This year marks the 10th Anniversary for Standon Calling Festival. Taking place 31st July - 2nd August in Hertfordshire, it's set to be one very special edition. We caught up with the founder and booker of the festival, Alex Trenchard.


How did Standon Calling evolve from a birthday BBQ into what it is today?

By mistake! We never set out to create a festival. Ultimately, Standon was always about getting a group of friends together, initially with our own decks, playing our own music - basically a pool party. That's how it began and we didn't really know what we were doing. Perhaps the only skill we had back then was how to marinate a leg of lamb. Oh, and some really bad mixing skills on the decks. The first year we had about twenty odd friends, and then it sort of grew from that. When the event started to become popular, it wasn't really about live music until some friends of mine who were in a band called 'Do Me Bad Things' and they came and played. We didn't know what we were doing, we didn't know how to build a stage... the stage actually collapsed while they were on stage.

So it wasn't the best start to live music?

No, it wasn't the best start but that was ten years ago. This year I'm really excited, ten years on, we've actually reformed Do Me Bad Things as part of our 10th Anniversary celebrations. I've promised them, and I've promised everyone else, that the stage is going to be intact!

So basically from that then we started to book more bands. I was always passionate about music but never got around to booking it. We started to book a few acts that I liked the sound of and some of them ended up doing really well. People like Florence and the Machine...

What year did she play?

She played in 2008. Then we had Mumford & Sons in 2009. That was really only the beginning and we've developed quite a track record from those days of booking acts before they break. A couple of years ago we had London Grammar, then last year Clean Bandit played at Standon Calling. Really excited this year that that's continuing, particularly with Slaves who just stormed the BBC weekend. It's exciting to have not only a proper band coming back, a bit more punk, but also some other acts that I'm really excited about. There's Ezra Furman, and also Lonelady who I'm also very excited for.

Do you try to maintain a diverse mix of music?

It's always been important to me to try and create almost a journey across the festival. Personally I don't want to go and hear the same music throughout a weekend. There's times when I want to go and listen to a great rock band, but also dance music has its place at Standon Calling. We have a 5am license, we have a nightclub in a converted cowshed that goes until five in the morning. So we've got Sink the Pink in there on Friday, glitter bombing the whole place. On Saturday we have Bondax and then on Sunday, Gilles Peterson. This is really exciting because he started out in about 1987 doing his own shows, and his first 'night' was at Dingwalls called the Sunday sessions. So on Sunday Gilles Peterson & Patrick Forge will do a festival recreation of their iconic Sundays at Dingwalls.

So what do you think the key ingredients are that have kept Standon Calling standing over the years?

It's a country house party that's gone slightly off the rails. It has remained true to that. I'm trying to create something within the unique environment that we have. We have a lawn at the Manor House where we have a stage, but we build an experience around the lawn of the Manor House - bars, croquet. There's this sort of English intimacy within the Manor House area which people enjoy, relax, go swimming. Much like the BBQ party that it once was. At the same time, you kind of want to cut loose. If all that's feeling a bit too English and a bit too croquet, you step out into the fields and rock out to the early hours of the morning. Within a very small site, there's a lot of different aspects on offer that you don't get at other festivals. Plus it's small enough so you don't lose your friends. It's a nice combination of intimacy and party.

Can you tell me a little more about this years theme - 'A Town of Two Faces'?

Well every year we like to have a theme. This year is A Town of Two Faces. It came from a conversation we were having about what it is about Standon Calling that makes Standon? What we realised is during the day it's very intimate, very relaxing, friendly, great atmosphere. Then something happens at night time. Somehow there's like a witching hour and it kind of goes completely crazy. So our theme this year is kind of set in the Wild West, by day it's 'Little House on the Prairie' and by night, it flips on its head.

So do a lot of people get involved and dress up?

Yeah, people dress up loads at Standon and even if you forget your own costume we have workshops there where you can make them, or hire them. The fancy dress competition is very vigorously contested each year!

This year you have The Dandy Warhols as a UK festival exclusive. How did that come about?

This year's the 20th Anniversary of The Dandy Warhols. I'm always amazed by how many of their songs you know when you listen to their music, and how many of their songs still sound current. What I was really looking for, for my Saturday night headliner, was an act that would only play Standon and an act that would give us hit, after hit, after hit. Plus they've also just had a few new releases after being quiet for a few years, so they're very much coming back.

What are some of the hardest things about running a festival?

The whole time you're bringing hundreds of different things together, whether you're creating them or fixing things together. The whole production process, you need to have people who are so focused on the detail. I book the acts and I come up with creative ideas with my team, but if I didn't have that bedrock of really talented focused people, then this festival would never have come into being. We've been really lucky to have had people who have been willing to give everything. I think that's the really important thing, is to have people with the right skills working on the project.

Is there an artist that would be your dream person to have that would be inclusive of what the festival represents?

I think in many ways the closure this year with Basement Jaxx sums it up - great music, a great party and it's for the love of it. It's quite an innocent experience and I'm really happy that they're going to close our 10th Anniversary for that reason. There are other artists that I would love to have but I'm not going to mention them (laughs).

I'm quite looking forward to the dog show on the Sunday. What other weird things will be going on across the weekend?

The dog show is a long established family event, it's actually run by my sister. Every year we get loads of different types of dogs, including also some human entrants. We manage to weed them out most of the time! Another one is binocular football, where you strap a pair of binoculars to your face the wrong way around and then you play football. Distance is somewhat warped. We always get a number of injuries with that but it causes much hilarity. We have diving competitions in the swimming pool. The pool's pretty popular, particularly when you're hungover. There's loads to do aside from the music.

What are you most looking forward to music wise this year?

Music wise I'm really looking forward to Little Dragon, I've been trying to get them for a while. I mentioned Ezra Furman and also Lonelady and Slaves. The Antlers are an act I've wanted to get for years, and Basement Jaxx I've mentioned too. It's going to be really well attended and I can't wait - it's going to be nice to stand on the hill and look down and watch the festival that began ten years ago as a garden party with twenty people, I'll have to sit there and take a moment.

Finishing up, and because it's the 10th Anniversary, is there anything different we can expect in 2015?

Well we're building a full on town in the centre, we're investing more in the creatives this year so that people really feel like they're entering a different world. The layout has also changed a lot this year, same location but different design.


Tickets to Standon Calling 2015 are available here.