WORDS : ALISDAIR GRICE

James Scarlett, 2000 Tress organiser talks crowdfunding, personalised portaloos, and the newly announced 2000 Screens online festival.

“There’s nothing I like more than standing in a field with a beer, watching a band with mates. I think everyone is going to be absolutely desperate to do that”. James Scarlett is 1/6th of the founding members of 2000 Trees, an award winning alternative rock festival hidden away in the Cotswold Hills of England.

Since its inception in 2007, 2000 Trees has been gathering alt-rock fans from across the world together in harmony every second weekend of July. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this is the first year since it’s genesis where the festival’s grounds will no longer be scattered with muddy wellies, half-standing tents and sweaty bodies. It’s a similar story for all global music festivals, and although inevitable it’s left the music industry in a state of disarray. 

It’s all part of a massive jigsaw – the band writes the songs, the record label puts out the songs, the agent books the gigs, the festival puts on the bands, the venus make the band earn more income, when you take one part of that out, it really negatively affects all the other parts

Speaking about the beginning of lockdown, James tells Discovered “Festivals were in a very uncertain place, would they happen? Would they not happen?” but as mid-July approaches and festival season is off the cards for the whole industry, James mentions “we have some certainty and it feels good”. Referring to the unanimous decision to cancel all mass gatherings indefinitely, it has forced James and his team at 2000 Trees to innovate, improvise and amass the support of it’s worldwide community to stay afloat.

An avid festival attendee himself James reminisces about his favourite festival – “I got to the Roadburn festival every year in Holland, it’s in April and I remember thinking man I really hope Roadburn doesn’t get cancelled”. However in retrospective “it slowly dawned on the festival and music industry that it would not be a quick thing”. 

But despite this industry wide time of uncertainty, the music community has succeeded in evolving and innovating “it’s been quite heartening to see everyone pull together” James mentions. It appears to have been an eye opening experience for all, and James stresses the “it’s all part of a massive jigsaw – the band writes the songs, the record label puts out the songs, the agent books the gigs, the festival puts on the bands, the venus make the band earn more income, when you take one part of that out, it really negatively affects all the other parts.” 

“Rather than sit at home and let it pass by, the six of us that organised Trees are going to meet up at the farm and just stand there – it feels like we should see each other – they’re my best friends

Innovation has been the name of the game throughout lockdown, with bandcamp waiving admin fees on the first friday of each month and artists turning to online gigs, 2000 Trees has been no exception. Crowdfunding their way to £120,000 (as of writing) with “very dry but attractive offers” that ranged from paying to have your photo on a toilet door to getting your name plastered permanently on a stage, Trees has been very active in garnering help from their community – “Yes we did want support, and we really asked for it but at the same time we were giving something really great back”.

Alongside their partner festival Arctangent, James stresses “we were one of the first [festivals] to do crowdfunding”.“We had looked at multiple other festivals being cancelled in May and June and worked out the best way to communicate with our audiences – we were very honest”. Alongside the honesty and transparency paying off, James stresses “It takes all year to run it [the festival] – people think it only happens in one weekend, they think you’ve got our money and we’re running away with it to a Caribbean island”.

With no physical festival to plan, James has come to terms with his first ‘holiday’ in a while: “I’m not embarrassed to admit I haven’t had a summer off for 14 years, and I’ve reconciled in my head that it’s not gonna happen this year”. When questioned on how he will be spending the weekend, he says “Rather than sit at home and let it pass by, the six of us that organised Trees are going to meet up at the farm and just stand there – it feels like we should see each other – they’re my best friends.” Having run a hugely successful for over a decade, it’s understandable that the field itself holds some sentimental value for the core crew.

Now all summer festivals have been postponed to 2021, James assures us that “you would expect the line ups to be stronger” and the Trees line up specifically is “going to be on another level”. “The public are going to be desperate to get out there and go to a festival and really kinda experience it” muses James. “I think the phrase is champing at the bit, all the horses are on the starting line and are desperate to get off.” Assuring us that 2021 is going to be huge is potentially the most promising result of a pandemic-struck summer, and the audiences certainly can’t wait for what’s to come.

If your calendar has a 2000 Trees sized hole in this weekend, be sure to tune into 2000 Screens – a digital rendition of Trees’ regular Thursday-Saturday slot featuring past highlights and one-off performances from the 2021 line up. James has promised “loads of bands have done some really cool things for us” and all three of the confirmed 2021 headliners (Thrice, AFI, and Enter Shikari) will be performing sets. So tune in, gather your friends and satiate your sonic desires.

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