So here’s the thing…. The story behind ‘Maid of Stone’ music festival

Getting Skindred earlier was a great thing for us and if you look where they are now and the exposure they are getting, we've been very lucky getting them.

Interview with Chris Wright by Adrian Hextall

 

Every rock fan likes a festival don’t they? The opportunity to catch up with friends, see a tonne of bands that you love in the same place over the course of a few days, (hopefully) in the sun and a chance to soak up some well deserved R&R as the sounds of the best in the industry today come together to keep you entertained. 

If you live in the south east, specifically Kent, you’ll have known what this feels like for a few years. Between 2015 and 2019, Mote Park in Maidstone gave us Ramblin’ Man Fair. A great mid-sized festival that played host to some of the biggest and best bands across hard rock, southern rock, blues and prog. An eclectic mix of genres that pulled in the punters from far and wide and for the years that it happened, the festival shone very brightly indeed. 

In 2020 however, it all went wrong. The pandemic took hold, the festival was cancelled as lockdown was in full effect. The suggestion that tickets could be rolled over to 2021, because ‘it’ll all be over by Christmas’, seemed reasonable, was gladly received by the paying public and so we waited…. and waited… and waited.. And then 2021 didn’t happen. The company running the festival filed for bankruptcy and what seemed like an achievable goal to keep RMF going, suddenly looked highly unlikely. 

2021 came and went. Maybe 2022 would see something come back but no. 2019 remained the last time a rock festival featuring modern artists from around the world would take place. That is until now….. 2023 sees a new festival return to Mote Park. A festival called ‘Maid of Stone’… aha I see what you’ve done there with the naming convention… very clever indeed. 

For those people impacted by the collapse of RMF, the sense that someone out there ‘has got my money’, and there were quite of few of them, the thought of a new festival on the same location, taking place at the same time of year felt like a case of “well they’ve just rebranded and they’re trying to carry on without giving us our money back”. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. The company behind RMF is gone. It has ceased to be, it is no more. It is pushing up the daisies and has gone to meet the bleeding choir invisible…. etc.. 

The company putting on ‘Maid of Stone’ is called Lucus Live. https://www.lucuslive.com/ This is a company that has been in events management for many years (mostly in the nightclub space) but branched out into the festival back back in 2013 with the launch of Mote Park: Social Festival, which as you’ll gather from the name, takes place in the same public park that RMF did for all of those years. After evolving The Social Festival into a three-day, 25,000 capacity event, which included camping and eventually went onto be franchised worldwide, Lucus Live began growing their other UK concepts, creating the South East’s biggest tribute festival Rock The Mote (have a guess where that’s held), which has now also reached camping status.

The point here of course is that ‘Maid of Stone’ isn’t Lucus Live’s first rodeo. Whilst they had nothing to do with the creation, execution and ultimate demise of RMF, they do know how to run a sustainable festival and have the years of experience to back up that claim. 

We spoke to festival organiser and ‘Mr Maid of Stone’ Chris Wright to understand how the new festival in Mote Park came to be and more importantly why people should have faith that a) it’s happening and b) what to expect when it returns in 2024. 

MGM: As we’ve mentioned Chris, putting on Maid of Stone isn’t your first rodeo. Lucus Live is known for it’s well-received festivals isn’t it?

It’s our first rock rodeo, featuring original rock bands. But no, it’s not. We’ve been promoting for some 20 years now, starting on the club scene, building to the Social Festival which had a 25,000 person capacity at Mote Park. We’ve worked with some big artists like Madness, Fatboy Slim, Katherine Jenkins, UB40. We have a rolling contract with the council for a series of events at Mote Park, events  for the whole community, meeting all different kinds of flavours and taste varieties. So yes, it’s not our first rodeo. But it is first with original rock artists. We do a very popular event called Rock The Mote in August. It’s full of rock tribute acts and last year we had around four and a half thousand people attend. We are already at five and a half thousand this year tickets sold so it’s shaping up to be our biggest tribute event yet. That’s great family fun and we had a great mix of families at last year’s event

https://parklivekent.com/rock-the-mote-home/

MGM: For those that attended, Rock The Mote was one of the first events to return to Maidstone and Mote Park after the pandemic. We had people back in the park, we had live music going on once again. People suddenly remembered that they could go out and have a good time again. It was something I think that had been sorely missed and it was a very welcome return.

Getting the ball rolling again was quite impressive and you’ve kept it going. Looking at the events page, you recently did an 80s special in the park again with Tony Hadley (Spandau Ballet) headlining and also before that ‘Glitter Bomb in the Park’ which saw many of the UK’s best drag acts performing including one that made me chuckle when I read the name, ‘Kylie M’Hoe’ (you couldn’t make it up!) 

CW: What we do is we look at the events each year and then see what we can also do. We are infrastructure experts of events. We are promoters, we also work with other 3rd party promoters as well who bring in acts for us. We run everything else, we’ve got sister companies where we offer these services for other people if they want to build their own festival site somewhere else. You can run something with your own ideas, your own funding and we provide everything from staffing to infrastructure, staging, security, vendors and so on. We take all of the pressure out of staging it for people wanting to put something on.

I know what we need to do to make Maid of Stone work and obviously I hear a lot of feedback about what was here before, the background of the previous festival and the fear that we’ll go the same way. What make us different is the infrastructure. We reuse a lot of the infrastructure from one event to the next. Yes, infrastructure changes show to show but we can reduce or increase size as necessary and as a result, the costs are kind of split between all of the events we put on. It’s a really interesting business model being able to do that, which means we are better placed and have an advantage compared to a lot of the other promoters.

MGM: For those not in the know it sounds like you set it all up once and then rinse and repeat the infrastructure with just the flags and posters changing? I’m sure it’s not that easy though is it ? 

CW: In principle yes, but you’re right, but it’s a little more complicated than that. Each event has its own specific needs but the basics of the infrastructure remain the same.

Take Revival festival, for example, which is 2 weeks before Maid of Stone. https://parklivekent.com/revival-home/ It has a similar 5000 capacity to Maid of Stone, so the outer shield will be similar but we’ll need a bigger backstage area at Maid of Stone as we have members of the media coming down and more need for dressing rooms. So while the outer shield wall may remain the same with regards to capacity, how it looks inside will be very different.

MGM: The things you’ve chosen to put in place as well as the acts fits the rock vibe for the event perfectly. You’ve got things like the axe throwing,  you’ve got a Harley Davidson stand, other things of interest. It’s all the components that we expect to see.

CW: Yeah. I have been to many festivals over the years in the UK and Europe. I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. Rock fans have a certain expectation of what they want to see and we’re happy to bring that.

If I was on the other side, the customer side, I’d want my say here given the history of the old festival. I fully agree, let’s have your input. It was very important to me with my background, I come from the marketing side. So you know, last year I was doing the marketing, social media, the digital ads. I’ve always loved social media more as you immediately get engagement off the bat with people. I wanted to know what people were looking forward to, what they were hoping for. We know the story about how the liquidation of the old festival was badly communicated. They saw messaging on social media, promising things, and then there was no follow up communication. It just wasn’t there, nothing at all. We made a conscious effort, off the bat, that the communication had to be strong and everybody would know that we don’t have anything to hide. Transparency was very important to us. So we were very keen to do that and give people some choices and input. Some people, you just can’t help, as soon as we announced Paul Anthony as the main stage compere… people were pointing out ‘it’s all the same, nothing has changed’, but you know, the longer this goes on, the more sustainable it becomes, We will eventually win everyone around.

MGM: The debut line-up is actually a rather wonderful spread of all genres, isn’t it? You’ve done a great job in managing to pull well known bands out of the hat across the board. There are also some really good up-and-coming names as well. If you’d looked at some of the other smaller more independent festivals, you get the circuit bands that always seem to appear. I look at your line-up, and there’s a lot of artists I haven’t seen on before. The likes of The Hunna, Kira Mac, Sweet Crisis and Black Spiders sitting in there as well as Hunted by Elephants. [Check out the line-up below]

https://maidofstonefestival.com/

CW: As you can imagine, most festivals and bands are booked years in advance. That was just never gonna happen for us. We were only offered the dates in the late summer of 2022 so we were far behind other festivals. It’s been tough, I won’t lie, it has been tough. But the intention was always there to do the best we could while not over-committing ourselves. I think the line-up will evolve as we progress as well, we have big plans for 2024. Getting Skindred and Airbourne early on was a great thing for us, it made people maybe sit up and realise we very serious about this. And if you look where bands like Skindred are now, with the exposure they are getting, we’ve been very lucky to get them.

It’s good because people are generally realistic. We get some negativity from people because we didn’t book Scorpions or Lynyrd Skynyrd but that’s few and far between. Most people realise, as a first-year festival we have limitations and most are just happy we’re bringing rock music back to the park. We can all dream but it’s my job to walk that fine line between dreaming and being realistic. We have dreams and they are achievable. So, if things go our way, you’ll definitely see a step up next year. It’s all accounted for and we’re on a pretty solid footing.

So, there you have it. A solid footing, the stages are being built soon for other events in Mote Park, the positive messages coming from Chris suggest not only is 2023 nailed on but 2024 looks highly likely as well. That’s good enough for me. 

See you at the end of July. Rock on!! 

TICKETS FOR MAID OF STONE FESTIVAL CAN BE PURCHASED BY CLICKING THE LINK BELOW: 

https://www.skiddle.com/festivals/maid-of-stone-festival/

 

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