ALSO Festival: Interview with Curator Juliet Russel

Great Britain is known for it’s festival culture: a weekend celebration of great music while knee deep in mud, burger in hand. Recent years have seen a surge of new, independent festivals popping up all over the country, each with their own unique quirks to offer. Also Festival is one of them, but unlike most, this festival’s objective is to get it’s audience thinking. Curated and developed by the brains behind Salon London, Also is now in it’s third year and identifies from the rest of the crowd as a festival based on ideas from these three points of view: the artistic, the scientific and the psychological. 

Prizing itself as a festival with only 500 tickets to sell but 50 acres to share, Also is set in the truly stunning landscape of Compton Valley, Warwickshire and intends to keep the intimacy of it’s small annual gathering. A step away from a typically music orientated line-up, the festival is a collection of talks and activities that hope to inspire, inform and enlighten. With plans to be more ambitious with the curation of the festival in the future and address the challenges that are taking place in the world right now, we speak to one half of Also’s founding duo, Juliet Russel, about what goes into independently crafting your own festival from scratch.

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You began with Salon London in the capital, and now you have pushed your ideas out to rural Midlands. What made you want to develop this idea into an outdoor festival?

It felt like a natural progression to give our audience longer to immerse themselves in ideas and experiences. Salon works brilliantly as an evening event, but there’s a different dynamic at a festival. Everyone’s more relaxed and the pace means you have time to really consider and feel the ideas that are being presented and the new things you might have tried.

How do you begin curating the content of Also each year?

We start with a theme. 2016’s was Chance, then look at who is exploring this theme in a interesting, even challenging way across science, art and psychology. 

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When it comes to putting together the speakers for the weekend, what are you looking for?

People who can communicate ideas in a way that entertains and inspires the audience. Talks don’t need to be dry. We have some incredible speakers who are performers as much as academics. If you’re passionate and you know your subject, it shines through.

What sort of obstacles are involved with beginning a brand new festival independently?

You basically pay for it with your time and energy! The benefit of this is that you can try things out and experiment. We can be as creative as we like with programming. 

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As an non-profit event, what is the motivating force behind all the hard work that goes into the weekend?

Collectively we have an ethos of just getting on and doing it. We’re all putting a lot in, but it’s worth it when you see incredible things come together and people having a great time.

What do you hope your festival-goers take away with them after their time at Also?

I hope that everyone has had experiences and encounters that help to keep them inspired and connected to people. There’s a big humanitarian mission at the heart of Also and Salon, which will become clearer as it grows.

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For more information visit www.also-festival.com.