‘Let’s give Portsmouth a festival!’
Those were the words spoken by Andy Marsh, Ben Miles and James Ralls, who between them run Osborne Road pub eaterie the Belle Isle, its little sister in Chichester, and the Little Johnny Russell’s music bar at the top of Albert Road.
This time last year they were gearing up to help out with the Victorious Vintage event, which saw around 40,000 people turn up for a free gig at Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard.
But this year they’re doing something even more special with the Victorious Festival in August.
‘We had bands playing on a stage next to HMS Victory,’ says Andy, while sipping coffee in the Belle Isle.
‘They all thought it was an awesome place to be.
‘We love music, and we thought let’s give Portsmouth a festival, with the idea to get as many local businesses and as many local bands involved as possible.’
Andy grew up in Portsmouth and remembers going to free Heineken Beer Festival gigs on Southsea Common in the mid-1990s, seeing bands like Dodgy entertaining the crowd.
‘I think that got a little bit too big and it wasn’t allowed to continue,’ added Andy.
‘This is about starting a festival for Portsmouth.
‘Last year we had Dodgy playing, and the Lightning Seeds, and it was brilliant.
‘It gave us a foot in the door with the dockyard.
‘It’s amazing how many people hadn’t been there before, even though it’s on their doorstep.’
The event was such a success that Andy, Ben and James were asked back to put on something even bigger and better than before.
‘It was a choice between making it completely free of charge and having it exactly the same as last year, or doing something a bit different.
‘So I said, let’s put a ticket price on it which won’t scare people off, and we can get the acts we want which people will like. I think we’re now putting on the cheapest festival in the country in terms of what you get.’
The festival will be held over two days, on Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 August.
Tickets cost £15 for each day and included in the price is access to all the attractions in the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, including the new Mary Rose Museum.
Children’s tickets cost £5, while under-fives go free.
‘We tried to make sure there is something for everyone,’ said Andy.
‘So we made sure there was something for families and tried to have a range of music that people would like.’
For children, popular cartoon character Peppa Pig will be visiting on both days, as well as circus performers sharing their skills and street performers.
There will also be side shows in balloon-modelling, face-painting and a host of games to join in with.
For adults, Level 42 will be joined by The Feeling and the Brand New Heavies on the main stage on Saturday, with DJ Yoda and Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs providing the beats in the indoor arena.
On Sunday, Maximo Park and Katy B will pay the main stage, where Charlotte Church will also be unveiling her new sound.
Popular 90s band Reef will also be playing the stage as part of their 20th anniversary tour.
Mike Skinner, of The Streets, will be the late night DJ and The Cribs will be playing indoors.
There will be an acousic arena, too, featuring James Walsh from Starsailor on the Saturday and Mark Morriss of the Bluetones on the Sunday,
‘We have held auditions for bands in Little Johnny Russells, asking them if they want to play the festival,’ added Andy.
‘It’s just supposed to be a good family weekend.’
Among the other attractions will be boutique markets and stalls, and a real ale festival.
Andy added: ‘There isn’t one in the Guildhall any more, so the Leopold Tavern has joined up with Irving Brewery to have more than 100 ales and ciders there.’
The theme to the festival is maritime, somewhat unsurprisingly given its location.
Flanked by HMS Victory, the main stage will be the place to be, while there will also be the other arenas dotted around the dockyard.
There will be no need for Glastonbury-style fences, as the dockyard comes ready-equipped, seeing as it is nestled next to Portsmouth Naval Base.
Lincoln Clarke, chief executive of Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, said: ‘The Victorious Festival is a great addition to the historic dockyard events calendar, allowing us to showcase the attractions to an audience who may not have thought to visit before.
‘We are delighted to be working with local businesses to build an event that the whole city can enjoy and to also reaffirm Portsmouth as a desirable visitor attraction.’
There are 36,000 tickets on sale, with 18,000 people attending on each day of the festival.
For Andy and the team, the entire festival is about helping Portsmouth become a community united through music, through the city’s attractions, celebrating its maritime traditions, and working together to put on such an event.
Andy added: ‘We’ve got to be proud of where we’ve come from, because it’s great.’
The team are already turning their attention towards the future, despite the fact they are still three months away from this year’s event.
‘If we get this year’s event done the whole thing is just going to snowball and get better and better,’ added Andy.
‘We learned so much from last year, not least the importance of being ready for whatever the weather does.
‘But that was on the Queen’s Jubilee weekend.
‘Hopefully in August even if it rains it will still stay quite warm.’
He added: ‘It’s just going to be a festival that’s a fun day out.’
IT’S really important to Andy, Ben and James that the Victorious Festival involves local businesses as well as bands.
When the Leopold Tavern and Irving Brewing Company linked up with the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) to lay on a beer festival at the event, it was a partnership Andy wants to see more of.
He said: ‘We’re not putting this on for profit and the Belle Isle is not getting any more out of this than any other business which is involved.
‘The people who run the Hovercraft have been fantastic, as they’re offering cheaper tickets for people to come over for the festival from the Isle of Wight.
‘If an extra 10 people come into the restaurant off the back of it and that’s all, that’s fine.
‘Last year the traders at the festival all did really well, and we’re asking for people to come down and have stalls there.
‘There will be a small pitch fee, but there are going to be almost 40,000 people there.’
He added: ‘We can’t provide camping but next year we hope to work with B&Bs and hotels.’
TICKETS are likely to start selling fast once the summer holidays begin and people start planning their activities.
So it’s better to buy them sooner rather than later.
They can be bought in person from The Belle Isle in Osborne Road, Southsea; The Belle Isle in Chapel Street, Chichester; Little Johnny Russells, Albert Road; The Wedgewood Rooms, also in Albert Road, or online at victoriousfestival.co.uk.
The event opens at 10am and closes at midnight on both days.
Music will start on the main stages at 10.30am on both days.
The ticket allows entry to HMS Victory, HMS Warrior 1860, the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Action Stations and Harbour Tours. Entry to all of the historic dockyard’s attractions are subject to availability and queuing may be likely.
The attractions are open on both days from 10am until 5.30pm, with the last entry at 5pm.
Access to the new Mary Rose Museum is also included, but time slots must be booked in advance in order to visit it.