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Green Island Festival

The festival's latest installation in the heart of Hulme attracted its largest gathering to date. Now Then spoke to the co-directors on the day.

25 September 2021,

Around 300 people were attracted to Hulme for Green Island Festival's third outing to date. Held at the Hulme Community Garden Centre, which has a capacity of 500 people, it's a festival that aims to promote the power of live music while upholding a strong ethos of community engagement, sourcing local Manchester-based musicians, DJs, food vendors and creatives for its unique line-up.

A Grassroots Gathering

The venture, which charges £15 per entry, is self-funded by co-directors Stephan and George Girr, Manchester-based creatives who have managed the event alongside other part-time jobs, holding the first event just a few months earlier in July 2021. Though gruelling in its organisational needs and time consumption, both agree it’s been the most enjoyable event they’ve ever put on.

“Other events you hold in clubs are so stressful to put on. There are way more considerations to do with security, and a lot more restrictions as to what you can do with the space,” notes Stephan. “This is all about community. We’ve got people coming from aged 70, right down to little kids. It’s for everyone.”

“The response has been incredible. Each time we put on a festival, we go beyond our target numbers. People really are engaging in the events we put on and the space we’re trying to create.”

Global Source Kitchen food stall at Green Island Festival

Global Source Kitchen food stall at Green Island Festival

Lizzi Philokyprou

Speaking on his first vision of the event, George explained how he wanted to make something that was accessible and enjoyable for everyone in the local community, in a green, outdoor environment: “We’ve all been locked in for so long. The thought of having to go into an enclosed space, a club, to watch live music just didn’t make sense.”

The space itself is owned by the council, and run by Hulme Community Garden, a non-profit organisation which promotes sustainability and horticulture to local schools. Though renting the space itself was straightforward, setting up the festival requires a lot of hard work. “The first event we did was crazy. We had to work so hard to get everything fit for purpose. Each event we’ve done, it's got less stressful, because we’ve got stuff already in place to help it run smoothly,” George said.

From setting up gravel paths, to toilet blocks, stages, a bar and booking local food vendors, Green Island is equipped with all the hallmarks of a classic British festival.

“When we started out, we had really big plans - maybe we were a little too ambitious," Stephan recalled. "We wanted free yoga sessions starting at 9am! We soon realised we had to deal with a lot of other infrastructure before we reach that point.”

Audience spilling out of the Main Stage at Green Island Festival

Audience spilling out of the Main Stage at Green Island Festival

Lizzi Philokyprou

Live Music

The festival has two stages - one specifically for live music, and another for DJ sets. Emphasis on giving a platform to local, up-and-coming musicians is an essential element of the event.

“A lot of the live music scene is dominated by DJs, but there are so many incredible musicians in this area of Manchester. We wanted to give them a space and opportunity to perform.”

“There’s nothing like watching live music. The connection you get with the musicians is unparalleled. It’s so great to hear musicians play live - and actually be able to pay them.”

Yorkshire-based George Fell, who splits his time between performance and metal artwork, opened up the festival with a soothing solo acoustic guitar set to a bustling audience. Later on, he said, “I think doing guitar instrumentals is a good way of kicking off proceedings. It’s a more meditative kind of music that gets people's minds going.”

For him, music is a cathartic process which quietens the mind, and post-pandemic performing is a welcome change from a year of inactivity. "It’s just so great that everything's alive again,” he added.

Manchester-based IORA, fronted by singer Holly, 24, played their first 90-minute set at Green Island Festival, which garnered great crowd responses. Holly told Now Then: “I absolutely loved it. I come to Hulme Community Garden Centre to buy plants anyway. It’s such a cool, green space. So when George got in touch, I was so up for it.

“On stage, you do get different vibes from different audiences, but here everyone was so welcoming.”

The Brightness Sanctuary at Green Island Festival

The Brightness Sanctuary at Green Island Festival

Lizzi Philokyprou

Community Arts

The festival also welcomed a variety of spaces for creative initiatives. So La Flair Theatre, an interdisciplinary female-run company, hosted the Brightness Tent, which gave festival goers the opportunity to take time out, relax and channel their creative energy in a communal space.

Artistic Director Scarlet Spicer, 23, explained: "We wanted to explore the theme of brightness and how people find light and brightness in their own lives, how we find that in the cities that we live in and the people that we’re with, and how we mix with them.”

The space emphasised the community feel of the festival, by setting up activities which united Mancunians in creative ways.

“We’ve created a mental health map of Manchester, and then people can write where their little sanctuary is in Manchester, whether that’s a park, their home, a cafe or a yoga studio, a club. Anywhere you feel bright in yourself.” explained co-Artistic Director Lucy Laverty, 23.

Over the day, this was transformed into a collective map of people’s safe sanctuaries across the city. The tent included chill-out spaces, with crafting tables for collages and painting, and a wishing tree which was continuously built up throughout the day.

On the festival itself, both Lucy and Scarlet felt it gives back to the community, and praised the festival directors for their management of such a big operation. “They're paying all of their local artists a really fair wage," Lucy noted. "It's a non-profit initiative, all the money they make goes back into the festival and support for the local creative community.”

The So La Flair team in the Brightness Santuary at Green Island Festival

The So La Flair team in the Brightness Santuary at Green Island Festival

Lizzi Philokyprou

Looking Forward

With the festival season coming to a close, both Stephan and George look towards expanding their events for next year. “We’re going to apply for funding from the Council. The Hulme Community Garden Centre is keen for us to be here, as we bring more people to the venue, and because it's been such a success. We’d love to host at maximum capacity, which would be about 500 people.”

Funding from the local council would allow the festival to expand its reach and facilities, as well as the possibility of allowing both directors to work on the project full time.

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