All Photo Credit: Caspar Swindells

With each passing year comes a number of new festivals on the summer circuit, however few stand out like Cosmic Roots. We have been lucky enough to talk to the team behind the 2 year-old festival, with a DIY vibe and community feel held in The Walled Garden, Norfolk. Have a read of their story, motivation, and plans for 2020.

How did you meet and what was the inspiration behind starting Cosmic Roots?

The three of us were at school together for 5 years, 2 of us go even further back (not quite to the time when dinosaurs roamed the earth but our parents were definitely less scaley).

The first Cosmic Roots was a 21st. Word spread and we quickly had a free party on our hands.

It was a collaborative effort, bringing together like-minded mates from across the country. Many of us were and remain a part of a forum called ‘Rad (radical) Cosmic Finds’ founded by, our great friend and graphic designer, Alec. That place is a well spring of inspiration. Filled with illustrators, graphic artists, product designers, film makers, musicians, engineers, sculptors, photographers, carpenters and fine artists, it provides us with a platform for the critical discussion of work, articles, thoughts and culture. It seemed necessary to put all these talents to use, and why not together?

Although we didn’t know it at the time, with this collective creation, we witnessed the start of what’s now Cosmic Roots. The group has since expanded and the aim of the festival is to bring these like-minded individuals together and publicly share our vision with a discerning crowd.

Special mention must go out to Bums for sharing a September birth with Gü and allowing the initial party to happen. Without him, we would not be doing this. Big up le Bum.

What were the major challenges you faced in setting up the festival in Year 1? Venue, Logistics, Sound, Promotion?

Where do we start…

With just the three of us curating and running the show we’ve had challenges around every corner and it has seemed like a square maze at times, but somehow we managed to navigate it together. We don’t think there’s a secret to it, we wing it as best we can and try to think about every eventuality and if we reach a dead end we think our way out of that too.

We are indebted to an estate that has made us feel very welcome. The story of how we found the venue is still a bit of a mystery to us and the estate, but somehow we arrived in the Walled Garden and feel blessed to be working with people who really support our vision. Thanks here should go out to Tom and Ant at Raynham who help us create the beautiful environment that defines Cosmic Roots year on year.

Logistically running this event can be a mission at times. Funnily enough, Year 1 was when we spent the most time together, now all three of us live separate lives outside the festival – full time jobs, 70+ hour weeks, on call, up mountains – it’s crazy to keep up with, but thanks to ‘inter(w/n)ebular’ comms we get by. On a more practical note, we had all worked in the events industry on and off since leaving school so we got to know the basics of pulling an event together and went from there. Thanks Ted.

We are lucky enough to be close with the best in the business, having all worked on Gottwood and Houghton. Angus is a mainstay on their sites and the connection we have with Digby, Tom and Tom is invaluable. What they have created is a true inspiration behind everything we do. They continue to answer all the questions we have when we realise we don’t really know what we’re doing. Huge thanks for supporting our dream!

Marble LDN pretty much sorted the whole production side of things in the inaugural year. Working with them outside the festival was an experience that has allowed us to take on production ourselves. Since running production in house, we have met amazing people who we now work with independently. Shout outs must go to Oz and his team for all our sound, and to Theo for being the wisest laser magician in Northern Quarter 4. We can’t wait to see where we go with them this year!

We have been lucky to see the festival grow very organically. Promotion has centered around word of mouth, and our mates who run incredible parties (some now with label’s to boot). It’s hugely gratifying to have an extended team singing the praises of what we’re doing together. In recent years we have teamed up with Stamp the Wax who have given us an amazing platform to further share what we are up to.

One of the most appealing things about Cosmic Roots is the focus on upcoming DJs as well as DJs who often do not get the limelight they deserve. What criteria do you look for when putting together the lineup?

There is no particular criteria. I guess if there were it would be quality and an open minded approach to music and partying, which generally comes from genuine dedication.

We began by asking friends, those like minded mates who we share an inseparable bond with. They know what we’re about and we know what they’re about and we knew what we together, as a family, wanted to do, could potentially do… Party.

Cosmic Roots is us and the event is an entity that began because of them and our extended pack of wild loonies who appreciate the finer side of partying. It’s a framework for us all to create, share and bask in the beauty of our surroundings, be they melodic, artistic, psychedelic and ethereal.

Beyond that, all others we’ve asked have bought into this. Those friends and those who have become friends are some of the best at what they do. We have given them a platform, albeit a very DIY one, and they have dived off it and taken it to where it is now. All we can do is say a BFG sized thank you and praise each and every artist for bringing the same level of care and commitment to what was, at the end of the day, the unknown.

For those who have not been, what else is there on offer other than the music at Cosmic Roots?

Cosmic Roots is as much a platform for our musically minded mates as it is for those with other creative talents. The dream is to create a multifaceted celebration of the arts. It is as much a festival about the art as it is the music. Exhibiting the work of incredible artists and designers, part of our extended family, has set us on this course.

The profusion of emerging talent and engaged minds around us is astounding. Architectural exhibits are growing year on year, in number and size. Moving forward the plan is to open a competition to the public, with the winning entry being exhibited within the Walled Garden at Cosmic Roots.

Going forward we are looking for exhibits to inspire and educate. There are big plans for a new natural ‘living’ venue at this years festival, introducing talks, film screenings and workshops.

The community run bar is a creation in itself, with locally sourced brews and some of Europe’s best value low intervention wines on offer last year. hcgb_wines has got grand plans for 2020.

How do you look to make your festival appeal to a diverse community?

I think the key is too stay open with everything we do. As soon as you begin to close doors you block yourself off from opportunity for everyone and diversity shrinks. We want to engage a community that feels they benefit from what we are sharing and they in turn contribute to it.

What changes (both positive and negative) did you see between Year 1 and Year 2 of the festival?

Big question.

Having the first year under our belt gave us the understanding and confidence to focus on the finer details in 2019. The details that make the experience, and turn a party into a festival. 2019 definitely felt like a festival, with numbers doubling we were pretty apprehensive. This was the major change which obviously has positive and negative aspects, ones that we wrestle with. And we’ll continue to grapple with them. But it’s what we all expected and wanted.

The return of familiar faces was a big thumbs up and we hope to wonder with them, their thumbs and our own, wherever the journey takes us!

What future plans do you have for Cosmic Roots? Do you see yourselves expanding the size of the festival?

For us the community feel is what gives Cosmic Roots its magic. We discuss the size of the festival and where we can see it going, at length, however it always comes back to this.

Our favourite parties around the world and on our doorstep have all had this magic. They are generally helped by location and often they are small, but there are those that have it no matter the size or location.

For now there are no predetermined plans. We are happy with the course we are on and will continue step by step with what we’re doing. Organic growth is our direction.

(There must be so many) but what were some of your main musical highlights? Were there certain moments where everything felt like it clicked?

Aha we wish. Sadly at this early stage of the festival there is no time to enjoy a full set. The three of us oversee all aspects during the 4 days and 3 nights. This literally means that we are working every hour of the event and awake for nearly the same number of hours. We catch a tinkle of a tune here and there, but nights turn to days and the routine repeats without the chance to appreciate it all. People ask us what’s the point, where’s the reward, what’s in it for you? We often ask ourselves the same question and it’s a case of living it vicariously through everyone else.

Really you’d be better off asking this question to anyone who attended but us.

There was a moment when it all came together and an air of calm washed over us and the site. It was Saturday, and as the sun came out, it felt like the festival was beginning to run itself. We had just finished setting up for Bamily’s live set and everyone flocked to sit in the walled garden. This was the first moment of blue sky and sunshine in the 2 years of Cosmic Roots. There was a warmth as we watched the festival roll on in slow-motion, although this quickly came to a halt as the heavens opened, taking out The Wormhole stage. Tropicle Popsicle was a wash, as was our office. With Oran building flood defences in the office, Angus fetching wood chipping for Trop’s boggy dance floor and myself swapping out the wet mixers and turntables at Wormhole, the pace built up to the lightspeed we are all too accustomed to. Apart from that half hour, we managed to catch the Pond Life crew closing the Pond Life stage on Saturday night, the first time we had all been able to relax and revel in the mele that was the previous few days.

How do you aim to maintain the vibe of the festival over the coming years?

After the first year we all sat down and agreed on trying to create something unique with what we had. At the heart of this was the atmosphere. A spirit, at first, encouraged by thoughtful expressive content and experimentation, that went on to inspire further imagination. To maintain this spirit we made a conscious decision to divest the festival of precepts that we saw kill the substance of other parties such as; growth targets, corporate sponsorship, marketing strategies, outsourced management and the likes. Instead, we set out to instate communal heuristics such as litter initiatives and safety directives, engaging people through interesting and appropriate digital content backed up by simple signs and kind words on site. The response has been great, we are stunned by the atmosphere year on year and we hope this is just the start of a journey working towards a conscious community of responsive participants.

Seeing a growing community physically reconnect each year, in the space, through the love of music, art, dance, dreaming and just hanging out, without the precepts of the everyday without the incessant mobile notifications, this is what gives Cosmic Roots purpose to us.

What other parties, labels and DJs would you like to shout out?

Tropicle Popsicle
Pond Life Records
Fall Up
Dropout Disco
Daminano & AVA records
Marma Boog
RAMZi / DJ FATi / houti / phubu
Joe Sansom
Glug Glug

There are many more but these are old friends and new who mean a lot to me and the festival. Also a shout out must go to Ricardo and Laurita at the Lion and Lamb in Hackney. We’ll be throwing a series of parties there throughout the year so keep an eye out for them!

A general shout out to all those involved with Cosmic Roots must be mentioned. Although no question was asked about this aspect of the festival, it’s really important for us to make a note of the community we have come to depend on and are lucky enough to call our family. It really is inspiring for us to see the love and passion shared by all those involved. So thank you Team CR!

Interview By: James Acquaye Nortey-Glover

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