The future plans of Hertfordshire’s Todd in the Hole festival
PUBLISHED: 00:00 15 May 2020
A new family-friendly festival people have taken to their hearts aims to be back this year, but how do you plan in the face of coronavirus?
It was a Eureka moment looking out over a field that put Todd in the Hole on the map. The quirky name is a combination of Todd’s Green where Mark Watts’ family has owned a farm for generations plus David Nye’s love of his grandmother’s toad in the hole. The boutique family festival in countryside between Hitchin and Stevenage debuted in 2018, welcoming 6,500 people. Last year 10,300 visited and this July, emergency coronavirus measures permitting, its founders hope to entertain 15,000 people.
More than 80 acts are booked for the six stages over three days.
Old friends, Mark and David are understandably proud of its success. ‘When we started we wanted to celebrate the lovely area of North Hertfordshire we live in and people have embraced it,’ David says. ‘On the whole it’s up-and-coming local talent plus national tribute bands that play all the songs that everyone loves.’
Last year saw the introduction of camping, and glamping for those who want a ready-made spot of luxury without wrestling a tent.
‘We saw a massive demand for camping last year and have doubled the amount of glamping pitches for this year. We have posh toilets, posh showers and award-winning coffee in the morning to wake up to in a field next to Redcoat’s Green; it’s a lovely area.’
Family is at the heart of the event supported by Hertfordshire Life, and the children’s area has been expanded with giant teepees, a theatre stage and a traditional funfair with a helter skelter. Aiden O’Neil, a favourite in panto at Stevenage’s Gordon Craig Theatre, will be keeping order (or not) and acting as compere.
There’s also a new music area in the woodland, with three themes over the three days – fusion, funk and folk. ‘We want the woods to be a festival within a festival,’ David explains. The area will also host evening after-parties –DJ Dave Pearce will be playing an Ibiza set and Pat Sharp, once renowned for his 80s haircut, will be playing hit records from the 70s and 80s. ‘We told him we are only having him if he’s got his mullet,’ David laughs.
There’s also a new comedy stage, or rather a comedy caravan – a converted 1970s caravan.
The main stage will host the big cover bands including The Killerz, the Killer Queen Experience – the Australian band’s first UK performance – a nod to Queen’s last concert in 1986 up the road at Knebworth. The Who tribute act Who are You will also headline. Will they be hosting the popular Great British Elvis Off on the main stage too? ‘Absolutely,’ says David. This year they are hoping for 10 Elvis impersonators.
Street food plays a big part in the festival. Mexican, paella and vegan dishes are just some of the options. The Great British Sausage Company will of course be there too – David owns the company. They are also planning a piano bar – made up of old pianos.
And with sustainability in mind they are using reusable cups, bio-diesel fuel in the generators, and will give leftover food to local homeless shelters. This year you can even buy a cardboard tent (don’t worry if there’s a downpour, it’s been tested for up to a month in heavy rain). Sustainability ambassadors will be on site to make it all happen.
How is the organising team handling the uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic that has closed so many events this year already?
‘Obviously we are going to have a few challenges this summer,’ says David. ‘We’ve been preparing since the end of the last event and we’ve worked hard to get everything ready. Ultimately, we are at the mercy of the government. We are quite late on – in May and June we would be sweating a bit more. We also have the option to put the festival back to mid-September. But by the time Todd comes around, after what we are going through at the moment, I think everyone will be up for a great local event.’
So what’s the ethos that drives them on? ‘We want to keep the festival intimate and family friendly – a civilised festival for those who don’t normally go to festivals. We’re very focussed on who we are and haven’t drifted away from that. We are dedicated to our target market which is family, over 25s to 65s and playing the sort of music they like. Lots of businesses are also using Todd in the Hole as a platform to network and socialise and that’s how local business should be done. Five pounds of every ticket on the Friday goes to East and North Hertfordshire Hospitals’ Charity which is our dedicated charity of the year.’
What have they learnt over the past three years? ‘You can’t do enough preparation! And use good solid contractors and people to work for you. If you haven’t got a really good team on the live days, you are in trouble – the only trouble we had last year I think was a bee sting.’
Todd in the Hole takes place in Todd’s Green on July 17-19. Visit toddinthehole.co.uk for full details and to buy tickets.