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Jersey Live

A decade of live music

Jersey Live music festival celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and this year's event promises to be bigger and better than ever.

It's 10 years ago and 3,000 people are standing in front of the stage of a debut music festival in the Royal Jersey Showground.

The time is approaching 7pm and an up-and-coming UK band on the verge of major chart success, Razorlight, is about to perform.

Backstage, DJ turned festival organiser Warren Holt is frantically racing against the fading daylight to get the stage's lighting rig up and running before it turns dark.

He knows that today, everything hangs in the balance - many would-be festivals fall at the first hurdle, and he and co-organiser Warren La Sueur have had frank discussions about the financial black hole they could find themselves in if things don't go well.

At that moment, the song Golden Touch begins and the crowd goes wild. Hearing the uproar, Warren drops his tools and runs out to see the frenzy himself.

It reminded me of Old Trafford. Seeing the crowd go bonkers I thought "That's it, we've done it".

Jersey Live had just made its mark.

Fast forward to present day and instead of crowds of 3,000, the event is now drawing crowds of 10,000 per day with seven different stages compared to 2004's two. It has attracted bands such as Snow Patrol, Kasabian and Prodigy.

Headlining the main stage of the first night of this year's event on Saturday 31st August is global superstar Fatboy Slim. To put into perspective just how far the event has come in 10 years, the week after headlining at Jersey Live, the dance producer will be performing for 50,000 fans at Ireland's Electric Picnic.

Warren says that, for him, the desire to one day organise a festival in Jersey came from his own love of music.

In the 90s I went to Glastonbury and that is where the idea was incubated for me,' he says. 'I went to the top of the hill where you can see the whole site, and I saw so many smiling faces. I thought, "This is what I want to do".

However as the pair discovered, logistically organising a festival is a big challenge, and even more precarious financially.

The first year was really high risk - we had to rely on the ticket money coming in,

he recalls.

I said to Warren "If we go bankrupt, you take 50% and I'll take 50% of the debt". In the end we just about scraped through by the skin of our teeth - everything was held together with sticky tape.

While initially things like crowd control and health and safety measures for such a large group of people presented a challenge, not only for the festival organisers but for the Jersey authorities too, things run like clockwork now.

Not only do they parachute in a project management team from the UK but crowd control is masterminded by the former commander for Somerset Police. Warren says the pair have also been fortunate with the bands they have been able to attract.

You have to keep your ears open - we go to a lot of showcase music events to see up-and-coming bands

he says.

When we first booked Razorlight it cost £5,000 and they weren't even headlining - they were just on the cusp of hitting it big. A year later and it would have cost £100,000 to book them!

Despite having had to contact and book huge groups such as Madness over the years, Warren says he is never intimidated to pick up the telephone.

I'm quite a confident person and so is Warren - if you get nervous about things like that then you shouldn't be in this job,' he asserts. 'You realise that people are people. We're friends with quite a few of the agents now.

This year, joining Fatboy Slim on the main stage are Yorkshire indie rockers The Cribs and BRIT Award Critic's Choice winner Tom Odell. On Saturday the dance stage will be headlined by Belgian drum & bass star Netsky while on Sunday it will be the turn of Radio One DJ Pete Tong.

Warren says he is delighted with the progress Jersey Live has made over the last ten years. But he adds that there is still room for the event to grow. It would be great to have a three-day event with 15,000 people per day.


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