I know there’s a whole bunch of stuff going on in the world which I could be talking about right now, and before I get started I just want to reassure you all that I’m thinking about all those big things – Biden, Rashford, Oxford-AstraZeneca. All the big good guys right now.
But I’m also thinking about Damnation Festival, a metal festival which would have been held yesterday if we weren’t all currently avoiding an actual plague.
I have been to Damnation three times in the last few years, which I’ve been able to do because I work at the venue where the Festival is run (Leeds University Union). As most readers know, I work there as the Leadership & Governance Support Manager, which basically means I look after the administration of the charity. It is not very metal.
I’ve always had a fairly diverse taste in music, but I have to confess, metal has actually never really been my thing. There’s definitely some that I really like, but it’s a bit of a hunt and honestly I’ve just never put the work into the genre. So it might therefore seem strange to you all that I would repeatedly turn up at a metal festival when the only link to it that I have is that we’re both based in the same building.
But listen guys. It is honestly an AMAZING event.
The first year I went, I was shadowing a colleague who was mentoring me – giving me a greater insight into the commercial workings of the organisation. I’ve always been into live events management, but up until I started working at LUU that really revolved mostly around live theatre, speaking…narrative-based production. I’d not really had much experience of the workings of a live music event on the scale of Damnation.
It’s a whole day thing, so our doors open at lunchtime and then we don’t close again until the end of the afterparty in the wee hours. The attendees are a mix – not our normal crowd of students, but people of all ages, from all walks of life, from all over the country. We host four stages and there are stalls selling merch and bars selling beer and food. It transforms the building. It’s loud (naturally), and at times a bit intimidating, but it’s also one of the most friendly and charming crowds that you’ll ever meet.
After that first year, I was hooked. I’ve volunteered to go back each year since, getting up a silly-o-clock in the morning to get into work and move furniture, try and locate various people with far more technical skill than me, and scanning thousands upon thousands of tickets. The organisers are lovely and even though I suspect they’ve no idea who I am, I’m excited to see them every year just because I know what a good day it’s going to be.
This year as there’s no festival, they’ve released some custom merch and a podcast – and I, a self-confessed non-fan of metal have bought my merch and listened with interest to the podcast (and you should too, it’s honestly great).
Because actually, you don’t have to be massively into something to see its value and to love it. If I wasn’t able to go along and help at Damnation, I don’t know if I’d buy a ticket, certainly not every single year, because I wouldn’t get the same enjoyment as I do making sure that everyone has the right wristband, and that the acts can find their dressing rooms. But I might buy a ticket because Damnation is exactly the kind of live event I hope makes it through our current plague-ridden storm. It’s a well-run festival packed full of people who just want to enjoy screamy shouty art together. More power to them.
Oh and guys, I might not be massively into metal, but because of Damnation I got to see Opeth live last year, and honestly, that’s enough.
Support the arts guys, in whatever way you can. Buy some merch – if nothing else, it looks really cool.