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Women in Music: An interview with Ella Nosworthy, Creative Director of Nozstock Festival

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** The National Student's 'Women in Music' content series gives space to the brilliant women that work behind the scenes in some of the toughest and most rewarding roles in the industry. To celebrate International Women's Day, we're hearing their stories. **

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Soon to be approaching its 21st year, Nozstock Festival takes place at the near-end of July (18th-21st), with a line-up featuring Rudimental, Soul II Soul and The Skatalites, to name a few. Set in the rural, rolling hills of Herefordshire, it’s a weekend odyssey filled with charm across its many stages. 

Image courtesy of Ella Nosworthy

With the first wave of acts newly announced, Ella is excited for the turn of the summer, “I’m looking forward to The Carny Villains, David Rodigan and Oh My God! It’s The Church. Hopefully, I’ll get some time off to see those guys”. Yet with Nozstock being highly regarded for its trippy technicolour décor, she echoes, “for me, the things I get most excited about isn’t the music, it’s all the extra stuff, the cabaret, the comedy, seeing what the decorators do one site, the atmosphere when everyone arrives”.

As a homegrown, grassroots festival, the independent success of Nozstock is remarkable when considering the myriad of alternative competition on offer today. “I think the fact that it’s small and intimate is a big plus. But there’s so much going on”, says Ella. “There’s a really big line-up and ten stages of entertainment, and yet you could do an entire lap of the site in an hour. That means you’ll see the same faces, make friends for the weekend, it’s a really friendly, happy atmosphere. People often say to me it’s like they’ve been invited to a private party for the weekend”.

In reinstating a dance/rave culture to the line-up whilst providing a family-orientated atmosphere, Nozstock could be seen as a festival of two halves. However, Ella feels they've struck the right balance,  “There’s room for both of those elements, I think. We have plenty of families who have been coming for years, who used to listen to drum n bass all night and now they are a little older and they’ve started bringing their children to Nozstock. Sure, it’s a slightly different experience because now they take it in turns to stay with their kids at the tent at night and go and just kind of dip their toes in the experience they used to have, but they have a great time”.

Continuing with the family-friendly value of the festival, Ella talks about her personal experience of balancing motherhood whilst continuing to coordinate the yearly festival. “You do feel a great pressure to have it all, work full time and have a thriving career and still be an amazing mum too, spend lots of quality time with your kids, keep the household going and somehow fit a social life into all of that too. I don’t think that the pressure and guilt that go hand and hand with it will ever go away”.

Still, as a creative and independent venture, she continues that “I am in an incredibly lucky position in that my children can be involved in the work that I am doing. They can come to work with me, attend the festival with me, they can feed back on activities they’ve done or the things they’ve seen. Since having the girls it’s definitely made Nozstock a better festival because I now know some of the issues families face with young children”. The site now offers bottle warming services, a dedicated breastfeeding space, workshops and family camping areas, as Nozstock recognise that not everyone wants, nor can have, just one type of festival experience.

Image courtesy of Ella Nosworthy

For Nozstock goers, there is a feeling that isn’t on offer anywhere else, and what keeps bringing people back isn’t just music and arts. The site continues to take steps towards implementing sustainable initiatives. “Essentially, you are creating a town for the weekend and you need to be aware of that and the impact it’s having. Especially since we hold the festival on our farm, we need to protect the land we are using.” Ella continues, “Plus we have an opportunity to reach a lot of people, I feel like it’s our responsibility to promote new initiatives where we can”.

In 2018, Nozstock joined the Association of Independent Festival’s Drastic on Plastic Campaign; aiming to eliminate single-use plastics at events by 2021. With Glastonbury Festival also recently announcing the ban of single-use plastics at their site this year, “there seems to be a growing awareness of the impact of people on the planet currently” Ella continues, “our audience expect, and should expect, us to be going above and beyond to create an environment that is conscientious and responsible”.

Conscientious efforts can also be viewed in the diversity of festival line-ups. Laid bare by Primavera Sound’s gender equality bill this year, Ella shared some thoughts on this step towards ‘the new normal’. “I think it’s a great step in highlighting an issue within the industry and making ticket buyers more aware,” she says. “It will lead to more opportunities for female artists and hopefully mean we see more female talent coming up over the next few years, especially within the dance music sphere”.

With an increasing pressure to provide a platform for emerging artists as well as diversifying, Ella continues “We spent quite a bit of time considering 50:50 for Nozstock, but there are a few factors that we have to look at before we can make that commitment, including those around budgeting and the pool of acts we have to book, and industry pressures such as exclusivity arrangements, particularly as we are a 5k capacity, indie event”. However, Nozstock is keen on looking to support more than just the equality of gender representation, as Ella considers “how we can make Nozstock more accessible to any artists and audiences from diverse backgrounds, whether male, female or non-binary, LGBTQ+, radically diverse, disabled, or otherwise?”.

On a light-hearted note, Ella ends telling all on both the fun and the challenges of festival coordination. “It’s great fun. It’s one of the most rewarding jobs you can do but it’s also one of the most stressful,” she says. With an accessible submissions process for Nozstock receiving thousands of applications, the team ensure to listen to everything and consider it all whilst in “creating a festival, you have all the logistic issues of a small town. It can be completely manic” she adds.

Just organised chaos, running around dealing with one thing after another. But the people you are working with become friends for life and when you get a chance to step back and appreciate what you’ve been involved with, watching everyone enjoy themselves, receiving great reviews, thanks to all the work you have put in; that makes all the late nights and sobbing over a spreadsheet totally, totally worth it”.

Nozstock: The Hidden Valley runs from 18th-21st July 2019.

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