CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Devon Life today CLICK HERE

Si Ford predicts a ‘stonking’ year for Chagstock

PUBLISHED: 09:31 08 July 2014

Si Ford, founder of Chagstock Music Festival, at the festival site. This year's theme is Wild West.

Si Ford, founder of Chagstock Music Festival, at the festival site. This year's theme is Wild West.

MATT AUSTIN

From its small, homespun beginnings the Chagstock Music festival has grown and grown, without ever losing its homespun feel, thanks to founder Si Ford, as ALEXIS BOWATER discovers

The Chagstock crowd in full voiceThe Chagstock crowd in full voice

It was just a little note posted on a pub wall that started it: “Looking for a site” it read. But that scribbled plea found the field of dreams that became Chagstock Music Festival.

There was nothing there but a few cows and a view: 360 degrees of panorama, stretching from Hay Tor to the Teign Valley and embracing the northern edge of Dartmoor.

But standing there was a man with a plan, and now he’d found his venue. “It was pure chance,” Si Ford tells me, “The first time I walked up there I thought ‘this will do’ - it felt like I was on top of the world.”

Eight years on and Chagstock is the country’s biggest small festival with a back catalogue that boasts headliners from the Saw Doctors, Squeeze, The Fun Lovin’ Criminals and The Boomtown Rats.

Billy Bragg on stage at ChagstockBilly Bragg on stage at Chagstock

This year the 5,000 tickets will be sold out, again, and The Waterboys, The Lightning Seeds and Selector will be rocking the hedgerows near Whiddon Down this month.

I’ve seen it evolve from a one-acre to a 70-acre site, Devon’s own mini Glastonbury, with a fabulous family atmosphere in an astonishingly beautiful setting.

It mixes local bands (including Si’s own) with international headliners with a seemingly easy charm and I’ve been enchanted by that and never quite understood how it was done.

But I see now. It’s Si Ford. He’s the key. This is where the laid back comes from. The dual characters of independent financial advisor and musician were grappling under the lapels of a smart suit for 25 years of office work – and in the end the music won.

“After the first public Chagstock I was working full-time and I thought that I would hang the suit up and put everything into the festival. I chucked everything in, which in hindsight was a pretty stupid thing to do,” he says.

Except that it wasn’t. Because that combination of business brain and musical passion held good. Despite the dark times. “There were times when I was struggling to pay off the bills for that year’s event,” he tells me over a coffee. “And I was pleading with the creditors to give me more time. They had belief and cut me slack in the bad times and I have stuck with them.”

And so have the volunteers, the people who took ownership of this festival in the hard days, took it to their hearts, helped out their mate with a big idea and a small bank balance - and who should take a great deal of credit for its existence, and atmosphere, now.

For there’s something very refreshing and grounding about being there, not only for the festivalgoers but for the performers too. I guess being backstage in a dusty, or muddy, field (depending on the weather) on top of Dartmoor would do that to you.

That, plus the lack of protocol and natural enthusiasm of the volunteers manning, or womanning, the Green Room. “Sir Bob Geldof, having spent two hours on stage, was jumped on by Jules and Mandy,” laughs Simon. “Touch wood we haven’t had any prima donnas yet. All of our headliners have been really nice guys. Ade Edmondson said that our green room was the best he had ever been in.”

“We make them relaxed, the demographic of the place is relaxed, the people are relaxed. You get looked after at Chagstock.”

Any backstage gossip? I ask. Well, he divulges, Hughie Moran from Fun Lovin’ Criminals has a reputation for being a really cool guy and is a really nice guy too. Sir Bob didn’t have a shirt and so popped into the charity shop in nearby Moretonhampstead to get one. And he was charming, enthusiastic and very complimentary: “He said: ‘I know that I put Live Aid together but I had loads of help – this must be a nightmare to put together,’” Simon laughs. And there we are, coming full circle, back to those frankly fabulous volunteers again without whom the festival couldn’t happen.

It’s going to be another stonking year for Chagstock. I tell him that I can barely contain my elation about The Waterboys headlining and we giggle and get a bit overexcited and silly about who could be next.

How about some more Devon musicians, I ask, like, well maybe the little-known Chris Martin? Or Muse, Joss Stone – could you squeeze them on stage for half an hour this year? What if they just ‘dropped in’?

“They would have to give me a call and talk terms,” he laughs “… no! … no, they would be very welcome.”

Chagstock will be held on 18 and 19 July this year at Whiddon Down. For more information or to book tickets visit chagstock.info

Ten things you don’t know about Si

1) I love NCIS and don’t care who knows it.

2) I’m into horse riding, although I’ve not done much for a while.

3) I help run two other businesses – one called Pitched For You which hires out pre-pitched camping tents to people going to festivals and other events, and the other called Smiley Bars (SW) Ltd that does outdoor and event bars.

4) I am type 1 Diabetic and have been for about 35 years but have tried to never let it stop me having fun!

5) I have never been to Glastonbury

6) I hate couscous, rice pudding, semolina and porridge!

7) The first song I learned to play on the guitar was a John Denver song called This Old Guitar.

8) I was once much thinner!

9) I am not from Devon but have been around the area on and off since 1980.

10) I have two amazing children who both make me very proud.

Ten things Si likes about Devon

1) The people.

2) The Dartmoor Brewery beer.

3) The moor and its ruggedness.

4) The music and the huge range of talented musicians.

5) The wild weather (apart from in July!).

6) The wildlife.

7) The distance from London...

8) I like Exeter as a city that is not too large.

9) I love the Exeter Chiefs Rugby team.

10) The slower pace of life in general.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Devon Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Devon Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Devon Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

With breathtaking beaches, rolling countryside, stately homes and unique villages, it’s no wonder high-profile film productions flock to Devon - how well do you know the movies that have set up camp here however?

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Whether it’s on our beautiful beaches, in our magnificent moors or within our stunning stately homes, film productions are constantly setting up in Devon. Here are 16 that you might not know used the county as a filming location

Read more
Friday, October 26, 2018

From angry spirits to headless horses and ghoulish monks, Devon has more than a few supernatural stories to get your skin crawling. We have picked 11 haunted places in the county

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

October is the perfect time to discover the joys of Exmoor. Jennette Baxter of Visit Exmoor suggests five great ways to enjoy autumn on the moor

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Wild camping can be one of the best ways to escape the crowds for a night or two and lose yourself in the landscape - SOPHIE PAVELLE chooses her five favourite places to ‘wild-life’ camp in Devon

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

From sandy beaches and lighthouse-topped cliffs to views of the Jurassic Coast, the Devon coastline offers many perfect locations for a seaside walk. We pick 10 of the prettiest routes to take

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Take our quiz to find out how well you really know Devon

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

As the weather starts to warm up and the Devon countryside beckons, LIZZIE JANE of the National Trust in the South West offers plenty of walk ideas for you to try. Whether you want a relaxed Sunday stroll or a more strenuous hike, here are 10 walks across Devon (and beyond) to help you escape the crowds and head off the beaten track

Read more
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The South West Coast Path is celebrating 40 years by calling on people to help raise £40,000. To show their support, teams from Devon’s top tourist attractions are preparing to take to the trail. CHRISSY HARRIS finds out more

Read more
Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Away from the hustle of places like Woolacombe and Ilfracombe, North Devon is peppered with tiny coves, empty beaches and wooded walks leading to secluded bays that feel a million miles away from the tourist trail. BECKY DICKINSON reveals her pick of the best kept secrets on the North Devon coast

Read more
Friday, September 14, 2018

As part of her regular series where she visits Devon’s best places for 24 hours, Lydia Tewkesbury has this time been to Sidmouth

Read more
Thursday, September 13, 2018

Ranging from rocky and windy walkways along the South West Coast Path to the sandy beaches on the picturesque coastline, the district of North Devon is one of the prettiest coastal areas in the South West of England. In no particular order, here are 10 of the prettiest villages in the district of North Devon

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

In Devon’s towns and cities there’s an awful lot you can do in just 24 hours. For her regular feature, Lydia Tewkesbury travels to see what you can do in a day in Kingsbridge

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Villages in Devon are some of the prettiest in the South West. From beautiful little hamlets on the outskirts of the moors to seaside communities, we pick 10 villages in Devon you need to visit

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy



Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search