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Wheat Beat Weekender

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I meet Johnny and Steve in a pub not far from the end of the Parkway, having been intrigued at the prospect of a new festival taking place over this year's summer solstice.

It's been a serendipitous meeting of minds, combined with shared resources, experience and determination, that has got them this far. It's this journey and how you actually go about setting up a festival from scratch that we begin to unpick.

[Johnny] The seed was sown three years ago. Steve had a do on his farm for Sky TV with Ashley Banjo's Secret Street Crew, and on this episode they were doing farmers. Steve had injured his leg so he didn't do it. The end night was where all of these farmers had to perform in his barn. I'd been looking at various locations around Sheffield for a few years for a festival, so I asked Steve about using his land. I've been going to Glasto since the early nineties and my background's health and safety, so I said to Steve that I'll do all the paperwork. Steve ploughed the field, got that ready and seeded it.

[Steve] We were originally going to put the first one on last year, in the summer.

[Johnny] Due to objections, we had to go to a hearing at Rotherham Chambers. Steve couldn't do it because he'd lost his voice.

[Steve] I'd got some sort of virus. I was laid up in a bad way!

[Johnny] At the hearing, representatives were there from local authorities and we ended up convincing them it was a good idea. Rotherham's had a lot of bad press and it needed something, so it was about doing something positive. They came in with a decision at the end of January 2018. We finally got the go-ahead to do it but we made an executive decision that even though the field had been seeded, five months wasn't long enough to plan it properly.

Granddad took some convincing!

What's the first thing you did next?

[Steve] We had to decide on an angle for the festival and how we were going to brand it. I think that one of the selling points is that it's not in the middle of nowhere. It's only 15 minutes to the middle of Sheffield and 10 minutes to the centre of Rotherham, but when you're out there in that field, you could be miles away.

What drives you when there's no immediate profit?

[Johnny] For me, it's all about the music.

[Steve] I've always loved my music as well. It's one of those things that it's going to be a massive slog to get it there, but if it comes off, it's going to be something to enjoy as well. With a little farm, at the minute, you've got to diversify. If you stay just farming, you're going to go under. On a small family farm like ours, you've got to be looking at other things to bring an income in.

Have your family been receptive to the idea?

[Steve] Granddad took some convincing! If you think of a stereotypical old farmer... Trying to tell him that this year we're not going to put a crop in that half of the field, and instead we're going to have a music festival on it, was a bit of a challenge. It was a hard sell, but I think he's come round to the idea now.

Wayne Hoyle

Wheat Beat Weekender runs from 21 to 23 June. Weekend tickets are £40 and day tickets are between £15 and £22.50, with under 16s paying £10 and under 3s going free.

wheatbeat.co.uk

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