'It's nice to go bonkers in a field': The Green Man music festival's founder is teaching the world to rock

Fiona Stewart has been able to secure major headline acts without being able to offer the huge fees which they can command at other events

"When I first became involved in festivals they were counter-cultural events and sometimes even illegal," recalls Fiona Stewart, founder of the Green Man event in Wales and one of the few women to own and manage a festival outright. Now the Government is tapping her expertise to "sell" the British festival experience to Asia and the Indian subcontinent.

Set amid the Brecon Beacons National Park, Green Man attracts 20,000 fans each August to a family-friendly event which champions the best alternative music in an atmosphere free from the corporate sponsorship that blights a crowded festival marketplace.

A pioneer of the "boutique festival", Ms Stewart, a former punk rocker who became skilled in persuading sceptical rural communities that a rock festival is just what the local economy needs, will receive the Outstanding Contribution honour at the UK Festival Awards in London tomorrow night.

Ms Stewart, 53, produced Wales's contemporary music programme for the Cultural Olympiad London 2012 Festival and has persuaded artists including Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver and Robert Plant to play at Green Man, without being able to offer headliners the huge fees which they can command at other festivals.

Hired as a consultant to the British Council and the Foreign Office, she has visited China, where she helped stage an Elton John concert in Shanghai, as well as India, Brazil and Serbia to assess the potential for staging UK-style music festivals in emerging markets.

UK music helps deliver what Foreign Office diplomats call "soft power". "People are aware of how our festival scene has exploded over the past decade. Britain is very good at using music to connect with countries which don't like us very much – such as Serbia," Ms Stewart says. She adds: "When a big artist is going to somewhere like China they want to know they are not going to get involved in something that will cause an international incident. They want to know that production standards are high and the staging won't be dangerous. China is developing fast. When I first went, you couldn't get fencing. The Red Guards acted as the fence."

Green Man, which evolved from a 300-capacity event and is now planning for its 12th year, could itself become an export. "I would definitely consider taking the event to China, India or Brazil," Ms Stewart says.

A former manager of the Big Chill Festival, she began applying her negotiating skills to gain permission for festivals on UK parks and country estates, even winning licences to run two events during the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak.

Green Man is now so entrenched as a tourism attraction that tickets are being sold as a seven-day Settler's Pass, combining the festival with a horse-riding and trekking holiday.

However, the festivals market has contracted, with too many events chasing a limited pool of headliners. Green Man boasts 10 entertainment arenas, but Ms Stewart will continue to restrict capacity to a manageable size and resist corporate sponsorship. "It's challenging, but it's important for us not to go down that route. It's nice to have a festival... where people can just go bonkers in a field."

With Emily Eavis taking over the Glastonbury reins from her father, Michael, Fiona Stewart is not the sole female festival director. Has she ever encountered sexism? "Of course, but mainly in the early days. I had to book circus tents which I didn't know the first thing about. It's a tough business and you have to deliver."

She would like to see more female headline acts to follow Green Man favourites Patti Smith and harpist Joanna Newsom. "But we'll book anyone as long as they are good. Green Man is a discerning audience and... it's one of the few proper showcases for up and coming acts."

Stewart wants to use the platform of her award to call for one change to benefit festival-goers. "It's almost become too easy to... get a festival licence," she says. "There should be regulations to ensure a festival organiser has the money to pay for the event in case it goes under."

Arts and Entertainment

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
V&A museum in London

Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'

Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper, Alessandro Nivola and Patricia Clarkson on stage

film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
art

‘Remember the attackers are a cold-blooded, crazy minority’, says Blek le Rat

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
    Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

    Diana Krall interview

    The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
    Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

    Pinstriped for action

    A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

    'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

    Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

    Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
    Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us