An Interview with Alan Govan

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photo of alan

Hello Alan, so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking?
I’m a borders lad who has been living in Glasgow for the last 14 years

So you are the festival director for Mugstock, where does your love of music spring from?
I can’t stand music personally, which is why I decided to organise a festival. It’s a fail safe way of ensuring you never have to stand and watch more than a few minutes of any band before finding a handy excuse to go and do something fun, like look at a spreadsheet, or stare at some fencing 🙂

You have always had a solid reputation for putting on gigs & concerts – what propelled you to start off in this direction in the first place?
Before I cultivated my deeply ingrained hatred of music I used to play in bands in the Scottish Borders. Back in the day as an underage musician the only way of getting gigs was to put gigs on yourself. So my band Tourist Information accidentally became a promoter. We used to hire village halls from unsuspecting committees, blag and borrow equipment, cadge lifts from parents and then unleash hoards of hormone infused teenagers. We rarely got to use the same hall twice, but we learned a lot about promotions. The summer before I moved to Glasgow I got a job for 3 months running a music project. I was asked to do something to promote youth music in the borders, so I organised a one day free festival in the woods called JamFest. I had no idea what I was doing but somehow pulled it off.

In 2012 you project managed “The Big Concert”, an 8,000 capacity televised outdoor orchestral concert featuring the Venezuelan Symphony Orchestra which launched the London 2012 Olympic Festival. Can you tell us about the experience?
It was pretty amazing, and very surreal. I was working for the charity Sistema Scotland at the time. They do life changing work teaching music to young people from communities which have historically tended to get the short end of the stick. With the Olympics coming up we had this crazy opportunity to put on a massive gig and bring 200 of the world’s finest musicians to play side by side with the community’s young people. The whole thing took place on a gap site in the community of Raploch Stirling. The stage we hired was the same one they use as the 2nd biggest stage at Glastonbury. I got to work alongside some fantastically experienced events professionals, and I learned a great deal. It’s what gave me the confidence to have a go at making a festival from scratch. There’s some clips of it here: 

MugStock-Logo-Simple

So Mugstock is entering its third year, when did the initial idea come to you?
It must have been around about 2010. My wife and I had a wee phase of trying to find new castles visit, and that’s how we’d discovered Mugdock Country Park, which has 2 fine specimens. It took us about 4 visits to find the 2nd one (I still get lost in the park to this day – it’s pretty big), and so we had become regulars. For as long as I can remember I’d had a wee background programme running in my mind which analysed land in terms of potential suitability for an imaginary music festival that I might organise one day. I could clearly picture this beautiful place lit up and animated with festival goers and music, and I remember saying “If we organised a festival here it would have to be called MugStock”. It took another 4 or 5 years before I decided to actually do it, but the thought never really left me from that moment on.

What have you learnt from the first two years which you will be applying to this year’s festival?
I feel like we’re gradually getting a bit better year on year – not just in terms of the quality of the event, but in terms of how we go about organising it. We’ve developed wee systems and processes so that we’re not always having to reinvent the wheel every year. It’s very gratifying to be able to open the 60 page event plan which took weeks to write, update a couple of bits and be done. Especially as we are all volunteers we simply don’t have time to waste so its about making the most of every minute, and that all comes down to organisation. The spreadsheet is our most important tool. Beyond the organisation side of things we now know things which we had previously hoped or suspected: that there are an increasing number of lovely people who recognise that Mugdock Country Park is a superb place for a festival, and that we are creating a very special wee community.

Can you describe your relationship with the owners of Mugdock Park?
I’m one of them, and so are you! Mugdock is a public park so it’s yours and mine as much as anyone else’s. The park is managed by a joint committee of councillors and officials from Stirling and East Dunbartonshire Councils. They like the fact that MugStock is not for profit and community led, and the team there have been so helpful and supportive. They do a terrific job of looking after this amazing public resource, and we love working with them.

Martin J Windebank - Mugstock 2016-16.jpg

To those who have never been to Mugstock, can you describe the experience in a simple paragraph?
You climb out of your tent in front of a castle and go for a stroll. You are surrounded by trees, smiling people and happy dogs. Armed with a pint of Fruit Cider or Real Ale, or a glass of Prosecco you walk contentedly between 6 stages, discovering new talented musicians who move you emotionally or physically. The atmosphere is mellow and peaceful. Love is in the air. No-one is taking themselves too seriously. You are close to home but a million miles away from anything as mundane as reality. MugStock Loves You…

What exciting things have you got in store for us this year?
I am completely psyched that one of my favourite bands from back in the day The Supernaturals are joining us on Saturday 29th July. They sound as good as they did in the 90s and haven’t played anywhere nearby for something like 12 years. They are local to the area so there’s a lot of excitement about their set. I’m also really chuffed to have a band called Hypnoblue who are all the way from Russia. It’s beautifully crafted uplifting music. We also have Tibetan inspired and very interesting sounding band BlackMoon1348. They have been collaborating with a group of monks from Tibet sampling their chants and horns. Believe it or not the monks were supposed to be coming too, but they’ve been booked to perform for the Dalai Lama that weekend instead! So we’ll have to content ourselves with samples, but it’s definitely going to be memorable. We’ve also been making our facilities a bit more swanky this year. Holistic centre Tir Na Nog will be running a spa, and there will be showers and a steam room too. We are also introducing new venue The Butterfly Stage. These will all be in the same spot near the main campsite, along with a camp fire, creating the chilled out heart of the festival.

What does Alan Govan for the rest of the year?
I organise MugStock as a volunteer. The rest of the time I work as General Manger of Toonspeak, a charity involving young people in creative projects, mostly through theatre. It’s a great organisation which is run by a committee the majority of whom are young people. It’s very inspiring to be a part of. Keep your eyes peeled – they might make an appearance this year performing excerpts from their new musical…

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One response »

  1. Pingback: Mugstock 2017 | Mumble Festivals

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