Interview with Croissant Neuf founder, Luke Howell

Tell us a bit about your role in the preparations for Croissant Neuf 2012? How did you land such a kickass job?

The festival was set up by myself and my parents. They’d been running stages at festivals for years so I’d grown up in the industry and when I was 19 I’d dropped out of college and was out of work so we decided the time was right to put on an event of our own. The first couple of years I mostly took on organising the various crews and learning about licensing and the administrative side of things but over the years I’ve taken more and more on and now I oversee everything that happens. I work with a great team and it wouldn’t happen without them so I’m in a good position to be able to drop in on what others and doing and just make sure things are all heading in the right direction.

Croissant Neuf Festival Logo

How has the festival changed since it began?

When we first started the event we didn’t aim it at any one specific demographic, we wanted it to be open to all but it quickly became apparent that we were especially good for families. So sort of by accident and happen stance we have ended up being a largely family oriented event. That isn’t to say young people and those without children don’t still come along and have a great time. It’s a good mix of people that really make it what it is. We’re only grown slightly, we never intended to get overly large as we wanted to keep it safe and friendly and sustainable, so staying small means we can keep our high standards.

It is so important that the festival is environmentally sustainable; do you feel that you have a certain duty to highlight how events like this can be green and work?

I believe it’s the singularly most important reason to do events. It’s a simple, enjoyable way to prove to people exactly what can be done to make a difference without having to change too drastically. We run a 3000 person event without a single mains electricity hook up or generator. The public wouldn’t know the difference though, we still have full site lighting, large P.A’s, quality food and drink outlets, offices with computers, printing, internet etc… So in that sense we’ve proved it’s totally viable to run events to an exceptionally high standard but entirely environmentally sustainable. It’s also a great non-invasive way to educate people about what can be done with recycling, energy reduction, water conservation and so on, by showing them it’s easy and possible I think they’re more likely to respond to trying to make a difference at home.

The line-up this year is exciting, what do you think will be the highlights?

I’m particularly looking forward to the Bowjangles “Bowlympics” show, I’ve seen what they’re planning to do and I think it’s really going to impress people. I’ll also be checking out Willy Mason, Seth Lakeman, Moya Brennan, Laid Blak, The Rinky Dinks and Kamilla Lovett. We really have a fantastic blend of proven and established quality and some of the best up and coming acts around, I don’t think anyone with be disappointed with any of the bands. It’s one of the great things about CNSP, people often leave with a new favourite bands.

Bringing children to festivals is sometimes a sticky issue with other festival goers. How have you managed to make children a part of the festival rather than simply allowing them to tag along like other festivals seem to?

CNSP was set up by a family, the majority of the team involved are large family groups, so the crew was composed of people with kids and the kids were encouraged to get involved with anything they could and this has inevitably spilled out into the event as a whole. We’ve tried to make the workshops, games, venues and spaces as accessible to all as possible. We knew that there were going to be some kids that didn’t want to get involved with things so we came up with ideas that we though would encourage everyone to take part and largely we got it right. Some of the crew have 3 or even 4 generations on site and all take part and want to be involved.

Aside from the music, what attractions tend to be most popular with the crowds?

We’ve got a very special and unique circus spectacular taking place on the Saturday evening this year and I think that it’s really going to wow the crowds. We also have our Sunday night Lantern Procession that has become one of the most popular and best loved parts of CNSP. It’s always talked about as a highlight. Then there’s our Saturday dress-up theme for this year – Buccaneers and Brigands- as well as the guests dressing up we’ve got some amazing things planned for the site!

What do you think of the health of the festival scene in the UK? Have you seen a change during the recession?

As with all boom industries there comes a saturation point. I think this has been true of the UK festival scene and I don’t think it’s a bad thing that some and not taking place this year. However it’s a shame that there are many popping up that are only really out to make a quick buck, for me that’s not what festivals are about. Some of the events not taking place this year the industry will be better off without but there are others that are a really loss. It’s getting harder for the public to know which are the ones that are really worth going to. I don’t think the decline in the industry is quite as bad as some of the media would make out but there is definitely a growing change in peoples perceptions. I think it’s the small events that are more likely to survive and more and more people seem to be realising that these are the events were you can really experience something special. That said, they’ll only survive if enough people keep coming to them, so fingers crossed!

Where do you go from here? What can we hope for in 2013?

I honestly don’t know. CNSP has been a huge and rewarding part of my life for the past 7 years but I sometimes wonder whether I should pass the torch and let others try their hand at it. I think CNSP will continue and will grow but the industry as a whole I think is undergoing big changes. I think we’ll see a lot more renewables being used in 2013 and a much bigger shift towards sustainability. The seems to be a genuine desire amongst certain people within the industry to do something genuinely good and I’ve got a feeling there’ll be some exciting things happening over the coming years.

And finally if we were to press play on your <generic music player> what would we be bopping to?

Right now you’d find a lot of classical music! I’m a bit of a music eccentric and I’ve got hugely into classical music lately. Hit play on my Spotify playlist though and you’ll be thrown everything from Men Without Hats to Curtis Mayfield to Elgar to Motley Crue. Right now my favourite song is Kiss From a Rose by Seal, such a good song!

For more information on Croissant Neuf and their lineup for this year, check out their website.

A tent lit up at night at Croissant Neuf UK Festival A quiet camping spot at Croissant Neuf Festival Live Music at Croissant Neuf Festival