Handmade Festival 2017

We catch up with John Helps, Festival Director of Handmade Festival and get his thoughts on what it is that makes Leicester such a great place for music and the arts.


  1. What made you decide to start Handmade Festival?

We started it the year that Summer Sundae Festival initially took a fallow year. There weren’t really any other major music events in the city and I felt like someone should be doing something – not to replace that event, which was amazing in its own right, but just because a fertile cultural calendar is better for everyone. Also, my dream job is basically curating a festival and it didn’t seem like anyone was going to pay me to do that, so I took it upon myself to create my own.

2. What makes Leicester a great place for a festival?  

A million things. Being in the middle of the country is a big plus. There are also tonnes of people in the city who give up their time and resources to help us make it happen every year, and they’re an essential part of the puzzle, too. All the people behind the festival are from Leicester, so it wouldn’t make sense to do it anywhere else.

3. What advice would you give to any aspiring promoters/festival bookers/creatives? 

Don’t do it! Only joking. It’s amazing if stressful. Be realistic and start small. Start putting on shows or small events first before you jump in to the large-scale ideas. Learning slowly and scaling up is the way to do things.

4. What advice would you give to any students considering coming to Leicester to study and live?

Absolutely do it. I’m a Leicester graduate as are a ton of the guys involved in the nuts and bolts of the festival. There are also people with no academic background who have gotten involved and learnt their trade through the festival before going on to bigger and better things. Leicester is a lovely, manageable size for doing things like this, for getting to know people and venues and the creative community in general. There’s always something going on but it’s not overwhelming.

5. What do you think makes Leicester such a creative city?

Having so many creative institutions here is obviously important. An arts focused university and colleges for example. I also think that it’s not a competitive city. People tend to support each other rather than being super cut throat and fighting for position. We create our own scene here rather than fighting to be a part of somebody else’s.

6. What would you say is the best thing about living in Leicester?

The incredible diversity in the city is awesome for any number of reasons, not least the fact that we have amazing food from virtually any culture. It’s not the most important reason that that diversity is important, but it’s an excellent bi-product.

7. What do you think of the current music scene in the city?

It’s as healthy as it’s ever been. There are some great new bands coming through, some of the bands that have been around for a while are starting to make it on to the national circuit… Generally, the quality is high and there are people doing all sorts of different, interesting and unusual things.

8. What is the biggest challenge you have faced in the first four years of Handmade?

Finding ways and places to grow in I guess. I’m not sure. It’s been a fun ride and we’ve done so much more than I imagined with it already.

9. How has your approach changed as the festival has grown? 

We delegate a lot more than we did when we first started. Other than that, the approach is similar.

10. What are your plans for the future of Handmade? 

Keep growing. Keep doing interesting things. We want to try and keep a flavour of those early handmades, with the magic of discovering new music…

Handmade Festival has established itself as a regular fixture on the UK festival calendar. It is now one of the most recognised independent festivals in the country.

This year will see Handmade celebrate its fifth birthday and the lineup for 2017 is looking like its biggest to date. It promises to be another great year!!!

For information on the lineup and tickets details for 2017 visit HERE