New festivals happen every year. New ideas, or new ways of doing things, are more scarce. One festival debutant that caught our attention is the appropriately named Sea Change in the South Devon town of Totnes. Run by the award-winning Drift Record Shop, this event doesn't easily fall into the familiar categories: it's not a series of headliner concerts in the park or an alcohol-fuelled student mob multi-venue carnage, a family-friendly themed boutique experience or a green field party for those who don't mind music.

Instead of us telling you about how amazing it's going to be, we spoke to Rupert Morrison, owner of Drift Record Shop and instigator of Sea Change, about his experiences of being a first time festival promoter, his Sea Change ambitions and why honesty may, after all, be the best policy.

You're involved in one of the highest risk businesses imaginable, what made you decide to stage a festival?

We're a record shop so we'd always put on events to get people through the door. We had shows that we were really proud of: all those really interesting people like Hiss Golden Messenger, Steve Gunn, Date Palms, William Tyler. And we struggled. We were working really hard and were getting 20 - 30 people. It was almost embarrassing. Then we put on a night with Ninja Tune and suddenly it just clicked. We could have sold the venue three times over. It was clearly something to do with visibility, that next step up.

With Sea Change we wanted to do something that everybody would be talking about; something completely unavoidable with a really big scope. I'm hoping to make sure that in the future we book smaller bands and work on developing talent under the banner of Sea Change. You know, get people to come out to hundred capacity venues to see emerging talent.

Did you have any festival inspirations, events that you modelled Sea Change on?

It sounds bonkers because of the size of it but I've always been amazed by SXSW. I've been there many times - with a band, as a tour manager, coordinating artists, as press - but the best stuff is always things you find on side streets. As a city, the way that Austin has embraced it and developed it into this remarkable thing! It had Barak Obama speaking this year! Surely, the biggest keynote speaker you could get, right? Maybe the Dalai Lama, but it's a very short list above Barak Obama, I think. And when it comes to their record shops, those guys put on the best music.

We're proud of and committed to where we live. I wanted to make sure that part of the legacy of Sea Change is that Totnes feels like a place where everybody is pulling together. I'm conscious not to say that there is no scene in Totnes but it's fragmented. Nobody was working together. I was very conscious to act like an umbrella for people as opposed to just turning up and going over the top of them. We're already getting some really heartwarming things. I'm feeling people are going to embrace Sea Change for the right reasons.

How many people are involved in this venture?

Matthew, who works at the shop, has a band called Matthew and Me, who are playing at Sea Change. There's him, his partner Lucy and me. We're the core three. Both my parents are partners in the record shop as a business, and there are all sorts of people in the area who've been completely invaluable.

Are you or any of your team experienced promoters or event managers?

I used to work for an Arts Council company called British Underground, so in terms of touring I've taken artists all over the world. In terms of venue management, Matthew and Lucy have both run venues up and down the country. All of us play, or have played, in bands so we're trying to make sure everybody gets looked after and the equipment is really good. It's a funny little place to come to and hopefully everyone will feel validated in taking a leap of faith in us.

Would you describe Sea Change as a DIY event?

Yeah, I think so. I'd worry if any of the bands read this and felt like we didn't know what we were doing. We've all been involved in festivals. Matt and Lucy have been coordinating all sorts of stuff at Glastonbury. We've looked at festivals like Secret Garden Party, Latitude, Green Man. We work very closely with Caught By The River, the literary side of Heavenly Recordings. Matthew and Lucy ran the Caught by The River stage at Port Eliot, so we have lots of collective experience.

Many small venue owners and gig promoters often say that festivals adversely affect their businesses. For instance, the argument that audiences spend all their gig money on festival tickets because they see them as better value. Where do you stand on this?

Festival organisers are a good community: everybody talks, everybody tries to help each other. I'm very good friends with Ben (Coleman) at Green Man. If they could help us they'd do it. However, I am slightly concerned that people will come to the festival and then won't go to any other show for a month either side of it. It's a bit like the Record Store Day. People only buy records on Record Store Day. To be honest, we are working closely with local venues. I hope they're using the festival as a big launchpad for the autumn. For many small festival promoters working with booking agents often presents the biggest challenge.

Looking at your line up it's clear that many of your acts have agents. How did you manage to navigate the pitfalls of being forced to book acts you didn't want in order to have the ones you wanted?

As a record shop we have very good relationship with the artists, the bands, the managers and the labels, so in terms of working with them there's been a lot of direct contact. For instance, with British Sea Power, we asked them directly before it went to an agent. We had an indication that it was something on their radar and something they were interested in. Most of them understand what's going on. They understand we don't have money, that we have to be super careful. It's their responsibility to book band A. If they suggest bands B and C and we're into them - we'll do it. I try to just be very honest and very polite but at times I had to explain it to them: "Do you think that would work with what we're doing?" Behind closed doors they said: "No, we totally understand. Those bands just happen to have a date free. Just seeing if it works." I think it's OK so long as you're going to treat artists as artists and dignified adults. Anybody looking to work with booking agents must understand that their job is getting their bands to play somewhere. I think it's got to be down to the artist level. If they want to do it, then it's about acting as a liaison and a logistics manager. We've tried to be really honest and I think it's worked to our credit so far.

When did you start booking artists?

Last August I decided that I was going to do it and we wanted to announce our intentions. We had to make sure that Sea Power were interested because that was the band we wanted. As soon as those guys were on, we were able to announce. Then other bookings happened all very quickly. A lot of people we'd known about for months but we couldn't say anything. Ultimate Painting are very good friends. James and I have the same birthday. We've been friends since we were about eight, or even younger. They were desperate to do the show but had a series of American dates. We didn't know if it was going to 100% work out, so we couldn't formally announce up until about April of this year.

Did you have a booking policy of any kind?

I think we were trying to replicate what we do with the record shop. It's about our ability to follow our ears on something we're really into and championing bands who're not necessarily going be in the top 10 Guardian records of the year.

We wanted to follow something we're really into: whether it's bands like British Sea Power and Toy, who will have heard of; or developing artists like Guy Andrews, who is one of the artists we're particularly proud of; or Teeth of the Sea; or Richard Dawson. Please have faith in us. We're only interested in booking bands who'd just utterly blown us away. Whatever you think is going to be your favourite band, the chances are it's going be your fourth or fifth favourite because you're going to get blown away by this mad-eyed, crazy new bluesman or this late night audio-visual fall-to-the-floor house.

How many venues or stages have you got?

The big, 500 capacity venue is called the Civic Hall. It's on the High Street and historically it was a touring venue that had bands like The Cure and maybe even Blondie. And it's just fallen dormant. Now you have a bric-a-brac market on Friday mornings and the Women's Institute. Nothing against the WI but it's become a place where nothing of any significant note ever happens. Maybe once a year they'll have a charity disco. Symbolically, the Civic Hall had to be the first one for us to get people to believe in what we were doing. Directly across the road we have a beautiful St Mary's Church. We tried to book artists who'd be able to use that space in a very natural way. We have The Barrel House, a stunning venue with a gold leaf ceiling and chandeliers. Then there's the South Devon Arts Centre, which is acting very much like our Saturday dive bar. Electronic artists can play really loud and really late down there and it's not going to upset anybody. That's our core areas. We were going to be working with a newly renovated cinema housed in a beautiful Victorian theatre but unfortunately,they just couldn't get it together in time. We'll keep supporting them and hopefully next time round we'll be able to do stuff together.

There are all sorts of fringe events and lots of award-winning micro breweries. There is a very good bookshop where we'll be doing book readings. We've got a big open space/gallery called Birdwood House which will be hosting all our panel talks. A pub with a beer festival running across the weekend, a time travellers' museum... all sorts of things. For anybody feeling a little bit more ambitious - particularly at the start and the end of the festival - we have the most amazing natural beaches and the moors are kind of on our doorstep. There is a huge amount to investigate.

Speaking of panel talks and films, can you give us an overview of your programme?

We've got a couple of premieres. There'll be really interesting arts films: some films produced by the Quietus and some produced by Caught By the River. In terms of speakers, Jude Rodgers will be talking about her book. Richard King is discussing his book. John Robb is going to come and talk with John Doran from The Quietus. Laura Snapes from Pitchfork will be talking about fanzines and magazine culture. James Endeacott, a really wild character, will be joining us. The Heavenly guys got in contact last week asking whether they could bring their boxes of records - and out of nowhere, we now have Heavenly Jukebox playing! The guys from Melodic records and Erased Tapes are playing. We're tying not to over-promise and under-deliver but there's going to be more interesting things that you can possibly imagine.

Larger field events have the options of things like coach deals, car parking, official merchandise, programmes, lockers, VIP deals, brand rights, glamping. Monetising people on site seems to be their mantra. How are you funding Sea Change?

Well, we do have some backup funding but the festival is almost entirely based on tickets. If the required number of people come, then everything should work fine. We're down to just over 200 tickets now, so I'm pretty confident that we're going to be OK. Anyone intending on coming, buy your tickets soon because it'll end up selling out.

With different revenue streams I'm never going to say "We won't do that, we're different" because I'm sure that a couple of years down the line we'll have some screen prints and other things. Even this year we've got three different local breweries making us official beer.

So what's your capacity? Are you looking to increase capacity in the future?

We can go more but we've deliberately capped tickets at 1000 because it means that everybody will be able to see what they want. With our core venues you will be able to walk from one band into another. It'll take you three or four minutes to get into different venues. At Glastonbury, when Band X play at the same time as Band Y, it takes you an hour and half to get from one stage to another. We're expecting people to use their wristbands to experience everything. Yorkston Thorne Khan will predominantly be playing at the same time as Toy but you will be able to see both! You will be able to walk across the road, get in and out of different venues and see everyone. In terms of forthcoming years, we can look at raising the capacity which will raise the revenue, but for this year we've kept it at 1000.

What has been the most challenging aspect of the whole experience?

It's probably a negative thing to say but we've had polar opposite responses from the council: certain areas have been hugely supportive and certain parties have been incredibly damaging to what we're trying to do. We had a situation where they just looked at what we're doing on the surface level, without even reading what we'd provided as additional information. They whacked up the required security but the security company have been amazing. They knew there was a limit on what we could pay them and they made it happen for that amount of money.

There was a point where the council changed the goalposts and almost made it look unworkable. For instance, we had this ridiculous situation with safety requirements and ensuring that people were safe walking between the venues. Totnes is a small town with one main road, the High Street. To deal with safety concerns, we suggested closing the street down for the two festival days. The person who coordinates the market said that that wouldn't work. We went through all their process, offered them access and extra staff to coordinate street markets, started booking things to make all of this happen... Then the Chamber of Commerce didn't want that and we ended up scaling right back to where we began. So it was "All right, we won't have a road closure then."

What you're saying seems to imply that this is a long-term project. What are you hoping to achieve with this year's event?

We want to inspire Totnes. It's never going to be a huge cash-spinner for us. We're doing this because we care about it. We want everybody who comes here to want to come again next year. We genuinely want people to experience this very pretty place we live in, to have a really good time and to tell all their friends about it. We want word to get round.

But most of all, I'd like to be in a situation when we come out of it having made friends, not made any enemies, and we're amped up and ready to go for 2017.

We're trying to convey that we're doing this with a huge amount of honesty. I hope this doesn't happen but I'm sure things will go wrong. I'm sure people will turn up late, or get lost. I'm sure it's going to be way too loud. I'm sure we're going to have some serious trouble ever doing it again; but, like Matt said a while ago, it's like we're planning a massive wedding reception and want to make sure that everyone has a good time.

There are some festivals that keep telling me constantly that everything they do is different and everything you experience there is different. I don't believe any of that anymore, to be honest. We're not saying that what we do is different. It's just we set about it in a way that we want to proceed. We've been very upfront about it all. Hopefully people can make their own minds about it, without being told that something is unique or different, or a once in a lifetime experience.

On the subject of other festivals, what's your opinion on the current UK festival scene?

I don't know. It's always going to be horses for courses. But some of the biggest and best known festivals certainly don't feel special. Some are very grown up, sensible fun events but they don't feel like a music person's thing. I think there's definitely a divide between people who go to a festival, take a wheelbarrow full of beer, have a good time, see some festival bands they've never heard of and are never likely to see play again. And then there are people who want to go and see artists performing in interesting places. I'm blowing my our own trumpet here but I don't think you'll see British Sea Power play a headliner in a building as unique as the Civic Hall this year. And the experience of seeing Yorkston Thorne Khan playing in a beautifully-lit church, then seeing Jane Shelley and Nathan Salzberg. Nathan isn't playing any solo shows anywhere else.

There are events like Green Man and TUSK who do things really well. Historically ATP were really, really important to me. I still get a buzz when I see those letters and I think about the bands that had played there. It's fallen foul but it left quite a big void. If people are able to pick up that mantel in the true ATP spirit, that would be a really exciting thing.

Sea Change is taking place in Totnes, Devon, 26th - 27th August 2016. For tickets and more line up information, head here