Y Not Festival - stronger than ever after 10 years

Fireworks help Basement Jaxx reach the climax of their set Photo: Ross Silcocks

Fireworks help Basement Jaxx reach the climax of their set Photo: Ross Silcocks - Credit: Archant

Exploring the history of Derbyshire’s biggest music festival

Basement Jaxx take to the stage on the Saturday night Photo: Ross Silcocks

Basement Jaxx take to the stage on the Saturday night Photo: Ross Silcocks - Credit: Archant

Back in 2006 Ralph Broadbent and his friends were in the sixth form at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Ashbourne. As A-levels were nearing an end and the summer holidays loomed, Ralph was planning a party to celebrate. His parents were going on holiday for four weeks and he thought that it would be a good opportunity to invite a few people round to celebrate finishing school. When circumstances caused his parents to cancel their holiday he was, he recounts ‘faced with a nightmare situation – I couldn’t have everyone over because I hadn’t told mum and dad but nor did I want to cancel.’ Luckily a solution was found – ‘We all chipped in £3 and hired a quarry down the road. We had a private party for two days with friends who were in bands providing the music... and so Y Not was born.’

This year over the weekend 30th July to 2nd August, 15,000 music lovers descended on a tiny village in Derbyshire. Pikehall is normally home to around 100 people but for the last few years has seen its population rise dramatically for just a few days. Derbyshire’s largest music festival may not appeal to everyone but for a large group of young festivalgoers it is the highlight of their calendar. This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Y Not Festival and it was the biggest ever.

Many of you may know me as someone who works for Derby Museums and writes periodically for Derbyshire Life about paintings in the museum’s collection. For one week a year however I put the 18th century out of my mind and pitch my tent back stage at Y Not Festival. Seven years ago I went to the festival with my daughter who was interested in music but too young to go by herself. The following year she wanted to go with her friends but was still too young so they needed an adult to be with them. In order to be there and not be ‘in her way’ I decided to volunteer to work as a steward. Now I am one of the longest-serving volunteers working as one of the volunteer managers. The volunteer team numbers several hundred and helps to ensure that the weekend runs as smoothly as possible; parking cars, picking up litter and generally helping out. It is something that I look forward to all year and I have built what has become a very good group of friends through working at Y Not every year.

The team that organise Y Not are mostly much younger than me, even though this year is the festivals tenth year. When I first went to the festival Ralph Broadbent, its founder, was like everyone else doing a bit of everything, taking tickets at the gate, parking cars, serving breakfasts in the morning and selling pints of beer in the evening. Now that it has grown to the size of Ashbourne and Bakewell combined Ralph has many more things to do to occupy his time! With the safety of 15,000 people to worry about, enjoying the event and watching bands is a bit of a rarity for Ralph or any of his 25 full-time employees. Count of Ten, the company that Ralph co-founded, now runs Y Not and a number of other festivals over the summer including Truck Festival, Hevy Fest and Brownstock. The company also directly employ over 60 people over the summer to help the festivals run smoothly. When I arrive on site each year, normally on the Wednesday before the event starts, the site is crawling with many more people than those 60. Subcontractors of all varieties are employed to provide stages, tents, fencing, lighting, fire extinguishers, toilets, litter pickers, Wi-Fi, security and a whole host more besides. Many of them are local as are many of the concessions onsite selling food, clothing and anything else that your average festivalgoer may require. The festival turnover has increased from the meagre £200 in the first year to over £2,000,000 for Y Not Festival alone.

One of the highlights of the weekend is a paint fight, always better when the sun is shining Photo: Ross Silcocks

One of the highlights of the weekend is a paint fight, always better when the sun is shining Photo: Ross Silcocks - Credit: Archant

The site at Green View Farm in Pikehall is farmed by Arnie Flowers. I see Arnie every year and he nearly always looks calm and cheery, in spite of having thousands of people trampling all over his fields. Although in the first year he didn’t know Ralph, he leant him a farm trailer to use as a stage for nothing and is now firmly part of the Y Not family. He tells me that it takes only a matter of weeks for the impact of the festival to almost disappear from the farm. Wet years like 2009 take a little longer of course, as the impact of so many feet and vehicles churn up the grass. He is impressed by the clean-up operation and how the team clear the site so efficiently. He struggled to find something that he was not happy about this year, but when pushed said that he did not like the flags made of small wire poles that were used to layout the site because if lost in the grass they might cause damage to an unsuspecting cow. The Y Not Festival is not the only thing that helps Arnie make the farm profitable that is part of the Derbyshire calendar, harness races are held here in June and July each year.

Ralph sees his greatest achievement as bringing a team together that can run something this big so smoothly. This is certainly impressive. In my role at Y Not I meet lots of people including festivalgoers, musicians, technicians, security staff and the police. Yes, of course I hear a few moans, there will always be things that could be better, but overall the experience that most people have is a good one and the things that I hear are small and relatively insignificant in the scheme of things. Every year the team seems to learn from the previous year, they become more responsive and find solutions to the previous year’s issues and immediate problems before they become major.

The festival has great support from people who attend, many of whom return year after year. It has been nominated for and won a number of UK Festival Awards: in 2011 it won the best grass roots festival and the best festival toilets awards, and in 2012 the best small festival award.

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Like Ralph I rarely get to see many of the acts but each year the line-up gets better and attracts people from even further afield. Headlining this year were Snoop Dogg, Basement Jaxx and Primal Scream, supported by bands like Ash, Ocean Colour Scene and We are Scientists, artists like Johnny Marr and Nick Mulvey. As Ralph says of this year’s line-up, ‘I think Snoop Dogg has to be one of the special ones – whether you love him or hate him, he is an international icon and the fact he’s played in the rolling hills of Pikehall is pretty mad...’

This year there were 10 stages and venues across the site playing a variety of different music, giving what Y Not has to offer a much wider appeal. The supporting entertainment is also growing; circus acts and fairground rides, workouts from Mr Motivator and children’s workshops. Y Not is maturing into a quality festival that Derbyshire should be proud of.