10 years old now, Creamfields probably the world’s most renowned open air electronic music festival, and is undoubtedly the biggest credible music held event in Liverpool. James Barton is the founder of both Creamfields and the club that spawned it, and has loomed large over Liverpool’s dance music scene for many years. With the event now established over a decade ago, how does he feel the festival fits in to the Liverpool of today, a European Capital of Culture no less?
“I can answer that quite modestly,” he says, “or I can answer with what I hope it does. The fact of the matter is Creamfields is the only real serious, large-scale music event, not just in Liverpool, but in the North West. The powers that be get excited about Paul McCartney at Anfield, but actually, you know what, Creamfields has sold more tickets than Paul McCartney every year. And I think this year with it being a two-day event strengthens that position as the North West’s only outdoor music event that attracts tens of thousands of people.”
Indeed, Creamfields undoubtedly lands the city more kudos than hosting the Australian Pink Floyd show for the 11th year running at the Summer Pops. But few people outside of dance circles might be aware that Creamfields doesn’t only occur in the shadow of the Runcorn Bridge, but that related festivals are organised by Barton’s firm the world over, and that this Liverpool institution is a real, global brand recognised from Sydney to Buenos Aries.
“Creamfields is a big brand name, not just in the UK, but internationally,” says Barton. “We have events in places like Peru, Czech Republic, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico; I mean we’ve got twelve international shows this year.”
But despite this global presence, Barton feels Creamfield’s Liverpool roots are the foundation of its success: “I think because the company is based and was created in Liverpool, it adds to that quite nicely. From my point of view it is really important to me. I am passionate to the point of frustration to music being central to Liverpool’s cultural life, and I see Creamfields as a big driver of that.”
Indeed, it’s true that the Cream organisation, unlike to many other institutions and individuals in Liverpool, didn’t head for London the moment they found some success.
“We did have an office in London, for about six or seven years,” says Barton. “But we decided a few years ago to close that. For one it was getting financially ridiculous to run, but then secondly we didn’t need to be in London to run any aspect of the business. Then on top of that there is real romance, if you like, that on one hand you’ve got this big massive music industry in London, then you’ve got this festival which is recognised globally and operates globally, and it runs out of this little old warehouse in Liverpool.”
Barton feels that the Creamfields is all about the audience, a festival that despite being one of the most established in the UK consistently attracts a young audience.
“There are a lot of other activities that go on in Liverpool and also Manchester, but Creamfields is a young person’s show,” he says. “It’s about young people and new modern music. We feel really strongly about the show, but we also feel really strongly about the people who come to the show, especially these days when young people are get a real fucking bum deal from the media and the government that alls they’re perceived as being is out of control and all these sort of things. It just winds me up.”
With so much previous success to live up to, what have Creamfields done to build on the event for 2008?
“We felt strongly that the tenth anniversary should be a blueprint for the next ten years,” he states. “It shouldn’t be about a trip down memory land and congratulating ourselves. It should be about saying to people ‘That was the last ten years, and this is going to be the beginning of the next ten years.’ The heartbeat and the history of this festival will always be electronic music, it will always be DJ culture, and it will always be club culture. But, I want to continue with being able to book artists of the calibre and with the genre, if you like, of Kasabian. If that works this year, we will want to step out and find another great band that could do that. But I have to stress if we ever did that, we would still have a massive fuck-off dance line-up.”
To the future then, Does Barton feel that Creamfields might still be a part of Liverpool’s and dance music’s landscape in ten years time?
“We’re one of the longest running festivals in the UK now. We’re not a young festival, but because we can change it or shape it every year, and go in a different direction, or putting a second day on, it makes it really feel like it’s got another ten years on it. So that’s what gives me a lift and that’s what self-motivates us to go on to next year.”
By Kenn Taylor