All Tomorrow's Parties: I'll Be Your Mirror
By Amy Liptrot
6 July 2011, 12:24
Ahead of I’ll Be Your Mirror on July 23rd & 24th, Amy Liptrot infiltrates ATP HQ in the first of our series of features on their new London festival
This summer, as well as hosting a boxing tournament, a wine festival and model engineering exhibition, Alexandra Palace – at the top of North London – is the venue for two days of I’ll Be Your Mirror, a ‘sister event’ to the All Tomorrows Parties festivals. The incongruity of the location’s uses suits an organisation that began by putting on festivals in Pontins and Butlins holiday camps: avant garde noise bands playing where the weekend before redcoats performed hits from musicals, among arcade games and neon fast food outlets.
At his home in Highgate, which doubles up as ATP HQ for a “close-knit” staff of eight, founder Barry Hogan – who, 12 years after the first Bowlie weekender is, with wife Deborah, involved in all parts of the ATP’s growing empire (now including a record label) – explains the idea behind the I’ll Be Your Mirror: “We wanted to design something that you could do in a city, without the accommodation but still with the curator aspect, so people could maybe come just for the day, so they get to embrace it”.
Ally Pally has personal meaning for Barry who grew up on Alexandra Park Road, where his Mum still lives. He points out the legacy of bands that have played there before: From Led Zeppelin and New Order; to the White Stripes, and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.
Barry allays worries, triggered by recent shows at Ally Pally, about sound quality and logistical problems – saying they are bringing in a specially-designed PA system, a cash bar and extra buses. There will be two main stages, he says, “and we intend to utilise so many of the spaces there: we’re going to have a cinema, there’s going to be the rose garden with a jazz band…”
As well as the big draws including PJ Harvey and Grinderman, the line-up is typically weird: including graphic artist Alan Moore performing with Stephen O Malley from Sun O))), Godspeed You! Black Emperor playing one of their only shows this year and “this girl called Helen Money… she’s a cello player who plays like Black Sabbath.”
Working with a different artist as ‘curator’ – on this occasion Portishead – gives each ATP event a unique flavour. Barry describes the curation process: “The line-up is like the script of a film and we’re like the director who trying to direct the curator who is the star of a film into making this great film… A lot of people are under the illusion that I pick half the bands, which I don’t. I do make suggestions, if the curator asks, but generally I try to give them as much freedom as possible to pick what they want – obviously within reason.”
Barry is forthcoming on a time when this process was difficult: “The Vincent Gallo one was pretty stressful. He’s quite a character and a half… Vincent wanted things like Christina Aguilera to play and I think he was phoning up Jay-Z and Micheal Jackson”. But he is also willing to name a favourite ATP: “The Dirty Three were such good curators… the way they approached it was full of so much vim and enthusiasm”.
What is the future of ATP? “When we first started doing ATP, we were one of the first original alternative festivals, and now they seems to be springing up all over the place and you get a lot of them all going for the same bands,” Barry says. The impact of this, combined many people choosing to go to Primavera, on ticket sales, means it was a “business decision” to make this year’s May festival the last spring event for now.
With Alexandra Palace holding up to 11,000 people, IBYM is the biggest ATP event yet, and fans are hoping they can maintain quality of acts and un-commercialised, “family” atmosphere that makes ATP so very special.