It's nearly time to get festival season into full swing and what better way to get things moving than to catch up with Tom Hyland from Swingamajig.
Swingamajig is a festival of vintage inspired mayhem and delight. It grew out of a club night run by the Electric Swing Circus in Birmingham, and our venue at Shambala Festival and after a few great years we thought to ourselves – what if we were to put on our own event.... It’s grown quite a lot since 2013, now attracting an amazingly friendly crowd of over 4,000, who come to party like it’s 1929!
When did you start putting on events?
I started putting on events at uni, running open mics, jazz jams and small things in Selly Oak, but I fell in love with events whilst running Vale Festival - a 5,000 person student led one day festival. After uni from the connections I made at Vale festival, I went on to work in event production at The Stage Bus.
The Stage Bus is a Birmingham based mobile stage company, it has quirky vehicles that turn into stages, which were a lot of fun and also gave me a really interesting insight into the technical aspects of putting on large events.
What was the first festival you ever attended?
The first ever festival I attended was Reading Festival back in I think 2001. It was a bit of a rite of passage going to see the biggest rock bands in the world playing on a huge stage, as a 16 year old kid I loved every minute.
What’s your favourite event (not your own)?
I love Shambala Festival. It’s a beautiful festival full of lovely people. It’s a big enough festival to get lost in but not so big you stay lost for too long. The atmosphere is just electric, really chilled but also a great party with more stages and spaces than you can shake a stick at. We get to run a little micro venue there too, so if you make it down come join us for a drink in the Swingamajig Speakeasy.
Are there any events that particularly inspire you?
Boomtown – because there is nothing even remotely like it. They construct a festival city in the middle of a field, complete with multi floored buildings, windows, streets and more - the level of attention to detail is astonishing. Boomtown is the best looking festival by a long long way and it is totally immersive with actors and performers on every street corner and balcony.
If you could have anyone headline your event who would you choose (past or present)?
For Swingamajig my dream headliner would be Jurassic 5. Not the first act people think of when they think of Swingamajig, but J5 were fusing jazz/swing with hip hop beats and rhymes long before electro swing was a recognised genre. As for a swing bands – I’d love the Fletcher Henderson big band, back in the early days when Miles Davis was there on the trumpet.
What is the craziest request you’ve had from an artist?
I don't think we have ever had a crazy request from an artist, everyone who performs at Swingamajig seems to be really quite nice and easy to get along/work with – touch wood!
If you weren't putting on festivals, what would you be doing?
I love the whole swing thing, so maybe dancing, I've been getting into Lindy Hop and I’d love to dance more, it’s so much fun and keeps you active too.
What's your number 1 tip for enjoying your festival?
Number one tip for Swingamajig is get there early! There is so much happening in the daytime with all the cabaret, performance and walkabout shows. The daytime entertainment is probably the best bit so make sure you are there with plenty of time before the headliners
What are your 3 must have festival promoter essentials?
My laptop – because I don't like working on phones
Google drive – so I can sync my spreadsheets up with the everyone else in the team
TrundleWheel – really handy for making sure things fit in the spaces they are supposed to go in
What's the best bit of tech you use at your festival?
Can I say pyrotechnics? I’m a sucker for things that go bang or are made of fire...
What makes your event stand out from all the rest?
A lot of events talk about being unique, but honestly there is no event in the UK or further afield that’s even a bit like Swingamajig. The mixture of music,cabaret,performance,decor and most of all the atmosphere that makes Swingamajig a special event. Even though Swingamajig seems like a niche event the appeal is still really broad.
Where would we find you on the last night of your festival?
As well as organising the festival I also play in a band called the Electric Swing Circus, we always play on the main stage so if I’m not there bouncing up and down then I’ll be doing the rounds, checking on the stages and making sure everything's running smoothly.
Finally - Do you ever get used to portable loos?
Fortunately being an urban event we have real toilets. After 3 years of festival tours I’m better with portaloos than I used to be, but the thought of having to go through that ordeal still makes me shudder.