A brand new music festival is coming to East Anglia this summer
- Credit: Marcus Brown
It’s been a turbulent few years for the live music sector.
Most events in 2020 were cancelled or postponed, and many shows and tours faced a similar fate in 2021.
But 2022 looks promising, as live music has been slowly but surely getting back on its feet over the past few months.
So promising in fact, that a brand-new festival is coming to the region this summer – and hopes to offer something new, exciting and full of flavour.
Rhythms Sans Frontières will showcase some of the biggest world music acts both nationally and across the globe.
Taking place at Euston Park in Thetford between Friday, July 1 and Sunday July 3, the fest’s open air and big top stages will play host to a number of artists, performers and DJs spanning across a number of genres including afrobeat, reggae, bhangra, jazz fusion, Latin, and indie to name but a few.
But music aside, the festival is also a humanitarian effort which hopes to raise funds and awareness for a number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that support human rights and climate change action.
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Here to explain all is one of the masterminds behind the festival, CEO and artistic director Gary Newland.
With over 25 years’ worth of experience working in the world of non-Western music artist management and touring, he’s your man when it comes to putting on an event of this calibre. His CV boasts the likes of working with WOMAD Festival, as well as a number of music projects in the education sector.
“I pretty much work with artists from every region around the world really, and my core speciality are artists from Latin America, Africa, India, and the Middle East.”
Gary met director partners, Marcus and Gemma Brown, at a festival around three years ago – and rest, as they say, is history.
“They’re based in Rendlesham and run Wooden Roots, a company which manufactures and distributes musical instruments, mostly percussion. When I first met them, they'd moved here from LA, and they were keen in what I was doing. I also run a company called Music Worldwide where I do most of my programming. One conversation led to another and we found ourselves joining up and putting our efforts into this new festival. It’s good to have them both onboard - they’re super proactive,” he explains.
And where better place than East Anglia to host such a festival? “We’ve got very little on in terms of world music here in the region – it all tends to happen in the West Country – so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to do something like that here.”
Realising how big of a platform a music festival truly can be, Gary is combining his love of world music with his passion for sustainability and charity work.
“For a long time, I’ve very much wanted to look at an event concept which tackles issues of sustainability, especially in terms of waste and reducing a festival’s carbon footprint. But in addition, a lot of my work over the past few years has centred around Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).”
Gary is part of a team here in the East that has previously fundraised for the international humanitarian medical NGO by organising concerts and other promotional events.
“I’m utterly passionate about supporting them, and the need to get across humanitarian, climate change action, and human right issues is incredibly important to me. All of these issues are very much in our faces, so I thought why not create a festival that puts all of these as the main driver of the event’s immersive content. More and more people are interested in said content – and it goes far beyond who’s headlining the main stage.”
Gary therefore decided to get four NGOs on board - Médecins Sans Frontières, Frank Water, Suffolk-based World Land Trust, and Amnesty International.
“We've also just finished talks with Greenpeace as well,” he adds.
Each NGO will have an information stand at the festival, and its team of volunteers will give a number of talks over the weekend.
“It’s all about helping these NGOs spread their work, and a festival is a great place to do that as you can reach a lot of people at once.”
This year may be the festival’s inaugural year, but it is intent on making sure its carbon footprint is as small as possible from the offset – and it has big plans for its future editions.
“Some of our venues across the site, particularly around the NGOs, will run off solar power. We were pleased to bring onboard Rowan Energy, and we hope to work with them over five years to eventually get our festival to be totally carbon neutral.”
In addition, RSF has teamed up with a number of local public transportation providers to encourage attendees to make their journey to and from the event as green as possible. “But for people who wish to come with their vehicle, there’s a vehicle ticket and for every one of those bought, we’re donating 50% of that income to the NGOs we’re supporting. It’s our way of reducing our carbon footprint where we can.”
Within the festival itself, there will be a number of initiatives to help tackle issues surrounding sustainability. Some of these include upcycled tent hire, a stall printing shirts rather than selling mass-produced ones, and a no-single-use plastic policy in place.
RSF will also encourage traders to opt for paper bags rather than plastic, and compostable cutlery and plates at all of the food stalls.
“We can’t do everything we want to in the first year, but we can do quite a lot,” Gary adds.
With just a few months to go until the festival opens its gates to eager punters, the line-up continues to grow – and looks to become even more eclectic.
“We’ve got an amazing artist from America performing called Yaya Bey – she's an R&B singer with a wonderful voice and I’m very much looking forward to her. There’s also acts from the new wave jazz scenes out of London, afrobeat, Mediterranean gypsy ska bands, reggae – it goes across the whole world music spectrum.”
Gary is also keen to promote local acts at his event – and will be giving the stage to a number of artists from across East Anglia. “For example, we have Ipswich DJ Bopper Ranking, the African Choir of Norfolk, and Norfolk-based Jose McGill & The Vagaband.”
Alongside music and talks, there will be a number of workshops taking place across the weekend spread across five venues.
“We will also have a large global village of traders, where you can buy anything from clothing and jewellery to crafts.”
In terms of food vendors, the food offering will be just as global as the music lineup – and will range from Mexican and Japanese, to African, vegan, and typical festival fare such as burgers and hot dogs.
“We’ll definitely have a lot going on over the weekend,” adds Gary.
To find out more about Rhythms Sans Frontières, visit rsffestival.co.uk