Really sad to read that the company behind the Truck Festival has gone into liquidation. I was introduced to Truck in 2003 and have been every year since, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Having been to Glastonbury a couple of times, Truck was similar in ethos yet on a much smaller scale. Set in fields just outside Didcot, there are three or four stages, including the main stage – formed from a truck (of course!) – and the Barn (now no longer used) which was … well, a smelly old barn. Over the years Truck has hosted a huge number of local bands as well as some bigger names too, and it’s become a family event for us too, as my kids (now teenagers) have come along for the last few years.
Over the years I’ve discovered the likes of Chikinki, Alphabet Backwards, The Race and Nathaniel Rateliffe, all who have become big favourites of mine; I’ve enjoyed performances as diverse as Mr Shaodow and KTB; I’ve watched big acts like Supergrass, Ash, Biffy Clyro and Futureheads wow the crowd, and I’ve seen smaller acts shortly before they have become household names – bands like Bellowhead, The Magic Numbers and Foals.
This year it was obvious that something was wrong long before the festival gates opened. The capacity was expanded and the site redesigned to cope with the extra people – but they didn’t come, and in the week before the festival tickets were on sale at 50% off, and then at an even bigger discount through Groupon. I’m sure that must have brought more people onto the site but it didn’t feel like it was any busier than in previous years. However, I had a fantastic time, approved of the new site (except for the loss of the symbolic tree!) and really enjoyed the laid back atmosphere.
Looks to me like the Truck guys have tried to do too much, too soon – or perhaps too much, full stop. The beauty of Truck is that it’s like a village fete, but with bands. The local Rotary club run the burger stall, the vicar sells ice creams and the event has always raised funds for charities close to home – and it’s the home grown feel of Truck that has had me, and many other people, coming back year after year. Ticket prices have increased hugely (in 2003 I paid £25; this year’s ticket would have cost £99 if I hadn’t won a pair in a competition) – that’s fine if you’re going to see bigger bands for your money, but that hasn’t happened, and with so much competition these days people have stayed away. Not that I especially want bigger bands – Truck generally gets it about right, with a handful of bands I’ve heard of and loads more I haven’t, and there are always some great discoveries to be found. Truck also shot themselves in the foot with their ticketing policy over the last two years: whereas in the past they offered discounts for people booking early, they’ve now been discounting shortly before the festival begins, which is a real kick in the teeth for loyal Truckers who bought their tickets as soon as they came out, at full price.
I really hope this isn’t it for Truck and that the Bennett brothers can rebuild the festival for next year. For me, the solution would be to go back to what they know best – the village fete with bands. Keep the numbers low, keep the ticket prices low, offer early bird discounts again and hope that the Truck regulars return. It’ll be a sad Summer 2012 if there’s no Truck to go to.