Tucked away in the rolling hills of a picturesque rural idyll, you might not expect to find one of the country's most progressive and forward-thinking music festivals. Alternatively, you may do. Because Standon Calling is one of the land's best kept secrets, and to call it merely a music festival almost does it a disservice. Immersive theatrical performances abound, and a themed dress up invites you whimsically in. Conversation and impromptu fun flourish in these hidden fields, once a year. In the brief time that Standon Calling has been with us, it has seen a gradual growth to its now 5000 capacity, 3 stages, cinema, literary tent, swimming pool and so on. It has garnered a reputation for pulling in 'once in a lifetime' gigs, and all things cultured towards engendering a particular environment, a shared hallucination that derives it's power from wonder, awe and simply old fashioned knowing how to party.

This year's line up boasts some of most exciting names in global music right now; Battles headline, as do the recently reformed (properly) Lamb. NY groove-addicts Hercules and Love Affair make the journey, slam-poet turned hip-hop flirt Saul Williams, Washed Out, Spiritualised all play- just the tip of a bill that brims with riches, both known and as yet undiscovered.

The 405 recently caught up with Festival Director Graham McAvoy, and was curious to peek behind the veil of this glittering, rather special little music festival.

Afternoon Graham. So as Festival Director, how far does your involvement in the festival run?

GM: Well this year, has changed in terms of what I've done in previous years. As festival director, I oversee all aspects of the festival- I've got a great team that I work with. We work with regards to the pre event, the band booking, promotion and marketing, and then running all the production of the festival itself over the weekend. Unintentionally, I seem to have become involved in all aspects of the festival.

How long have you been involved with the festival? Do you manage to enjoy yourself during the weekend?

GM: I think this must be my fourth year. And yeah, I do enjoy putting on a good festival- I don't really get to see so many of the acts though, it keeps me pretty busy.

The history of the festival has almost become mythical. Has this been a natural progression to the point Standon Calling is at now?

GM: Entirely organic growth really. It started when Alex [Trenchard, the landowner] threw the first party, before I knew him, just as a birthday party. Next year he did the same, but invited everybody into the field behind his garden, and there was a DJ and a bar set up where The Tree Bar is now- that was like the first time they'd ever gone out there! I think year on year, it's just evolved and especially in recent years, begun to get more noticed.

What inspired this year's Gods and Monsters theme?

GM: It's chosen by Alex every year, but focusing on the creative element always- with the Creative Director of the festival and Heritage Arts , the theatre company behind the festival's interactive elements. I think everyone working here has their say, and throws their influence into the festival theme. We had a space theme around the anniversary of the moon landings, a Japanese theme in 2008 after Alex had spent a few months in Japan- and this year? It just seems quite fun, you could approach it from so many different angles, from dressing up to interactive to décor.

What kind of interactive elements do you have in store this year? These have been so impressive in previous years.

GM: Obviously we've got a lot in store for people this year. Without wanting to give too much away, obviously- there's three factions involved: there's lots of stuff involving Gods and Monsters which will go on all weekend, from the moment you arrive on site= but this year, we're planning this momentous moment on Saturday night with a big reveal that incorporates the entire site. So on Friday and Saturday morning we're doing this free drumming class, encouraging people to get involved- and on Saturday night they'll be leading other things in, drumming from everywhere, lots of Gods and Monsters... It'll be really special- I've probably told you more than anyone else!

It's great how so many people get involved with this side of the festival, the taking part and being ridiculous and theatrical. What do you think defines the Standon Calling audience?

GM: Obviously all festival goers are pretty fun loving people, but I think we've got a more open minded audience, some very creative people that appreciate and add to all the elements that we put together, from the theatre to the music. The kind of line ups we put together are always quite cutting edge and there's a definite music appreciation there, but I think there's more than just music. So I think, young, music loving, creative people. A lot of people get involved in their own way, from the fancy dress, to all the other wonderful, inventive things they bring- we've had some incredible inflatables. We've provided a space where people can experiment and express themselves, and have some fun with it. And space is crucial, we've created lots of little nooks where people can explore and discover, and the site isn't at all cramped. Especially as we have families coming, I think you can be pretty confident your kid isn't going to run too far away!

Speaking of the bands, you seem to pick out some cracking acts- I think of a 4 hour spell last year where I saw Fucked Up, Liars and Pantha Du Prince- how do you go about picking the line ups?

GM: Both Alex and Tamsin [McLarty, Festival Booker] have a really good ear for breaking bands, and we've had- last year over half the Mercury nominees had played gigs at SC before they'd broken- we've always got bands in our line up that will soon be 'one of the next big things'- I think people appreciate that, they know there will be quality music everywhere on the site, even if they haven't heard of all of it yet.

What's your personal taste in music?

GM: Haha, oh dear. Well I do like a bit of rock, classic stuff but a bit more indie based as well- the old classics though, Led Zeppelin in particular, also I love Biffy Clyro.

I've got a lot of time for Biffy Clyro, they seem to have stuck it out as a quality mid-level British band. Anyway, where do you think the festival can go from here?

GM: I think the most important thing is to keep delivering a fantastic festival. There's certainly no great plans to break a winning formula, as it were- so just keep improving and developing the creative side of it as well- because small festivals only have so much money and they can't compete with the big ones- you need to provide something different, an alternative – so continuing to develop that with our creative team, and listening to lots of new music to keep a look out for any breaking bands we really like. For me the biggest thing about Standon is the people, you meet people and get chatting, constantly. It's like a house party, where you just sit on the couch or in the kitchen and talk to people. Everyone there is friendly, and that's what makes it what it is.



Standon Calling runs from 11th to the 14th of August. Full weekend tickets cost £120. Full details can be found at: www.standon-calling.com or you can follow the festival's (highly amusing) tweets here: www.twitter.com/standoncalling