Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1099

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Steve Symons: Fully booked

Glastonbury Lianne La Havas: Glastonbury 2013 Bobby Womack: Glastonbury 2013 Nile Rodgers & Chic: Glastonbury 2013

With spring in the air and the first glimpse of warm sunny days, my thoughts were directing themselves towards the festival season and one in particular, the mother of all festivities, Glastonbury! Last year Blues & Soul covered the event, cheering on the likes of Lianne Le Havas, Alice Russell Chic, Public Enemy, Bobby Womack, Sergio Mendes and countless others all of which came from the West Holts stage and it's most definately my favourite one for obvious reasons. I
managed to catch up with the main booker, Steve Symons, for a quick interview to get you all in the mood for the summer revelry we can all anticipate ahead of usâ€Â¦

Emrys: How did you come to be involved with such a great festival?

Steve:I started off as stage crew and worked as a DJ, compere etcâ€Â¦Each stage / area at Glastonbury are run by crews who tend to come
back year after year so there's a bit of a family vibe.

Emrys: West Holts has been up and running for a couple of years, how and why was there a transition from the Jazz World Stage to how it is now?

Steve: I used to book the stage years ago and took a long break. When I came back it seemed wise to change the name as some bands were put off playing there, as they thought it was a jazz and world music stage, or worse - a world of jazz! I wanted to bring the stage back to what it had originally been, which was maybe a little more cutting edge. Having said that, it's a festival and people want some classics.

Emrys: You had some great act on last year; Chic, Bobby Womack, Public Enemyâ€Â¦How do you go about getting top acts like that, especially when they may want to play the Pyramid Stage?

Steve: It's easier to book bands for the stage now compared to three years ago, as agents and managers are getting what we're trying to do.

There are all kinds of musical threads that link the bands on West Holts, but the most important consideration for inclusion in our line-up is that all the acts are brilliant live and can deliver on a big stageâ€Â¦also West Holts has a great atmosphere. It's the third main stage with a 25,000 capacity arena, but that's just about small enough to do without great big video screens, so the relationship between the audience and what's happening on stage can be that little more intense and personal.

Emrys: What have been your highlights so far?

Steve: Well, the big headline gigs are always great and Chic in particular were awesome! However, some of the things we treasure most are great performances that stemmed from behind the scenes, efforts that the audience probably never know about. An example, we went to get Omar Soulyman out of Syria when the civil war was breaking out and he couldn't get a visa. Another was, getting an electronic trio, Brandt Brauer & Frick to perform with a full orchestra. One of their videos featured ballet dancers so we decided to do that as well. We ended up holding a competition to find the dancers and 80 ballet schools and company's entered. The winning dancers only came on stage for one number but the audience reaction made it all worthwhile.

Emrys: Any confirmations you can let us know about (for West Holts) this year?

Steve: There's a few acts that have self confirmed. You can dig around the internet and find out a few names - and a lot more false rumours.

Emrys: If I had a magic wand who would like to book?

Steve: I'd love to get Tom Waits and wouldn't it be amazing to tempt
Bill Withers out of retirement? Neither of those things will ever happen. Also juggling a relatively modest budget it's always a battle to tempt some of the big American names to play, with some of them we just chip away year after year. Mind you - I'm very happy with this year's line-up.

Emrys: Great to see Alice Russell getting covered by the BBC last year, do they film everythingâ€Â¦what's the criteria there? Also a few years back, Funkadelic headlined and to my knowledge, they weren't filmed, was that an oversight?

Steve: Before I took over the stage the BBC had pretty much stopped filming anything on Jazz World. The first year they came back and covered two days I think it was, and for the last two years they've been recording everything apart from the first two bands. It's never fixed though - they have to like what we offer. I'm trying to get them to film this year's opening act as we have something very special lined upâ€Â¦

Emrys: Lastly Steve, do you think Prince might play Glastonbury this year?

Steve: (laughs) No Comment!

Emrys: You killjoy and dasher of dreams! (laughing) Thanks anywayâ€Â¦
Words Emrys Baird

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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