In this instalment of Everyone But The Band Tara travels to Chareville Castle, Tullamore, Co.Offaly to meet the founder of Castlepalooza music festival and Cherrycool Promotions head honcho Cillian Stewart.
Cherrycool Promotions have been curating unique music events and developing festival brand management in Ireland for the last decade including one of Ireland's most loved boutique festivals, Castlepalooza.
Castlepalooza celebrates ten years in the Irish festival circuit this August Bank Holiday weekend with the likes of Vann Music, Fight Like Apes, Columbia Mills and Rocstrong providing the soundtrack.
Cillian Stewart has lost none of his enthusiasm for the festival experience and is keen to share his knowledge of the industry and tease us about the treats that may be in store for ticket holders this year.
Go for it. Start small; ensure it's something new for the market and aim for a certain slice that might not be currently looked after.
Most of our readers will be very familiar with Castlepalooza but before we get into that tell us a little about how Cherrycool came into being?
I set up Cherrycool back in 2006 while I was working in advertising sales in Newstalk. I planned; organized and ran the first festival on my downtime from my full-time job. Later that same year, I moved to advertising sales at Hot Press Magazine – rolling my two roles closer together. The following Spring, I moved out on my own & haven’t looked back since.
What drew you into the world of promoting and organizing festivals?
I organized my own 26th birthday party in Charleville Castle and when it came to a few months before my 30th birthday, I had an early mid-life moment that some people get and started to think about going into business for myself. The idea of an event at Charleville Castle – an amazing party location – evolved into Castlepalooza concept and the first event was held that same year.
I honestly took out a sheet of paper & started writing a list of things that I thought was needed, never having run an event in my life. After the first event went off so well, despite the financial loss of the inaugural year, I had the confidence to run a second festival.
From the first Castlepalooza event, it was clear we had created something special - the same friendly atmosphere and vibe we saw emerge at the first event is still enjoyed by festivalgoers a decade later. This is one of the qualities that often disappear as festivals evolve but we've held on to it.
Persistence and a good amount of positive thinking really is key. People are sometimes surprised that almost one-year’s work goes into an event covering just three days, but there is a huge amount of organization and planning involved in pulling off a seamless event that everyone will enjoy.
What do you look forward to about going to work every day?
It’s a lifestyle more than a job. I work my own hours; make my own decisions and enjoy the freedom (and stresses!) of working for oneself. After the festival is over and the admin is finished, I take time off and go to festivals overseas - a perk of the job.
I love the fact that every year is different, that Castlepalooza is growing organically year on year, and I’m still able to do the bulk of the organization for most of the year. Closer to the event, the team that comes in year on year is the same team we have had since year one, so it’s a tight-knit, well briefed and a lovely group of people to work with.
What are the dos and don’ts for anyone thinking of starting a festival?
Go for it. Start small; ensure it's something new for the market and aim for a certain slice that might not be currently looked after. You have to be aware that it is a very difficult albeit massively rewarding industry to operate in.
How do you think the festival scene has changed since Castlepalooza began?
Since Castlepalooza was first held, many festivals have fallen by the wayside in the hard economic conditions we’ve been operating in. Ireland’s biggest festival, Oxegen, is gone and various smaller events have come and gone. Only a handful have managed to survive the recession. Even EP has changed hands with its creator not involved any more. That says a lot for this industry in general, it really is a tough market and it’s so important to stay fresh and fun for the different audience year on year.
What’s been your best festival experience?
I saw Damien Rice with my girlfriend Adrienne (now wife) at the Austin 360 festival in Texas, while the sun was setting behind us and tens of thousands of Americans were singing his songs word-for-word, it was a truly memorable moment.
What Irish music are you enjoying at the moment?
My toddler son gets his way musically at the moment, so currently we listen to David Kitt, Fight Like Apes and he’s a massive fan of Vann Music. He’s only two years old but likes his tunes!
Can you give us what we can expect at Castlepalooza’s birthday party this year?
Honestly, it will be the best thus far. I’m putting everything I’ve learned over the years into one weekend this Summer and won’t stop until the ball is well and truly knocked out of the park.
Castlepalooza takes place at Chareville Castle, Tullamore, Co.Offaly July 31st-Aug 2nd. Click here for line-up and ticket information.
It’s a lifestyle more than a job. I work my own hours; make my own decisions and enjoy the freedom (and stresses!) of working for oneself.