Northumberland’s new major music festival will entice 35,000 people to the county, bolstering local businesses with stars like the Libertines and the Pet Shop Boys.
They will headline Festival on the Wall, a three-day event combining musical acts with a range of other entertainment including roller disco, and the impressively-titled Thunderdome!
Pete Doherty, who hails from Hexham, will headline the main stage with The Libertines on Saturday night, and the Pet Shop Boys are the main stage act on Friday night – a homecoming gig for North Shields-born lead vocalist Neil Tennant.
Neil Tennant commented: “We are looking forward to bringing our futuristic show to a wonderful historic area in the North East.”
Other confirmed artists playing over the weekend include Mark Ronson, Twin Atlantic, JP Cooper, MNEK, The Sherlocks, Calum Scott and North East rockers Maximo Park, with more acts to be announced.
Festival founder and director Dale Mason from Northumberland, and business partner Richard Gillies, a sustainability expert with experience from former roles at Marks and Spencer and Kingfisher PLC, have lined up a skilled festivals team.
Dale told BQ: "I was approached two years ago by a good friend of mine, who had a vision for a music festival in the North East – we faced the awkward question of 'why has nobody done this before?' And the answer is we probably don't know yet, but we thought we needed to give ourselves the best chance to cater for the music tourism industry in the North East.
"Our view is this region will demand a festival of its own that it can call its own."
The new festival will take place across 350 acres of privately-owned farmland, where for three days and nights festival-goers will camp out and enjoy a variety of unrivalled moments of excitement, happiness, relaxation and community through music, dance, carnival, art and gastronomy.
"The research we've conducted over two years," Dale says, "tells us that the consumer has changed but the festival hasn't. The consumer is now back in the centre of experience – you'll have connectivity, you'll have power, and clean toilets, all of the things you'd expect of a holiday."
He continued: "This is primarily a festival in the North East for the North East. We've gone out to industry and recruited in big firms like Kilimanjaro to make sure it's run right and people can arrive and leave safely.
"Our focus now is on bringing in as much North Eastern talent as possible, from artists, through food providers and craft brewers, to people like the owners of Northside Farm who have wigwams on their land."
Dale and the team are now actively looking for local firms who can get involved in the festival.
"We are populating our database every day... the North East has a great street food scene and we have to show that in the festival.
Live music will take place on a number of stages across the weekend, with The Thunderdome providing dance DJs and entertainment for late-night revellers in a Mad Max-esque area with a 360-degree, flaming stage and a central DJ booth shooting lightning bolts over the crowd.
In addition to the live music, there’ll be a whole host of things to see and do, from roller disco in a field, Karavanoke, fine dining 100ft in the air with a bird’s eye view of the main stage, and even a hot tub chill-out zone. The experience will be fully immersive as it will embrace virtual technologies, allowing festival-goers to view all music sets from the weekend in a unique VR zone.
"Because of our location," Dale stresses, "we need to be mindful - and respectful – of the fact we're so close to a World Heritage site in Hadrian's Wall. Sustainability is are the forefront of everything, even the camping solutions. So they can buy a pre-pitched tent from us that they can take away, but if they want to leave it, we can deal with that."
Festival on the Wall has been welcomed by Northumberland County Council and Northumberland Tourism for its expected boost to tourism and the local economy, with thousands of music fans set to visit during the weekend.
Councillor Grant Davey, leader of Northumberland County Council, said: “This is fantastic news for the county and the latest event to put Northumberland in the national spotlight as a go-to destination.
“The county has a long history of attracting major events but this is surely the biggest music event of its kind in Northumberland.
“Not only will thousands of people be flocking to our region, there will also be an enormous financial spin-off locally, from our many suppliers to businesses helping with the infrastructure. It really is another great coup for the county.”
Jude Leitch, director at Northumberland Tourism, said: “This is very exciting news for Northumberland; home to world-class heritage sites, rolling countryside, star-filled dark skies and beautiful beaches - now we have a large-scale music festival to add to our tourism offer.
“Festival on the Wall is set to be a great event for all ages and music tastes, so we are looking forward to welcoming new visitors coming to the county, who may be discovering the beauty of Northumberland for the first time. We particularly welcome the festival’s sustainability commitment, which will protect our unique landscape.”
Young people are also at the heart of Festival on the Wall as many local students will benefit from career opportunities through a partnership with Newcastle College providing work experience, as well as the chance for some of the college’s emerging music talent to perform. Internship posts have also been created for university students keen to enter the creative industries.