Festival Playlist: Organiser Simon Bailey shares his tips for Oxford fest Ritual Union

Ritual Union is set to take over Oxford’s Cowley Road for its third edition on 19th October.  The multi-venue all-dayer sees a host of Joyzine favourites including Psychedlic Porn Crumpets, Bo Ningen and Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs joined by a host of established names and up and coming artists.  We caught up with festival organiser Simon Bailey to find out more.

With so many festivals and all-dayers taking place throughout the year these days, what makes Ritual Union stand out?

There are a lot of them around but I guess Ritual Union is geared more at a local crowd. The people of Oxford have often had to travel to other larger cities to get to events like this so I thought it would be a nice idea to give them something on their doorstep. Add to the fact that Cowley Road is perfectly set up for this kind of event with all the venues being within 4 minutes of each other, I think we’re giving people a strong and unique offering. Some of our contemporary events are spread out across rather large cities and it can take a while to get between venues, I was really keen to ensure we could provide an event where everything is all in one place.

What do you look for in the bands that you book for the festival?

There are 3 key elements when booking Ritual Union I think. Firstly we’re looking at artists that have played Oxford and done well in the previous 18 months, we need those bigger names that add some value to the ticket. Secondly, we’re looking to bring in exciting new bands that we think people are going to be seeing lots more of in the next 12-18 months. Thirdly, it’s important we also have a strong local contingent on the bill. I’d like to think we get a good balance of established names and some of the most exciting up and coming talent every year. I’m particularly pleased with this years lineup.

Are there any acts on this year’s line-up that you are especially looking forward to? Any less well known gems that music fans should make a beeline for?

There’s loads of really great exciting new artists such as Lazarus Kane, Katy J Pearson, Working Mens Club, Max Blansjaar, Egyptian Blue, Another Sky… I could go on and on…. Plus we’re really excited to be hosting The Comet Is Coming after 3 years of trying, Twin Peaks and Chastity Belt are playing Oxford for the first time and we’re delighted to be welcoming back the likes of She Drew The Gun, PIGSx7 & Teleman!

This is the third edition of Ritual Union – what have some of the highlights of the first two festivals been for you?

There are too many to mention but I’ll have a go…. from the first edition, Josefin Öhrn & Traams really set the place alight. Last year felt like we’d taken things to the next level with really super sets early in the day from Boy Azooga & Warmduscher getting people warmed up. The Lovely Eggs absolutely rammed out The Bullingdon in mid afternoon and got everyone smiling… dancing in the pit with Nadine Shah whilst Ghostpoet was playing, local legend Gaz Coombes topping the bill and Fontaines DC at the aftershow, it was pretty memorable I have to say!

How has the festival developed since it’s first year?

Not much has changed in terms of the formatting of the event, but I feel like we’ve developed the programming really well as the years have gone on and people are actually coming to us and asking to play now, rather than us having to approach them, which is nice. Seems like we’ve put the event on the map as we’ve had press coverage from all over the UK and lots of people travel in for the event.

What do you enjoy most about putting on the festival and what have been the biggest challenges?

The best bit is booking the artists for me. It’s a bit like creating your own real life playlist or mix tape. All of the artists I book every year I am a big fan of, so it’s great fun to pull them all in to one place for a day and watch all the fantastic live sets. The biggest challenge is selling the tickets… it’s a tough world out there right now and people are feeling the pinch financially due to years of austerity and Brexit uncertainty. Most promoters will tell you, it’s very tough to make the numbers stack up on an event like this but we do it for the love and hopefully everyone gets to have a really memorable day! Nightshift Magazine which is the local music mag made it their event of the year in their end of year roundup last year… those kind of things make it all worthwhile!

Do you have any tips for aspiring promoters?

Be nice to everyone. Be prepared to work really hard. Trust your gut instincts. Most importantly, enjoy yourself and the rest will follow!
Tickets for Ritual Union priced at £44 + booking fee are available from See Tickets.
Check out Simon’s Ritual Union 2019 playlist:


Interview by Paul Maps

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