2005 Green Man – the Build Up
We did some It’s Jo and Danny gigs in Germany pretty much straight after the 2004 Green Man. The children were 4 and 2 and so came with us as did our friend and film maker, Jason Glenister. Danny and I used the lap top providing beats and a few other sounds while we played our guitars over the top. Jason projected films he had made on top of us. It was fun. A week in the Outer Hebrides on the Isle of Barra after that and we were back to the barn where we lived, just outside Brecon, to start planning for the 2005 festival.
We knew we had to rethink the site to make it work at Baskerville Hall again. This time, we hired a couple of large fields across the road from the Hall to use as the car parks and then used all of the land at the Hall for camping. We had the ‘Purple Guide to Health and Safety’ (lent to us by Gavin from Penpont) permanently tucked under one of our arms. This guide explained how far away tents must be from each other and all the details you need to safely set up a camp site. We would walk and measure, walk and measure those fields, working out how many campers we could fit and therefore how many tickets we could sell.
It was quite un-nerving really. We couldn’t afford to get it wrong – my nightmares switched between coach loads of people unable to pitch their tents as we were out of space, to acres of empty dull fields as we left too much space. But the actual festival was a good way off yet. So we made many trips to meet Tim at Baskerville Hall and go through things, tape measure and Purple Guide always with us.
Back at the barn, we were booking the festival. Things were really taking shape. Ken Lower at Hermana was taking care of the press. Ken’s contacts at Domino Records were great and some of their artists had played the first two festivals (James Yorkston and Four Tet amongst them). Bart at Domino knew the 2005 Green Man would be perfect for American artist, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy (AKA Will Oldham) and he played a major role in making this a reality. Thank you Bart. This was pretty major. Not only were we able to book Bonnie P.B. to headline the Saturday night, but the gig was also a U.K. festival exclusive.
We had also made the big decision to add the Friday night to the weekend.
Once we had confirmed a few acts and the shape of the festival was coming together, we asked the wonderful Jon Clee, the man responsible for the fabulous artwork of 2004, to start thinking about how he would present 2005. He came up with this wonderful, iconic image.
The bearded, antlered man.
Danny and I were blown away by this design and Jon was once again vital in taking the festival to the next level.
We got some postcards made with the bearded man on one side and some It’s Jo and Danny stuff on the other, including our gig at the ICA in London for March 2005. (We didn’t ever make any other postcards with the complete line up as the festival sold out before we needed to.)
We still didn’t have a band, so played the gig with just the two of us plus the lap top again with Jason projecting films on top of us. We knew we needed other musicians to spark off, so somehow in the midst of putting the 2005 festival together and organising our two young children we wrote and recorded a new album. I’ve already written about that here, scroll down, it ended up being the last It’s Jo and Danny album, ‘The Quickening’.
We worked tirelessly on the festival, booking more artists, films (‘Chris Fowler presents an evening of folk, blues, classical guitar and U.F.O.s’) and a science section ( I took a ‘phone call from a Mallin Starrit one evening, he’d heard John Peel talk about the Green Man Festival and thought it would be ideal for him to come over from Northern Ireland and show his science experiments – so we paid his travel expenses and his experiments were wonderful – ‘Introduction to Goethe’s Theory of Colour workshop’ on the Saturday and ‘Exploring Sound Phenomena workshop’ on the Sunday).
Kids’ entertainment, puppet shows and crafts, food stalls, generators, PAs, , showers, working with a security company for the first time. Hiring in fencing. Literature with John Williams. On and on the list of things to do went. Insomnia, insomnia. Insomnia. Sitting bolt up right in the middle of the night ‘have we booked enough toilets?!’ Answer people’s e mails, questions, questions. My shoulders would ache as I typed. Danny working on running orders. Organising road signs through the AA. Organising crew and stage managers. Jane Cotter was on hand to help again over the festival weekend.Tickets were selling very well. We had a Campervan field. DJs. On and on. Keeping our own children happy and entertained. We put a large piece of plywood on the little stairway between the office in the barn and the living room, to keep the kids from climbing up. On and on we worked, putting everything together. At night when the kids were asleep, we would drink wine and talk and talk and talk. Putting it all together. coming up with more ideas. ‘How many tents before that field is full?’ ‘we better go back down tomorrow and measure the fields again’. We were right on the edge. Driven. Driven mad.
The musical line up had really come on. Joanna Newsom had made her Green Man debut the year before, playing to a small but very enthusiastic crowd in the early afternoon. For 2005 we booked her to headline the Sunday night. Her star was rising and along with Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, this was to be her only UK festival. We decided to book a band from the original folk wave in the ‘60s. So The Incredible String Band headlined the Friday night. The festival was due to start at 6pm on the Friday.
We had organised stewards. We had booked coaches to pick people up from Hereford and Abbergavenny stations. We had organised coaches to drive the very short distance from the car parks to Baskerville Hall – basically across the road but we didn’t really want to be responsible for 3,000 people crossing the road with camping equipment.
The weekend got nearer.
The BBC called us up, they’d like to come on site and film for their ‘Folk Britania’ documentary. OK. An advertising company ‘phoned – ‘we’d like to film an advert based on a festival site getting built and featuring a 1960s Campervan’. Ok. Radio 1 – ‘can we come broadcast the festival?’ OK. BBC Collective, ‘can we video the festival?’ OK.
We called Ken at Hermana on the Monday before the festival to see how many journalists he had on the guest list. ‘500?’ ok. We needed to organise extra fields to cope. We were up to plan D, which was for the farmer to move his horses if we needed that field too. Back down to Baskerville Hall. Journalists from South Africa, America and Japan? OK. I had someone from Italy phone up begging for a ticket – oh, we sold out a month before the festival weekend. He cried when I said ‘no’.
Did someone mention insomnia?
This was just myself and Danny organising everything.
We had also made another big decision – to have the main stage open air. The year before it had been in a marquee. We hired Geodomes from Hay on Wye and organised Jeff, the scaffolder to build the stage.
I put together some pieces of film from the family camera recently to show what the site looked like a couple of days before the festival was due to start. Featuring our kids, Spike and Tex and the calm before the storm of the site at Baskerville Hall.
Our friend Jason was always around with his cameras. We were lucky to get so much captured – gigs in Germany and wonderful videos he made for both It’s Jo and Danny and The Yellow Moon Band. Jason and his now wife, Helen, had come along with some cameras and recorded lots of the 2005 festival. We didn’t have any time to notice or help, just the odd frantic wave as we rushed past. Jason contacted me recently to say he had found his film. He had put it together after the festival and with all the craziness that had gone on, we’d never actually seen it. So it stayed, forgotten until 2017! Here it is, this wonderful previously unseen 18 minute film about the 2005 Green Man – thanks so much Jason and Helen!
The 2005 Festival
We started building the stage and setting the site up on the Tuesday. Jason was filming stuff, the weather was amazing. I looked at the 5 day forecast and it would change from all out sunshine to heavy wind and rain and would leave me in a black mood, so I stopped checking.
We got to Baskerville Hall at 10am to go through everything with the stewards before heading off to the car parks where we had to organise the customers onto coaches. The campsite was to be open from 10am, first bands on stage at 6pm. We expected a slow steady start. As we were driving from the Hall, the first coach load of customers drove past us with no wristbands on (our job was to get people on the coaches swapping tickets for wristbands) and smiling.
I went back to Baskerville Hall as the coaches, full of people, kept arriving and arriving. The walkie talkies we’d been given buzzed and called all the time. I ran around never getting more than a few feet before someone else would say ‘oh Jo, there you are…’ I constantly had about seven things to do as I ran around, forgetting the original thing i had set off to do and now doing the latest thing asked of me until I bumped into the original person I was meant to be helping and they would look expectantly at me and I’d go ‘Oh, sorry, hang on…’ and run off again.
The sun was shining and watching the field turn into a festival campsite was breathtaking. The licencing people were due at 12. Here they are….’hi’. Walking around the site with them. People stopping to talk to me and I want to say ‘ I’m with the licensing lady – can this wait?’ but can’t so at least hope they don’t say something that will make her not give us the licence. They don’t, she does.
At 3pm, stewards, working full on since 10am ask me how long their shift is. Can they stop for lunch? They all work so hard. I haven’t the time or, headspace to organise them.
The first bands went on stage on time. Inside and out. I’m pleased. BANG! The PA outside has stopped working, five minutes into the first band’s set. I run into the Hall to look for Paul the PA man. I notice it’s very lively but quiet the sound of people chatting and no music or lights makes me realise there’s been a power cut inside too. Outside is on a separate generator. What is going on? It gets sorted, we’re off again. Mad electric currents in the air.
Lovely weather. Warm and sunny. People smiling. (Thanks to Justin Thomas for these pics)
Evening comes, people keep arriving. The crunch of flip flops on the gravel driveway as still they file off the coaches. Tye-died and beautiful. The night sky getting darker around us. The main stage lights up from within and glows in its dome. The moon is full above. Adem and The Incredible String Band…..Josephine Foster inside. Bob Stanley and Pete Paphides d.j.ing in one of the rooms inside the Hall play Bob Dylan ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ and the place erupts.
Me outside again, breathing slightly misty air into the chilly night talking to my Dad, brothers Sam and Tom, Sister Trina, niece Sadie and nephews Jamie and Calum Iain.
The Incredible String Band finish, the cheer goes up, people start drifting away. I look down at the trashed field, full of smashed plastic pint glasses and crushed tins, slung noodles and squashed paper cups and realise it’s down to us to clear it up. The stewards have drifted off, exhausted, to have some fun and here I stand.
I grit my teeth and get the black bin bags and gloves. Walking around the main stage area, picking everything up. I am joined by Danny and our family. People see us and walk over to see if they can help. The security guards help. The job gets done. It is 2am and I wander knackered, into the Hall. The dying embers of the after show party ring out. ‘There you are!’ All I really want to do is go to bed, more than anything else in the whole world. ‘No! No! You must come with us…’ we go to a small room full of people and I don’t know how or what to feel. We leave and head back to our room. I peep out from behind the heavy curtain at the sun rising over the campsite and feel pretty good.
Two hours sleep. Downstairs 10 minutes too late for breakfast swear at the lady for not giving me any, she grabbed the cereal box out of my hand. Maddened, we go outside to get some food. People start straight away …’are you one of the organisers? Well I think it’s disgusting how few toilets you have.’ ‘Jo! Over here’ ‘Can I have a quick word?’ ‘I think there aren’t as many things for the 7 year olds as last year’ ‘The water’s run out.’ Pardon?
The water had run out. Baskerville Hall is on its own spring and assured us they’d have plenty. Well, they didn’t. The showers we’d hired didn’t work as a result, the food stalls were getting edgy as they needed water to cook and inside the toilets wouldn’t flush. The outside loos (we had booked more than was required) got over subscribed. The sun shone. The coaches were still arriving, starting to be less full though. The extra fields we’d organised just in case, started to fill.
The water came back on. The bands played, literature, science, kids stuff, sitting on the grass in the sun, chatting decided to turn the damn walkie talky off. Chill out, exhausted and full of adrenalin. We were due on stage so we rehearsed in our room.
(This photo of us on stage, thanks Mary Wycherley)
Daimh, were to join us on stage, along with Rudy on guitar and Des on percussion, they were undermanned though, as Angus, the piper had a disagreement with some locals people in Hay on Wye for playing the bag pipes walking round the town at 4am.
(Thanks to Myles Quinn for these pics)
The sun was blinding. We went on woefully under-rehearsed. Messed up with my tuning early on. Feed back from Danny’s lead, bright sunshine…lacking in reaction…sang ok played ok…nothing special though…went back to the room. ‘Thank God that’s over…’ Drinking Champange with Rudy and Mandy as Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy took to the stage.
Dark now. I walked down to try and see him. The usual impossible to get one step without someone stopping to talk. Miss the first half hour or more of his set. Get away from everyone and decide to take a moment to myself, walking round the stalls. The full moon, Bonnie sounding awesome, 2,000 voices cheering. Someone let a red flare off in the sky during ‘I see A Darkness’ a bird of prey hovers beneath the full moon.
Then CRACK!! Oh no, no, no. A power cut during Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy? Please, no! The same 2,000 voices went ‘oooh’ the only thing you could hear from the stage was the drums, very quiet and un amplified. Then, as if someone was pushing the volume slowly up, everything returned. I was paralysed staring. A huge wave of relief spread over me. Then moments later, BANG! it happened again. I managed to move now and ran to the mixing desk where Paul the sound guy was. I’m sure i didn’t make much sense, I’m sure I swore lots. Basically, I was attempting to say ‘Hey Paul, what’s the problem? Why does the PA keep switching off mid song, mid set of this Bonnie Prince Billy UK festival exclusive, sold out Green Man festival please?’ The sound had come back on again and so Paul and I went to look at the generators behind the main stage. He shone a torch and tried to work out what the problem was. CRACK! A third, biblical cutting of the power. By now, I have never been in a more stressed place in my life and to be honest, I hope I never am again. Paul could see that the generators were tripping each other out. The irony was, we had ordered two generators ‘just in case’ if there had only been one, this wouldn’t have happened. ‘OK’, I said to Paul as he shone his touch at the generators ‘will it happen again?’ ‘I don’t know’ was his reply.
We went back out front where Bonnie and his band were still playing. They we magnificent. Each time the power cut, they kept playing. When the sound returned, they hadn’t missed a beat and carried on.
They played another two songs and the power didn’t cut. I could not stand it though ‘finish the set!’ Get off stage!’ I was saying in my head as I dug my nails into the palms of my hands and my feet looked as if I was doing a boxer’s skipping rope action into the dusty ground.
I remember the wonderful Andy Fyfe from Mojo magazine and his lovely wife, Fiona coming over to me to talk to me and keep me happy. Andy told me stories of gigs where far worse things had happened to try and make me laugh. I’ll always love those two for coming to try and help me that night in my moment of absolute terror. And then Bonnie and the band finished their set. A huge cheer went up. The atmosphere was incredible. Oh god was I relieved.
Paul made some calls, at 11pm on a Saturday night and the generators were sorted out – I seem to remember they were towed off site and new ones delivered at about 6am.
Again, as everyone drifted away from the main stage we realised that the by now long gone stewards weren’t there to help tidy up the trashed field. So, once again, through gritted teeth we exhaustedly started to clear up. Once again we were helped – if anyone who helped us is reading this, you’ll never know how grateful we were – thank you!
We found out afterwards, you are meant to take the cost of a full priced ticket from the stewards and refund it to them after the festival, only if they turn up for all their shifts. ‘Oh well, we’ll know for next year.’
Now here’s a funny thing. Baskerville Hall had for years, organised a Farmer’s Disco on a Saturday night. They informed us that this would still be taking place, even with the Green Man there. So, the Hall was emptied of our people and the farmers started to arrive on their coaches.
With nothing to do inside the hall, our lot started having spontaneous parties and ceilidhs and gigs and laughs all though the camp site. It was absolutely incredible. such unbridled joy, I have never seen anything like it before or since. It started as we cleared up and gave us an energy to get the job done.
We were at last able to drag our exhausted bodies off to bed by about 2am to get some sleep. We looked out the window as the drunk farmers and their ladies clacked and sang their way back down the drive way, on onto their coaches and away.
We slept fitfully. We still had to do it all again on Sunday.
The sun was shining again. We walked round the site with our kids. I sat and watched puppet show with them. Caitlin Moran was in there too with her kids. I took it a bit easy in the morning. Walkie talky turned off. Sitting watching the bands and enjoying the sunshine. I was delighted to see a little queue forming for families to go into the science area for Mallin Starret’s experiments followed by a celebration of Einstein from company B.
The vibe was wonderful. A packed room inside the Hall for local man, Paul Shalcross and his piano accompaniment to silent Buster Keaton films.
The Earlies, an Anglo / American band who’s debut album got a 10 / 10 review in the N.M.E. and who had played the year before took to the stage at 8pm. They had tons of gear and band members, including a 1960s Hammond Organ which fused the electrics and there was another power cut on the main stage. Nothing to do with the events of yesterday, but I was there to watch their set and, oh God, that feeling returned and it was horrible. It didn’t take too long to fix but it had put me back into that zone of anxiety. Things started to pick up at this point anyway. A couple of kids got separated from their parents – two families – for an hour or so. I was spared this while it was on going, Danny and security sorted it out. I think they believed it would send me over the edge. They were probably right. I’m delighted to say the children were found safe and well by the main stage – they were both fans of Joanna Newsom and had decided to wait for her set sitting right at the front, slightly out of sight.
Joanna Newsom, Sunday’s headline act was due on stage, I was walking down to watch her set. I could hear her voice but it was clearly not coming through the PA. I freaked. oh my God, not again?! I was walking past Stephen Cracknell from The Memory Band, I stopped and must have said something – he realised what I was thinking – ‘No, no don’t worry Jo – she always starts her set up front, accapella not through the microphone to warm up!’ Dear God. It put me back there again though. I couldn’t actually bring myself to watch her set now. Danny and I stayed for a bit. A light drizzle had started to fall. She was up there, a lone, beautiful artist singing and playing her harp. The thought of a BANG and power cut was too much for us to bare so we decided to go into the dj hall (where the farmer’s disco had been the night before) and have a dance to Andy Votel, Cherrystones and the boys. (There were no power cuts during Joanna’s set of course).
So we’re dancing a little, with exhausted movements, aware that this festival was hours away from being complete. Danny tapped me on the shoulder and pointed behind me. The speaker was on fire.
The idea when we had booked the djs for this room had been that it would be like going back to someone’s flat and having them play records. The PA we had booked for this room wasn’t very large. We hadn’t realised the desire to dance and party would be so massive. In a bid to turn everything up, one of the d.j.s had broken the cover to the amp and turned all the dials to what they thought was full. One of these switches was actually the balance though, so basically everything was coming out of the left hand speaker, which couldn’t handle it and exploded! Paul the PA guy was fairly (and understandably) incensed I just said, ‘put the price of the speaker on our bill’ I couldn’t argue or defend what had happened.
We left that room (there was no danger – the fire had been extinguished) and went back to the main stage. Joanna had just finished and people were wandering up to the main bit of the Hall for the final after show. I saw my brother Sam and stopped for a chat, delighted that we were so close to the finishing line. Danny and I walked towards the main entrance of the Hall. Lots of people had gathered there including the DJS who were to play the aftershow. James Yorkston was still playing inside and word was that it was an incredible set, with people in tears. The DJs were desperate to play though and were telling me to go in and get James to stop his set. Yeah right, sure of course i’m going to do that. Like, shut up. When I said ‘No, I’m not going to do that’ one of the girlfriends of the DJ entourage said ‘this festival is a joke’.
Well. I had had quite a few very stressful days and nights at this stage. I was genuinely exhausted on many levels. Danny and I had organised something so incredible and this stupid girl said that at exactly the wrong moment. There never would have been a right moment, but this most definitely was the wrong one. To say a red mist descended on me would be right. I stormed into the main entrance and screamed very, very rude words. Among them, that one that is commonly regarded as being the worst. I remember the two security guards making way to let me in and looking slightly horrified!
Billy Campbell, an old friend from our Our Price days in Surrey and now running the label that The Earlies and King Creosote were on, followed me in. ‘Oh God Billy, all that work keeping everyone happy, answering every e mail, answering every ‘phone call, have I just blown it? Shall I go out and say sorry?’ He said simply ‘yes’.
I went back outside and the girl was crying. I said sorry, explained it was the end of a very long weekend for me. I can’t remember where she went after that, home probably.
Caitlin Moran came over, put her arm round me and sat me down on the steps with a tin of beer. Thank you Caitlin! My face was burned. I think I had lost half my body weight running around and not eating.
(Thanks Mary Wycherley for these pics)
Here’s me and my sunburned face with Green Man regular Minna and Fionna Allen – Fionna looked after the merch for us, including brilliant bearded antlered man hoodies!
James Yorkston finished inside. The crowd came out, people saying it was one of the best things they’d ever witnessed. The DJs set up and got to play.
I stayed outside. A group of us having a right laugh. Danny and I so relieved, so nearly there. Drinking beer and really, really, happy. The drizzle continued and then turned to rain, so we took ourselves off to bed at around 4am. Rain soaked and a deep happiness within our shattered souls.
Again, we slept for only a few hours. The rain had actually got pretty bad during the early hours and the security guys got drenched taking the fencing down. Campers were trying to get their tents packed away before the campsite turned to mud.
It was all really odd and very different to the sunny, dusty weekend when we came down stairs and started to help.
Anyway. That was pretty much it. The 2005 Green Man Festival. If you were there, you know what I mean. Everyone experienced something very, very special that weekend.
A few days later John Harris wrote about it in the editorial section of The Guardian G2. We were at Dover, about to board a ferry to take Danny, myself and the kids to Brittany. We picked up the paper and saw what he had written. Yeah, it was a good moment Thanks John.
The Times gave it a 4 star review
There were loads of reviews – Ken had once again done a magnificent job.
Dazed and Confused magazine
‘The Folk Britania’ programme came out soon afterwards
and the BBC Collective film
I’d like to say we slept the sleep of the just when we were in France but my insomnia was deep in me and it took a long while to recover from what we had put ourselves through, organising and successfully staging the Green Man that year. Things changed after that. We got help and moved to a bigger site. I’m not going to write like this about those years though. These first three. Those were the ones that Danny and I are most proud of. Those were the ones that we look back on now and are actually amazed at what we achieved. This whole experience changed us, for the better I think and introduced a wonderful festival to Wales and indeed the world. Thank you so much to anyone who played, attended and supported us! X
Read all my Green Man writings here.