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Meet some more of the folk behind SOFF

Next up on our meet the folk behind Spirit of Folk is the wonderful Caroline Duke! Caroline has a passionate interest in all things music and a vast knowledge of the industry from working on many productions and events, this can be truly seen in the fantastic line up she brings to the Spirit of Folk Festival, so without further ado meet Caroline...

1. How did you get involved in The Spirit of Folk Festival?

Well myself and Tasha (Fluffer Duffer) went to college together,We studied Film Production along with a few other SoFF crew.  We’ve known each other since we were 18!, jaysus we’re ancient. ..anyho….we have always worked really well together so it was a natural progression of our unique madness and weirdness that led us to SoFF. We have never had a work or otherwise related argument.  I work full time as a Production Manager for Aiken Promotions so between Tasha’s business brains and overall awesomeness and my bossy abilities and logistical prose we started Spirit of Folk in 2010!

2. Tell us a little about your role in booking the musical acts for the festival?

We usually start getting submissions from September which is mental considering the festival usually takes place the 3rd weekend of the month! We take a little break after the festival each year to do our other work/own things and then have a little get together in December. Full time back to SOFF is usually February. We are inundated with submissions from acts each year, it’s quite daunting! The musical talent in Ireland is second to none. We are a country of some of the best lyricists, performers and players and we at SoFF are so lucky to work alongside these lovely people.

We don’t have any such set way in booking. We might have perhaps 3-4 bands in our heads in terms of headlining, our wish list if you will. Budget pending we start fleshing out the entire weekend. No genre is overlooked, although a Japanese speed death metal tribute act doesn’t exactly fit with our festival sound/ethos etc. I’ve not had as much of an active role in SoFF this year or last as much as I wanted to due to my full time work commitments, so a wonderful friend of SoFF Cathy Aherne has come on board and booked and stage managed the last two years. She has such a great ear for talent and put together those two gorgeous lineups. Unfortunately she’s off on other adventures at the moment so I’ve come back on board and am now relishing spending my afternoons listening to amazing acts and putting the puzzle together…have to say it’s great craic!

3. How do you choose the line up/What do you look for in an artist/act that you would regard as the right fit to play at Spirit of Folk?

I love working with Irish acts. I think there’s something like 200 festivals that take place in Ireland between May to October! 200! So you can imagine how hard it is for acts, especially the unsigned, unsung heroes out there of getting slots when international acts are paid big sums to come and play.  We are kind of known as a “Folk” festival funnily enough, but we broaden that word to encompass many forms of music. Folk, Traditional Irish, Blues, Roots, Rock.  We’re not massively snobby but we do our research and really take the time to get to know an act before we book them. We have acts from really UNFOLK backgrounds applying to SoFF and you know before you’ve even listened to a single song they aren’t the right fit. We want to make sure SoFF is the right fit for the act also…there’d be nothing worse than playing to an empty tent because your music just doesn’t fit the festival.  We don’t want to waste anyone’s time…it’s a hard enough industry out there for musicians without wasting valuable gigging time.

4. How important do you feel festivals like the Spirit of Folk are to the music scene in Ireland?

Hugely important! I worked at many festivals in the UK, Glastonbury was one of them. It was so magical and amazing but after 6 days there it all felt very draining and overwhelming. I remember reading an interview with Michael Eavis about the death of big festivals a few years ago and that Glastonbury won’t be around much longer. Back in 2008, they festival cost £22 million to run and they nearly went bankrupt! Considering how long it’s been running, even such well established festivals as Glastonbury are in danger. I think that’s when Natasha and I started researching into starting up SoFF,We had to run over so many variables to get the thing up on running, going to talks run by industry leaders, researching office spaces, PA, Lighting, Stages, Power logistics, toilet options, vendors, security, box office applications,the list was endless! We’re trying to keep SoFF established as not only a Boutique Folk festival but as a family/pet/bring your granny/bring your mates and a bag of cans festival but without making people go through the hardship of massive queues for bars/toilets/carparking and then a 10mile track back to your tent. We want to keep it as natural and organic as Year 1. But of course we want to expand! I think community based festivals are a lot more welcoming to an overall market than some of the bigger well known festivals. We want to be a hassle free/come have the craic and leave your worries behind!

5. Tell us a little about what we can look forward to in the 2014 musical line up for SoFF & a personal highlight of an act that have played over the last number of years..

Kila! Can’t wait to see them on the main stage! We are delighted to have them with us this year, they’ve been on our wishlist for some time now…We also have the incredible force to behold, Bunoscionn back for their 4th festival appearance. Super bunch of musicians and festival friends. We have two stages this year, the Main Stage and then the Woodlands stage….we also have a special comedy powerhouse hour (details still to come), as well as some wonderful Shadow Puppetry! We are so lucky with our past acts, Gay Woods, The Hot Sprockets, Rhob Cunningham, oh and John Spillane. He was just incredible! Truly a lovely soul with amazing stage presence! I remember one year coming down to the kitchen in the main house and Lisa O’Neill was helping us tidy up by scrubbing pots! She’s played a few times with us and now she’s this huge star in her own right we are so delighted we got to have her with us in the earlier years. Oh and we had a great act from the UK, Treetop Flyers come over two years ago and they went down so well. I was so happy to get them over…incredible lads and musicians.

6. If you could have any artist or band in the world grace the stage of the Spirit of Folk Festival..who would it be?

Oh with no budget to care about? Fleet Foxes! First Aid Kit! John Butler Trio! Okkervil River! The Decemberists! Sara Watkins! Midlake! Oh and if I could convince Paul Simon to do the entire “Graceland” that would be pretty great J

Irish acts wise: Damo Dempsey! Lisa Hannigan! Martin Hayes! Villagers! The Dubliners! Hozier! The Pogues! Glen Hansard! Andy Irvine…The Gloaming! Oh the list is ENDLESS, I could be here all day!