Pigstock Music Festival 2012

In a Killinchy field, festival director Jonny Tate talks price hikes, ticket sales and rocking out with the rest of us

The June 1 - 3 weekend will see thousands of eager music fans descend upon the usually sleepy County Down village of Killinchy, as Pigstock Music Festival returns for its fifth year running.

The man behind the noise is festival director Jonny Tate, who is currently putting the final touches to the festival with just two days to go. Catching up with him as he takes a short break in a Killinchy field, Tate explains how it all began.

'It started off in 2008 with a birthday party for a friend of mine named Piggy,' he says, deadpan. 'I've always been a huge music fan, and have played in various bands over the years. So Piggy booked a marquee and asked if I could get a few bands in, set up a stage inside the tent.

'The locals started calling it Pigstock and the name stuck when he decided to do it all again the following year. After attending a few local festivals such as Glasgowbury, I decided that I really wanted to push it that bit further, and it's grown over the years into the festival that it is today.'

Pigstock 2011 was attended by over 1,500 people (an small but impressive increase from the 200 party-goers in 2008) and gained a Northern Irish Music Award nomination for best festival. This year, Pigstock is set to be bigger again, with 28 bands playing across three stages over two days, including Northern Irish Fighting With Wire, LaFaro and Mojo Fury.

But it's not all about hard rock. A wide variety of musical tastes is catered for at Pigstock, with Pocket Billiards bringing their individual brand of Belfast ska to the field, as well as Not Squares' groove-laden electro rock, face-melting metal from the likes of Gacy's Threads and more.

Tate is rightfully proud of how the festival has evolved. But with an increase in scale comes an increase in price. The £35 all inclusive weekend camping pass, however, is arguably much more affordable and competitive than other, larger scale music festivals in Northern Ireland at present. Besides, as Tate explains, it guarantees a much more fulfilling festival experience.

'Sure, some people might take a bit of umbrage with having to pay a bit more than in previous years,' he admits, 'but the payoff is that we have a way better show now and can offer much more stuff.

'There is proper production with proper stages and great bands with a strong contingent of southern Irish talent joining some of the best Northern Irish acts. As well as that we've also got a BMX display from RampRage and visual arts from local artist group Firsty, which should really brighten things up.'

While also working a full-time job, Tate spends a large part of his free time planning the festival, picking bands and attending gigs, with pressure building to a crescendo from January onwards. This time around, he hopes to soak up some of the festival atmosphere himself.

'I've been delegating a lot more this year,' Tate explains. 'I'm determined to see a lot of the bands, as I hardly got to see any last year. I couldn't pick one that I'm looking forward to the most, but I have to admit I'm pretty excited about having a beer on the Sunday when it's all over!

'But I have plenty of help. My family have been a huge support as always, and we have a lot of local volunteers including my girlfriend, who handles the administrative side of things.'

While Pigstock seems to be on level ground (ticket sales have been steady in the run up to the festival), a worryingly large number of Northern Irish festivals have fallen by the wayside this year due to financial issues. Belfast's long-running Open House Festival, for example, will not be occurring in 2012.

As to the future of Pigstock, Tate is understandably a little nervous, stating that he 'couldn't predict the future' and that it is likely that 'in a few years there may be a few less smaller events. But we're always trying to evolve. You have to put a solid foundation down. It's been slow and steady, and the whole thing has been a huge learning process. I've made some hideous, absurd judgements in the past but, I think we're getting better.'

With the main stage now erected and the other elements of the festival coming together, the Killinchy field is beginning to look the part. Now, as Tate says, 'all we need to do is add the people'.