out of the event. In 2015, I ran both events for the first time and as a way of raising awareness I cycled from Nottingham to Bristol with four friends to open up the festival; that hurt the morning after! 2016 was the largest event we had ever dared to put on in Nottingham, and we managed to execute it perfectly. Watching our artists perform on the Rock City main stage was something I didn't think I'd see, either. In 2018 we saw a record-breaking attendance for the event, and seeing every stage completely filled was an awesome yet humbling feeling. Every raffle, leg wax, body wax (yes everywhere), head shave and ice bucket challenge. They've all be incredibly memorable.
You've been quoted as saying that the festival has turned into a "beautiful monster." Please elucidate.
I do a lot towards the festival. In the last few years I've had a lot more help with the admin as the event has grown, but I do a good 80-90% of the work. Although the work has been worth it and the time and effort has seen it transform into one of Nottingham's and the UK's most vibrant alternative festivals, it's also not possible to sustain as an event. Especially as myself and the incredible people who have helped make the event work for so long both before the event and on the day have bigger work and life commitments. It's just not sustainable and has unfortunately became a "monster", albeit a beautiful one.
Will IKE Productions continue as they are at the moment? Do you intend to extend the remit once this Macmillan Fest has happened?
IKE Productions will be carrying on as normal and I intend to bring in a couple more bite-sized projects which will still contribute to Nottingham's vibrant music scene.
You're still very young; what are you most proud of in your work and what would be your greatest aspiration?
I take a lot of pride in being able to support a huge host of artists across both Nottingham and around the globe, knowing that my events and festivals have helped in one way shape or form towards their careers. I'd love to be able to work full time on my own festival in the future, and running my own venue. So I've got plans and plenty of time to make it work and I'm quite confident it will in the future.
Macmillan Fest will take place on Saturday 7 September at Rescue Rooms.
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