Behind the scenes of Up the Creek Festival 2019
“Our business started off because we were having fun. It’s always about the fun first…” – Annie Sowden, UTC Founder & Owner.
The countdown has begun to one of my favourite festivals: Up the Creek! An impressive lineup has already been announced, with the promise of more amazing local artists being added soon (watch this space!). To make the weekend even more exciting, Up The Creek, taking place from 7 to 10 February 2019, vows to bring lots of amazing surprises! Think celebrity weddings, pop-up riverside opera performances, musicians playing on a Pied Piper-like jam van’s rooftop and ballet on the beach.
Every year the team behind the Up the Creek festival works really hard to bring us a top-class experience. I caught up with Caitlin Hanley (festival director) and Suné Halderman (artist liaison) to find out more about what they do and what we can expect at next year’s event.
I have to ask, how long does it take to plan each Up the Creek and how big is the team behind the festival?
Caitlin: We work on Up The Creek year round. As soon as it finishes, we start with the website rebuild, ticketing, sponsors, etc. Our team consists of five people, along with another five who work on it a few months in the run up, or have only very specific roles, for example, publicist or the bar manager.
What process do you follow to choose the lineup every year?
Suné: We have a golden rule at Up the Creek when we first sit down with the lineup – we don’t book an act before we’ve seen it live. Other than that, there are a few factors that come into play when creating the shortlist of acts to place every year: content release, social media engagement, audience interest, etc.
The festival has been running since 1990 – how do you keep things fresh?
Suné: We’re lucky enough that our artists and bands in the industry are inspired enough to keep breaking borders and creating new and fresh sounds, so they do half the work for us. In general, we take feedback and constructive criticism to heart. Without the Creekers coming back each year, we don’t have a festival. It’s theirs as much as it is ours.
So, how will you describe Up the Creek to someone who has never been there?
Caitlin: Up The Creek is a festival for people who like music and want to have a good time; it offers a fantastic food court with many varieties, you can bring your own drinks in, or buy from our bars, there are no queues, hot showers and flushing toilets for everyone! Pitch your own tent, sleep next to your car or book in at the Heartbreak Motel! It’s really a festival that we’ve designed for everyone, with a broad age group who attend the festival, from 18 to 60.
The line-up is curated to keep everyone entertained, introduce new, bring back the old, and that’s no easy feat with a wide range of ages to keep happy. And the numbers… it’s a selling point for everyone, capped at 2500 attendees! Our motto is that everyone’s a VIP, no artist is more important than any festival goer. Creekers can roam wherever they want, no area is off limits. One way to describe the festival? Have you seen a river with 2000+ lilos floating in it?
What was the biggest challenge that you have had to overcome at an UTC festival?
Suné: 2017. It started pouring down on the Friday morning – there was absolutely no way that we could continue with the River Stage that morning, so we had to combine our Food Court Stage and River Stage. The rain was coming down worse than it had in 20 years – the entire team was running around pulling generators, moving gear out of the rains way, ensuring the punters had a safe place to be – it was probably one of the most exhilarating experiences, and reminds us how the team truly is a family.
Another ‘crisis’ we laugh about (only afterwards), was this year (2018) when on the Saturday the river rose overnight and we were worried that it would flood the stage! So, with the last act, the festival director, Caitlin, and myself stood at the edge of the stage asking the festival goers in the water to not splash and dance in case the water went up and over the stage – quite literally the opposite of what we wanted everyone doing!
Haha! That’s insane! And, tell me, are there any traditions at Up the Creek?
Caitlin: So, for a few years we had a wedding set up happen at each festival, and then 5 years ago the groom got stood up by his bride and left at the altar. It was truly heartbreaking to watch! But good news, he’s getting married again next year March, so all’s well that ends well!
Wait, what!? That’s so crazy! Poor guy. Let’s talk about this year’s festival. How many stages are you planning for UTC 2019?
Suné: We’ll have four official stages, Jägermeister Main Stage, Savanna Late Night Stage, Gordon’s Gin Food Court Stage and the Savanna River Stage. The Gordon’s Gin Food Court Stage hosts up-and-coming artists during the day, and for the first time next year, a rock heaven for those who only want live music after the Jägermeister Main Stage closes.
Awesome! And what are you mostly busy with on the festival weekend while everyone is having fun?
Suné: I am quite privileged to have a very experienced team behind me – my hard work all happens with the run up to the festival! But you’ll usually find me giving the stage manager a beady eye when a band looks like they’re going to run over their allocated time – I am known as quite the party-pooper in the office!
Lastly, you are planning more environmental awareness actions for the 2019 festival, tell me more about this?
Caitlin: Every year we add to these plans, little by little we want to make the festival a sustainable weekend where we aren’t adding too much to the landfill or damage our beautiful river. Last year we cut our plastic cup consumption from 12,000 down to 3,000 which was a fantastic feat! Next year we hope to use even less.
At the 2019 festival we are also introducing a three-bin set up to control food wastage and help us separate out the recyclable from the compostable. We will be putting out more cigarette ‘stompie’ bins than we did this year. And we’ll only be using eco-friendly cleaning products throughout the festival, making sure any product running back into the ground is of the kinder type; in our bathrooms, bars and all food vendors! Small changes for a small team.
Up the Creek 2019 lineup (so far)
The Black Cat Bones, Femi Koya, Grassy Spark, Gerald Clark and the boys from Prague, Stoker, Jackal and the Wind, Crosscurrent, Lo Ghost, Stone Jets, Koos Kombuis, BRYNN, Bam Bam Brown, Zengeance, Piet Botha, Greg Georgiades & Ultra Natives, The Steezies, Diamond Thug and Money for Bali.
Get your Up the Creek 2019 tickets
See you at the river!
Get your tickets here: here
Full weekend tickets (arrive Thursday) – R1 120.00
Friday to Sunday tickets – R970.00 (very few of these left)