From garden party to award-winner: the story of Y Not

Credit: Ross Silcocks
Credit: Ross Silcocks

A Derbyshire music festival which began as an outdoor experiment will this summer be headlined by former Oasis frontman Noel Gallagher and 1980s ska forerunners Madness.

Taking place once a year during the final weekend of July for over a decade, the story of how Y Not has transformed into one of the country’s most popular festivals is remarkable.

The festival’s founder, Ralph Broadbent, and a few of his friends originally planned to hold an outdoor music event in Ralph’s parents’ Derbyshire garden while they were away, inviting their friends and friends’ bands to play and enjoy a barbeque. But the event was relocated to a near-by quarry when Ralph’s folks stayed at home.

It was originally called ‘Big Gin Fest’ – resembling its location, near Biggin, in the Peak District – and attracted around 120 people when it was held over two days in 2005. The festival was held at the same location the following year, this time christening the name Y Not, after its organisers secured a license for the event.

Y Not has bourgeoned ever since and the festival was held for the first time at its picturesque Pikehall home, in a village near Matlock, in 2007, and 1,000 people attended – a far cry to the 15,000 hoard, which it now attracts.

Simon Mawbey, who has helped to organise the festival since 2005, says: “It has grown in size as the festival has grown itself, last year was our tenth anniversary – our biggest to date and a sell-out success.

“I think it’s broadened slightly also, we get so many people in their 30s, 40s and 50s saying that Y Not was their first festival and they loved it, which is great.” And a few famous faces have been spotted lurking around the growing Derbyshire novice, explains Simon. “Jarvis Cocker did pop over to check out Palma Violets (in 2014) one year and last year Jack O’Connell (This is England, Skins, Starred Up, Unbroken) came down with a group of his friends,” he adds.


Y Not marked its tenth birthday by winning ‘Best Medium Festival’ at the Festival Awards, in November – three years after it won ‘Best Small Festival’, which illustrates its progression. The festival was spectacularly headlined by high-profile rapper, Snoop Dogg, extravagant dance collective Basement Jaxx and Primal Scream – with Ocean Colour Scene, Super Furry Animals and Johnny Marr also featuring.

Simon says: “There have been so many that have been amazing – I loved Snoop last year, he was surreal and loads of fun, also Basement Jaxx last year were incredible.”

But, with a tough act to follow, the festival’s organisers have pulled out all the stops to make this year’s line-up even better. And now the prospect of one of the country’s most talented and revered musical icons awaits to grace the Big Gin Stage – Y Not’s main stage – a feat which has surprised many, including Y Not’s organisers, says Simon.

He adds: “We’d talked about the likes of Noel Gallagher for years as kind of a pipe dream, he’s a musical hero of many of us and I’m not entirely sure we ever thought we’d get there, so it’s pretty surreal to now see him on the line-up poster.”

Since splitting from Oasis, in 2009, Noel has gone solo and his High Flying Birds collective have released two No.1 records.

Madness will also be performing; Camden’s national treasures have spent the last 40 years entertaining people of all ages and their repertoire of charming, charismatic singalongs will be likely to create a party-like atmosphere in the scenic Derbyshire countryside.

Birmingham indie-band Editors are the final headline act and make up an eclectic bill which also includes the likes of The Cribs, The Coral, Catfish and the Bottlemen and folk band, Ferocious Dog.

The Cribs headlined Y Not in 2013 and are back again this year and Ross Jarman, the band’s drummer, says the group’s set three years ago felt like a Cribs headline show – rather than a festival. He adds: “Sometimes when we play festivals, it feels like we are playing to a mix of people, some who have come to see us and others who don’t really know us but, on some occasions, it just feels like a big out door headline show.

“I remember on stage just feeling really comfortable playing because it sounded great and the crowd were so receptive. It felt more like a home-town show.”

Dan Booth, who plays the fiddle for Ferocious Dog, says the Nottingham-based band, who have not played at the festival before, are excited to be on the line-up this year. He adds: “We’ve done a lot of big festivals, including Glastonbury, and I’m sure this is going to be up there with the best of them, especially as it’s really local to us too.”

Y Not has also proved to be a hot bed for local talent, working in tandem with the BBC’s introducing scheme to propel the careers of unsigned musicians and bands – who can apply for a slot to play on one the festival’s smaller stages.

Some of its recent successes include Nottingham’s chart-topping Jake Bugg, who played at Y Not in 2011 shortly before signing for his record label, and the same happened in proceeding years to Saint Raymond and Indiana.

And history repeated itself last year for Eva Plays Dead, an up-and-coming alternative-rock four-piece from Nottingham and Derby. The band’s set was filmed, the resulting footage featuring prominently in one of their recent music videos – ‘1950’s Woman’ – which premiered on Kerrang’s website and became the ‘hottest’ video on the site in November.

Matt Gascoyne, who is a singer for the group, says: “We sent this video out to potential managers and have since signed with Jeff Keller at The Artery Foundation (California, US), so I think it’s fair to say that Y Not has managed to play a part in our progression.”

Y Not takes place between July 29 to July 31 and promises to be its best year to date.

Jamie Barlow

Photo Credit: Ross Silcocks 

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