The independent music festival has gone from strength to strength in recent years, with the choice of events to attend growing every summer. One such festival making its debut this year is Chazzstock. The tragic death of a much-loved young musician inspired his friends and family to fulfil his dream of hosting a festival behind his parents’ garden – and all profits will be going to The Prince’s Trust.
In August 2012, Ou Est Le Swimming Pool frontman Charlie Haddon took his own life shortly after performing at Pukkelpop festival in Belgium, aged just 22. His close friend Jack Bissell, who is one of Chazzstock’s chief organisers, talks of how the festival is a way of continuing his legacy. “Some of Charlie’s happiest memories involved music,” he says. “He always wanted to put on a festival and even came up with the name himself – Chazz was one of his nicknames.”
Along with Charlie’s father Steve and sister Sarah, as well as countless other friends and family members, Jack is striving to make Chazzstock’s first outing a success. He describes Charlie as someone who was incredibly loveable and always surrounded by friends, and the team want the festival to reflect this. They’re planning a range of interactive, family-friendly activities, as well as welcoming those who want an all-out party. Choosing the location of the festival was a no-brainer – Stanford Hall in Lutterworth is a mere five minutes from the house that Charlie grew up in. The stately home and its grounds are no stranger to music, having previously played host to Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra, among others.
This won’t be the first time that an event has been staged in Charlie’s memory. In October 2010, along with Charlie’s two Ou Est Le Swimming Pool bandmates, Jack organised an all-dayer at KOKO in Camden. He describes it as “very special. I can’t describe how it felt – you had to be there.” The Kooks, Tribes and Tony Hadley were among the performers, along with Mr Hudson, who postponed a US show especially to be at the event. Ou Est Le Swimming Pool’s debut album The Golden Year was released around the same time, and each artist that played at the 2010 incarnation of Chazzstock covered a song from the album. Jack says one of the most touching moments of the day was seeing Charlie’s mother smile for the first time since her son’s death. Like this year’s festival, it was a not-for-profit event, with all proceeds going to mental health charity MIND.
The idea for a full-scale festival came to Jack and the Haddons in the summer of 2011. Since then, they have tirelessly worked to organise and promote the event without a dedicated PR team, although they are now assembling one. “None of us envisaged what a task it would be” says Jack, who lives and works in London but makes regular trips to Lutterworth to visit Steve and the family. “The PR agency we’re working with now with have dropped their rates for us as they really believe in what we’re doing. We’re lucky in that everyone we speak to is really encouraging and inspires us to keep going.”
The bands performing at the festival are no exception. The Vaccines, The Horrors and Tribes are all confirmed to appear for no fee, as many of the members were personal friends of Charlie. He and The Vaccines guitarist Freddie Cowan (younger brother of The Horrors’ Tom) were in their first band together, which they called The Daze. Another of Chazzstock’s unique selling points is the way they are structuring their main stage – unsigned acts will be performing alongside the bigger names instead of being relegated to a smaller tent. For some of the lesser-known artists, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
This inclusive and non-hierarchical ethos is a good indicator as to why they’ve chosen to support The Prince’s Trust. The charity works to improve the lives of unemployed and underprivileged youngsters, by giving them the training and financial aid they need to support themselves. There seems to be no better advocate for the cause than the Chazzstock team. They are truly inspirational in the fact that they have never once let Charlie’s tragic story overshadow them. “There is a dark story behind this,” admits Jack, “but we only want the festival to be a positive thing. Every decision we’ve made is with Charlie in mind.”
He speaks of how they want to build up a cult following and that they’ll be looking into making it an annual event once they’ve gauged the reactions of this year’s crowd. With so much support flooding in already from all corners, the future of the festival looks promising. Never before has the sleepy town of Lutterworth been home to a full-scale festival – or indeed, anything as unique or incredible as Chazzstock.
Thea de Gallier