Just a week after the first ever Sound Tracks festival, Eastlondonlines spoke to its organisers to find out where this musical trip began and where it will take them next…
Amanda Lwin, one half of the duo that conceived and organised the festival that spread music across the East London Line, walks into Geffrye Museum’s spacious cafeteria wearing a smile that makes me realise interviewing her after the event was a good idea – now the festival’s over, she’s had time to reflect on how it went and think about what the future holds.
She slowly sips her tea and placidly starts the conversation from the very beginning: “I had this idea about the East London Line connecting these really interesting places.” With a background in architecture and urban design, her interest in spaces led her eventually to Sound Tracks’ concept. “I thought it would be amazing if we had a music festival connecting all those places with strong musical identities. If you go to any café in Dalston and start chatting with someone, the chances are that they are going to be a musician. And the same applies to New Cross.”
The one-day festival, which took place on Saturday September 17, didn’t just connect the dots, it made the transition from one venue to another matter. While Dalston’s Café Oto, Shoreditch’s Concrete and New Cross’ Amersham Arms played host to a series of live events and DJ sets, the trains of the East London Line, travelling between Dalston Junction and New Cross, were transformed into live stages.
“All the musicians were saying they really liked the fact they had a changing audience, by people walking in and out. It was a new experience not just to the commuters, but to the musicians as well,” says Caroline Garcia Huerta, who joins us a couple of minutes later. She is the most musically-savvy half of the duo, having worked for various other music festivals and with an MA in music management under her belt. Organising Sound Tracks was a dream come true, since it was something that she had been thinking for a while. “When you’re working for someone you can’t really change things whereas when you’re doing your own thing you can.”
She thinks what made Sound Tracks so special was the experience it offered. “Honestly, without the trains I think we would be just another festival on top of an already huge list.”
“I think the trains and the venues supported each other,” adds Amanda. The acoustic sets on the trains not only took commuters by surprise but also created an invisible link between them. Passengers took off their headphones or put their books away and started looking around, chatting about the music.
Caroline adds: “I think technology is breaking our community in pieces. Music, religion and sports are probably the only three things that bring people together.”
Sound Tracks is a festival about bringing people together. “It would be great if we could get local, ethnic minorities to participate and I think there are lots of other avenues,” says Amanda. “It’s a festival that grows through places rather like one person’s direction, so it’s more malleable, more fluid and it can adapt to change and be different things. There are so many ways we can grow our festival. We could go into theatre, we could go into art.”
Amanda admits her key interest in Sound Tracks was creating a festival that has a concept behind it, something that people can appreciate on different levels. “You can appreciate travelling between stages, but you can just go to one of the stages and hang out for the rest of the evening. It’s something that different people can appreciate in different ways.”
Amanda and Caroline believed in their project enough to go on with it, even without any external funding. “The project is 100 per cent independent, we’re funding ourselves. That’s why we had to keep a really low budget and do as much promotion as possible to make sure we get our money back,” says Amanda.
“Everyone working for the festival was a volunteer, which is amazing. And these were skilled volunteers. Really good photographers, filmmakers and editors, stage managers. They volunteered their time because they liked the idea and thought it has legs. Of course we going to credit them fully, but I think this is something that you get in London. People love being involved in things.”
Now Amanda and Caroline are already looking towards the future: “Next year the East London Line is going to go to Peckham, so it would interesting to do something there. One of the interesting things about the Overground network is that eventually it will actually circle London, and go through Camden, Shepherds Bush, Kilburn, Brixton – all places with really strong identities.”