Halloween Town – A rarity, a new festival in 2021.

Fright case shot: Promoters Mark Harrison and Greg Costa

Any new festival is worthy of investigation, but launching in 2021 after mass postponements, cancellations and a supply-chain busting condensed season is the stuff of nightmares. Welcome to Halloween Town.

A fan of the horror genre, Halloween has always been Greg Costa’s favourite time of year, taking the step from house parties to promoting ghoulish club nights. Around 7 years ago, selling out a big night in Milton Keynes well in advance led to the need to find a bigger venue, perhaps something that could expand to fit, perhaps an outdoor site, perhaps a festival. The notion was parked until a conversation with LPH head, Mark Harrison about his idea for a steam-punk themed rock/metal event in Bedford. Late September was the time Harrison had in mind but Costa’s experience of the growth in Halloween events led to a ‘what about’ discussion about the Halloween Town concept that he had been mulling for a good while. Seemingly not one to let a good idea go to waste, Harrison found a site within two days, just in time for the Covid 19 catastrophe to bite.

Fast forward to 2021 and the enthusiasm to build Halloween Town hadn’t waned, although ambitions were reeled in to enable a solid base on which to build. A single rather than multi stage set up gives room for growth but in terms of theming, design and production, cuts were evidently not part of the plan.

The task of creating plans from ideas went to regular design partner Michael Woodage, with Star Events, a trusted supplier, providing the base for the safe addition of the dilapidated, abandoned structure look. This was no ‘chuck in a few pumpkins and cardboard skeletons’ approach, the look and feel lived up to the pre-event publicity. Putting a Halloween show on sale in April 2021 wasn’t without its challenges, but a blend of strong line ups across the 3 nights and visual impact across all marketing delivered healthy sales. As far as line ups were concerned, Costa played to his strengths and experience from his prior Garage Nation events, programming a more commercially oriented schedule on Friday (Craig David presents TS5, Nathan Dawe, Majestic, Sean Harvey and DJ Wreckdown) and a more underground vibe on the Saturday (Andy C and DJ EZ co-headliners plus Shy FX & Stamina MC, David Rodigan, Kings of the Rollers and Katalyst). The addition of Sunday’s more indie-based line up (Dreadzone, Peter Hook and the Light and The Levellers) was at Harrison’s suggestion, drawing fans from a slightly wider area than the first two nights.

With licensing applied for in November 2020, there were reservations albeit tempered by confidence in reductions in restrictions, decisions to go above and beyond in terms of venue capacity and safety measures were taken by choice, typical of the LPH approach to audience safety. The experience in the tented arena for the Sunday night certainly struck the right balance of atmosphere and the ability to find ample personal space in a venue that delivered a wow factor.

Naturally, late October in the UK carries more meteorological guarantees, so planning for damp underfoot conditions was paramount. Access from road to site and back was a breeze, trackway aplenty assured a smooth transition from parking or drop off to venue and a solid floor inside the tented venue was most welcome, as was the blown air heating at the accessible viewing platform.

To plan and deliver a new festival in 2021 was more than worthy of our attention but seeing the portfolio of events already programmed by LPH is indicative of a lockdown spent sourcing venues and growing audiences. Halloween, could this be the new end point of the green field festival season? Feedback from Halloween Town attendees suggests so, with mailing list sign ups more than treble pre-event levels and capacity already increased, this particular conurbation, horrific in all the right places, is bound to grow.