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PHOTOS OF    Jeff Robinson from Jeff Robinson pr also Belsonic events Organiser Alan Simms also there was cool fm getting to see  the fan zone ready for the Euros 


Alan Simms is one of the promoters of the always interesting Belsonic Festival, which is coming in two waves this year: the first starts this Thursday with Tiesto, the second on August 18 with acts as diverse as The Corrs and Madness. We met Simms literally at the foot of the huge stage currently being erected in Titanic Belfast to discuss the new, larger venue, the varied lineup, and their hopes for this year’s festival.

Hi Alan. My first question is less of a question than a statement really, which is “wow!” What a great venue – spectacular, historic and very Belfast.

Oh that’s excellent, thanks! That’s exactly what we were aiming for.

Obviously Belsonic had outgrown its previous setting at Custom House Square. What brought you to the Titanic Quarter?

We had actually wanted to move for the last few years, as Custom House Square was really restrictive, which meant that certain bands couldn’t play there. I mean, we never could have got that monster of a stage set up there! (gestures to stage). We wanted it to be somewhere unique and very ‘Belfast’, as you say, and not just in a field somewhere. We had known the guys at the Titanic Building for awhile now, so it eventually just fell into place.

You’re in the process of setting up for Friday. What’s the general feeling amongst everyone?

Yep, getting everything set up and it’s all going well so far. Everyone is calm, everyone knows their job so we’re all just getting on with it. There will probably be things crop up – I’m sure of it, actually – and it will get a bit more hectic as it gets closer to the time, but for now everything is great.

Was the plan always to split the festival into two parts?

No! We just had so much interest, so many bands wanting to play here, and they were all available in either June or August, and then they go to Asia or wherever in July. So we just decided to go for it and break it into two parts, and the feedback so far has been great.

The lineup is, as always, very eclectic! Does that represent the promoters’ taste in music, or is it more about covering a wide range so there’s something for everyone?

I would say it’s more of the second one, to be honest! We always wanted to put on a show that had a bit of everything: some pop, some rock and metal for the metal kids, there’s some dance stuff in there too…so it would be more about wanting to put on a good mix that everyone can find something they like in.

There’s also the Fanzone this year. Can you tell us anything about that?

Well we realised that this year, we have both a Northern Ireland team and a Republic of Ireland team in the Euros, and when we spoke to the Council and others we found out that no one was screening the matches for the public to watch. And here we have this big venue, with a big screen, and there’s no (Belsonic) shows on the days of the matches. So they will be screened here, for free, for up to ten thousand people. It’s such a great location – you can walk over from town to watch a match and maybe stay out after. This (The Titanic Quarter) is where the Cathedral Quarter was maybe fifteen years ago; you’ve got the tourists, the buildings, all that. So this is something new for Belsonic but the feedback so far has been really positive.

Let’s go back to the start for a minute. Belsonic has been around since 2008. Where did the idea originally come from?

I’ve no idea, to be honest! (laughs). It was just an idea that grew over time: the fact that there wasn’t really anything like this, especially eight years ago, was the main factor. It’s not like that now – there’s something like forty two festivals in Belfast over the summer – but back then there was really only Tennents Vital which was just a big space outdoors. I could lie and say there was a big light bulb moment! But really, it just came about over time.

It’s classed as a boutique festival due to its smaller size and varied lineup. Do you agree with that label?

Well I’m not really sure it should be classed as an actual festival! It has some of the hallmarks of a festival – it’s outdoors, it’s live music, and there really is something about listening to music outside, isn’t there? But it’s not a festival in a lot of ways: at a festival you usually camp and there’s all sorts of things going on. With Belsonic you don’t have to commit as fully as a festival. You can come along to a show – you can walk here from town and just wander up to check it out, you don’t have to come every day, the lineup is so varied. My way of thinking is, people can call it whatever they like as long as they enjoy themselves!

It’s obviously exceeded all expectations, prompting the move. How many are you expecting through the gates over the two portions of the festival?

I’d say we’d be hoping for about one hundred thousand.

Wow! And what were the numbers like last year at Custom House Square?

It was maybe half that, around fifty thousand. So we’re hoping to double our numbers. That would be great!

Imagine being able to quote that number in reference to the festival!

I know! It’s a good number to aspire to I think.

Well best of luck! I suppose you’re already planning next year?!

Yeah there’s a few names on the table – some bands said no, they’ll be top of the list! Come September we’ll go back to that list of names and start contacting people. Some people say no a few times – because of schedules, not because they don’t want to come to Belfast! – so we keep trying. The Chemical Brothers said no, like, five times! But we got them eventually (laughs). There’ll be several bands we contact and as long as enough bands say yes, we’re happy.

For further details/tickets, go to the Belsonic website at www.belsonic.com

Interview by Melanie Black


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