The sun’s coming out, Lauren Alaina’s coming over and the toilets are going in. These are the last couple of days before the launch of Dixie Fields, a new country music festival in Chelmsford, Essex. My chat with festival pioneer Georgie is delayed because she’s been caught up in possibly the most crucial calculation since embarking on what she calls “this crazy debacle”:
how many loo cubicles is enough?
“Probably go for more than you think”, I chip in with zero expertise other than the obscene amount of my life I’ve wasted standing in toilet queues.
The toilets are just one item on a checklist that is giving me sweats just hearing about it. Somehow Georgie is calm and matter-of-fact as she reels off her schedule for the week; fencing, marques, security… all provided by local suppliers. She has a wealth of experience to draw from, gleaned from years working in racing event planning.
But this event is personal…
Along with her whole family, she’s turning their working farm into a festival for the type of music she’s appreciated ever since hearing her dad’s John Denver records and adored ever since her eldest brother brought home a Dixie Chicks CD. Much like Buckle and Boots festival (the Stockport’s similar affair which has been running for four years) the entire family has been roped in – from mum running twitter to little brother handing out flyers on the streets of Essex.
Now, after 18 months of dreaming and planning, it’s just days until the Friday night launch with live music and country karaoke for those camping for the weekend. Camping at Dixie Fields includes two American brunches, extra acoustic sets and a songwriting workshop with Katy Hurt, so I’m almost tempted to get my tent out. But Saturday (13th July) is the main affair. Fans have been drawn by British pop-country duo Ward Thomas and headliner, and ACM award winner Lauren Alaina, who’ll be kicking off her UK headline tour at the fest.
Lauren’s hit song – with its lyrics “don’t be afraid, take the Road Less Traveled…” – has been Georgie’s anthem since decided to go for it and add her own contribution to the UK’s escalating country music scene, and it has been a reminder through arduous tasks like council permit applications, working out the mains supplies on the farm – and those toilets. But Georgie’s hoping to create much more than an epic Lauren Alaina and Ward Thomas concert;
“We want people to feel relaxed, safe and to meet new people…
I’m excited to introduce people to bands they might not have heard before.”
The whole family have been passionate about featuring country music from across its hugely varied spectrum. Georgie’s personal picks for lesser known acts on the bill are Oregon singer Jackson Michelson (whose upbeat ‘farms, beer and sunshine’ brand of country will no doubt capture the imagination in Saturday’s predicted balmy weather) and harmony driven Essex trio The Jackson Line (who boldly describe their style as an “amalgam of The Eagles and Hunter Hayes”). There’s also a hand up for new unsigned hopefuls, with a mobile recording studio onsite on Saturday.
Whether it’s this new music, the line dancing session or Lauren Alaina that appeals most, we’re suggesting a brief pause of appreciation for the fact that there’s another country festival on the UK calendar, lest we forget the country-baron wasteland we once were. And this one has been started by a fan (I think I first met Georgie by the bar during a Country Music Week gig) for the rest of us fans.
There are still tickets available to be part of the inaugural event and to find out first-hand just how many cubicles Georgie eventually decided on. Adult day tickets are from £47 online and will be a few quid more on the door. Scroll down for the full poster; everything else you need to know is on Dixie Fields’ own site.
Who’ll be there?