INTERVIEW: David Littlefair, Marrapalooza | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

Narc. Magazine Online

Reliably informed

Promoter and musician David Littlefair, also known as Portions For Foxes, is one of the key players behind Marrapalooza, a celebration of DIY music taking place in the Ouseburn Valley on Friday 17th and Saturday 18th May, which will see performers including Gruff Rhys, Ex Vöid, Benefits, ONSIND, Me Lost Me and many more perform across a variety of venues.

We chatted with him to find out more about his inspirations and the ideals behind the festival.

The tagline for the event is a ‘celebration of DIY music’, how do you class DIY music and what does that mean to you?

The music business is a bit disempowering to people’s creativity. It has a particular model that is seen as success, where an artist is absorbed into a machine that involves a huge plethora of middlemen. You know you’re ‘good’ when you have joined the merry go around of PR, Agent, Management and receive the correct amount of hype. It’s quite unclear to me whether hype, label, and profile have anything to do with what’s actually good about making and sharing music and what’s good about music in the UK.

Over nearly twenty years of promoting gigs, I’ve seen that formula become a death sentence for people’s creativity again and again as the system promised them everything and then squatted on them until it spat them out.
This is a music world also almost entirely sewn up by the rich. Name any big ‘alternative’ act in Britain in the last twenty years and check if they went to private school. I find all of that stuff very depressing, so my friends Hannah and Beck and I wanted to do something to show our own values in a bigger festival.

At the same time, I grew up listening to bands like Fugazi and the punk scene of the 90s, where bands would book their own tours and didn’t wait for ‘the business’ to catch up. That’s still a living, breathing approach to being creative in 2024 and I think it’s hugely important. 

To build the line-up for this year’s and last year’s Marrapalooza I picked up recommendations from all over the country from others doing the same or similar things.

From the people that book Toxic Wotsit festival in Hastings, or that book Bradford Punk Festival, or Manchester Punk Festival, the people that book Divine Schism all dayers in Oxford. From ‘Phase Shifter’ in Norwich, From Cambridge Indiepop Festival. From Leicester Indiepop festival, from Washed Out festival in Brighton, from the people that book Til The Fest in London and Book Yer Ane Fest in Dundee, or DIy Cardiff.

We can have a thriving UK grassroots and Do It Yourself music scene if we want to. That people do this all over the UK has inspired me throughout my adult life as a touring musician and promoter and I suppose we’re just doing our bit here in the North East.

How did you choose the artists that are performing? What sort of criteria are you looking for as a promoter?

I ask a really wide range of grassroots promoters for recommendations from around the UK, and we book the ones that we think people in the North East would be excited to see and should know about.  It’s not much more complicated than that.

Locally, we want to have a bill that includes some of the leading lights of our music scene in the North East and also provides some opportunities to people that are just starting out. 

One thing that I think has always been a struggle for the North East is that it’s difficult for our bands to meet others and build connections and go on tour or visit one another’s home cities. For me that’s the most exciting part of being in a band, but it was always such a struggle when I was younger, so I’m hoping that some of the bands we put on can meet some newer bands from other parts of the country. That’s a huge part of why we do this and why we try to make so much space for smaller bands from out of town.

How hard is it for small touring bands and promoters like yourselves to gain an audience in what can sometimes be an oversaturated market? 

It really is a struggle. The Association Of Independent Festivals has been putting out press releases all through the year detailing the hundred or more festivals closing, so us putting this on feels quite insane, but we’re determined to do what we can. We can’t have a music and arts scene that’s solely the preserve and hobby of idle rich types with trust funds. We want to make something special that’s of and for our DIY community and that feels inclusive.

I don’t really know what the formula is for fixing life for small touring bands, but I know we can give them an audience and that playing live to people, or watching live music, is one of the most incredible and fun things a person can do in their life.

What makes your event stand out so that people should come and support it?

Because we don’t set the event up to be profit making, it’s incredibly affordable. You can see over 30 bands for less than a quid each. You can see performers from all over the UK, big and small, at a variety of venues.

You can walk around Ouseburn in the middle Spring sunshine and stroll from the Cumberland Arms to Cobalt Studios to the Cluny and catch all manner of talented performers in all manner of genres. All of our venues are a handful of minutes’ walk from one another, which I think is quite unique for a festival this size and gives anyone an opportunity to see a huge swathe of bands in a big variety of places.

Buy tickets for Marrapalooza here.

Like this story? Share it!

Subscribe to our mailout