In It Together – Mark Hopkins Interviewed.

In It Together Festival Director Mark Hopkins

When a festival announces a ‘Bring Your Grandparents For Free’ initiative, we just have to find out a little more about the people behind it. We had questions and In It Together Festival Director, Mark Hopkins, from organiser Escape Records, was kind enough to answer them.

Escape Records is the largest independent music festival company in Wales and is responsible for delivering over 500 annual events – with four, and with the addition of In It Toether, soon to be five, major music festivals in South Wales. The festivals offer a range of entertainment for a wide age demographic, attracting over 50,000 visitors each year.

Is In It Together a concept delayed by Covid or something that came about during the hiatus?

In It Together was born out of the pandemic. A show this big needed real planning and to be honest, the one good thing to come out of this lockdown for us is that we conceptualised this show.

It’s all that we’ve gone through and all that we’ve missed. A reunion, and a festival which means all things to all people – offering a bespoke blend of music, arts, culture, and wellbeing. This community driven event was created in recognition of our joint efforts to combat recent challenges and is unrivalled by anything else currently happening in Wales

Did you see a concept and look for a location or was there a location that was crying out for a festival?

We have always said that we wanted to have a pinnacle event that has something for everyone, and to bring some legends to Wales. 

One thing we like doing is choosing locations that don’t necessarily have much going on. This wasn’t an area that anyone properly touched with events, as everyone would go to Cardiff. But we decided to put a hold on it.

One of the reasons we’ve chosen Port Talbot is because it’s not a highly developed area. Our festival brings a lot more benefits and economic impact to a local community who don’t have as much, as opposed to Cardiff which has so many events and is highly saturated.

Bring your grandparents for free? That needs explaining!

Absolutely! We’re all about community and togetherness at In It Together and after a tough couple of years of so many important occasions going by without loved ones around, we wanted to make our show a place where people can reunite, celebrate and be free with those who mean the most. Every festival does family tickets, but thats usually just two parents and two children, at In It Together, we want you to bring the WHOLE family, including both sets of grandparents. Therefore, every single family ticket purchaser is entitled to free tickets for the grandparents so they can truly be together and make some amazing memories with one another. 

Also, a Covid money back guarantee; is that something you see all festivals needing?

I think as long as there are restrictions in place and uncertainty in the market, then yes as it helps with consumer confidence. We’ve all had stuff cancelled over the last 24 months so that added protection is a plus. But we’re glad to that restrictions are lifting back to pre covid times!

It’s a festival in Wales, but is it a Welsh festival? Wales has a lot to celebrate culturally, so how do you fit that into a headline-grabbing line-up?

Celebrating Wales is a key part of this show – firstly we started by having our website available both in English and in Welsh, it’s a beautiful language and we’re proud of it, so we definitely wanted it front and centre. Not only that but we started our journey by reaching out to Horizons / Gorwelion and FOCUSWales to curate a stage just for local Welsh talent, along with inviting Welsh artists and DJs to apply to play at the show. This means we have over 50 local Welsh acts that have come from every corner of the country and we cannot wait to see them take the stage. 

Behind the scenes, we are working with Welsh companies and Welsh suppliers to bring the festival to life as well as reaching out to local schools, colleges and communities to involve them in the journey in a variety of Wales. We’ve also got a very special programme that we will soon be launching that very much celebrates Wales and the Welsh people.

Obvious question – how has the reaction been?

Honestly, we’ve been blown away by it all. We knew people would be excited by it but it has been better than we ever could have hoped for. Everybody has really gotten behind it and are supporting it every step of the way. We specifically chose an area of the country that is often overlooked by the bright lights of Cardiff and the reaction has been amazing. People cannot wait to have the likes of Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds on their doorstep. We truly feel like we’re building this incredible community of wonderful people that we cannot wait to continue this journey with. 

In 3 words, how would you like attendees to describe their experience after the festival?

“What a weekend” or “We’ll be back.” 

We want people to come to our show but most importantly, we want them to keep coming back. We’re working tirelessly behind the scenes to bring something truly special to Port Talbot and we’d love to be doing that for decades to come. 

Which band will you be out of office and out front for?

Sister Sledge at the Campers Party or Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. Noel’s agent was the one of the first I reached out to during lockdown in 2020 and to see that come full circle and to see his band taking the Parc Stage is just going to be something magical.