Mad Ferret Festival Round-up

2017 June 15

Mad FOR it?

This year saw Manchester’s first real student-focused, city-centre festival return to Platt Fields Park for an incredibly ambitious second run. Spilling across two days and eight stages, Mad Ferret 09 seemed intent on outdoing its highly impressive debut last summer. Whilst its mission may have remained the same – to provide a showcase for the city’s local creative community, this year’s platform may well have been a little too large and overpopulated.

What appeared to be a harmonious hierarchy between tents on the Friday with attendees evenly distributed amongst them (the Main Stage bowing down to Metropolis Arena headliners DJ Hype, Freestylers and Pendulum) transformed into a competitive grapple for spectators on the Saturday. Whilst central acts The Streets and Roots Manuva occupied the Main Stage (and most of the festival) in the evening, the two dance tents battled for the rest: Sheffield’s Toddla T, Zinc – playing an unexpected or wanted house set, Claude Von Stroke and Stanton Warriors in the renamed Chew The Fat! Arena against locally renown promoters Oh My God, Murkage, Bass Camp, London grimester Caspa and 1 Xtra’s Bailey.

However combat didn’t really commence until 8pm. Until then it was the unforeseen sunshine that took precedence over the festival, not the music. At around 1pm the entire site was forced into suspension as a wedding ceremony took place in a neighbouring church. For an hour and a half the stages were silent, not that the Mad Ferreters particularly minded, pacified by the weather and hippy paraphernalia –peripheral before but now claiming dominance in the absence of the festival’s main audio agenda. Just as we were all reluctantly accepting tambourines and poi as valid sources of entertainment, the speakers kicked in like a defibrillator and the site pulsated once more.

As well as local music talent, the Mad Ferret team were keen to present other creative communities and outlets from within and around the city. On Friday, Liverpool’s underground cultural phenomenon, The Kazimier, delivered a surrealist concoction of music and theatre in their own circus-themed self-titled tent. Whether it was the “Kazimier Gamers & DJ” or the actual “Kazimier Performance” I happened upon that evening, the Clockwork Orange meets Showgirls display I witnessed will forever haunt my Mad Ferret memories. I’m pretty sure the only rape that occurred was cerebral.

Art permeated the festival, with live graffiti demos taking place across the site by Sketch City and local Manchester writers. There was a Circus School next to the Mind on Fire Bandwagon stage, promoting juggling and hoop-la to the music-jaded Mad Ferreter. On Saturday the Chill Factore erected a small dry ski slope in between the two dance tents, putting on sporadic snowboarding demos, apparently – every time I went past there was just one kid pushing melting snow around the slope’s base.

I didn’t go to last year’s Mad Ferret so I can only draw a conclusion from this year’s experience, snippets of conversation and a marginal insight into what must have been a mammoth organisational and financial task. In the few weeks leading up to the festival “Mad Ferret” was unavoidable as an intense, verging on desperate promotions campaign engulfed the city, or certainly Fallowfield, the student-heart of Manchester. For those familiar with last year’s event the question was whether the band of student entrepreneurials who conceived Mad Ferret only a year before had perhaps been a little too adventurous this time round. Stretching a day’s festival across two, involving too many performers and staff to manage it, going for costly headliners and charging in more to compensate.

Whilst the site appeared to be teeming, the casual festival atmosphere sustained throughout masked the reality that Mad Ferret 09 may have been a little over-ambitious. There were about two dance tents too many, with the “DJ’s Bedroom” tent failing to attract hardly any attention across both days. The two ‘quirky’ Kazimier/Slut Hut and Caribbean Umbrella Collective stages could have been amalgamated, splitting the core underground music acts across the Bandwagon and Riot Jazz stages. By 9pm Saturday the diversity that had appealed on Friday seemed like a waste of resources, as the festival concentrated itself between the Main and Dance stages, leaving the remaining five tents deserted.

The Mad Ferret team took a risk. They aimed high and worked hard to see it through. They delivered a top quality independent music festival with a level of professionalism that could challenge most established events – on their second try. If they all surface unscathed, I hope they return to Platt Fields in 2010 for an even bigger and better Mad Ferret. I know I’ll be Mad For It.

words Holly Dicker
photo Jonathon Beattie