New Multi-Venue Festival In Torquay

Continental Drifts, the people behind Glastonbury’s Shangri-La stage, are bringing a new festival by the name of Grinagog to southwest England April 7-9.  

It had always been a dream of Chris Tofu, the founder of Continental Drifts, to stage a festival in his hometown, which he left at age 21 to tour the world with his punk band Tofu Love Frogs.

“Every time I’m in my hometown I think: oh my God, this is the perfect festival site. It’s got amazing buildings in it, a vast seafront covered in venues. In a half-a-mile walk you’ll pass 15 venues,” Tofu told Pollstar.

Said venues range from capacities of 2,500 to “a frigging medieval mansion which holds 1,000” to a barber shop big enough to host 20 guests. Tofu said he’s “already sold 400 tickets in two days, which is pretty good for a first-time festival. I’m only trying to sell 4,000 tickets in the first year. But this is a 100-year-gig. It is not going away anytime soon, and it’s going to raise that town right up.”

Torquay, which lies in the county of Devon, has all the potential to become a live music hub. But it needs someone to put it on the map, as even its main music venue “hasn’t had a big band on for the last five years,” Tofu said. “Everybody’s trying to do things individually, but when you look at a town like that you want to look at the whole town – its palm trees, beaches and jet-ski safaris – as a venue.”

He says that towns like Torquay “were going off in the Victorian days. They’re full of lovely Edwardian ballrooms that are not being used but are free to hire. It’s free venues everywhere. So why spend all my money on tents and stages when it’s already there? One ticket gets you into everywhere. It’s really cool.”

Questioned why someone would launch a new festival in times when many would say the market is saturated, Tofu answers: “Obviously some major festivals last year had trouble selling tickets, but other parts of the market didn’t have any trouble selling tickets: Boomtown [sold] 10,000 tickets in 10 minutes when they launched this year. Shambala will sell out without any advertising.”

According to Tofu, the top end of the market isn’t so much saturated as it is driven by the main-stage lineup, thereby “making a lot of agents a lot of money,” but at the same time becoming dependent on a limited selection of acts.

“Live Nation buying loads of festivals, signing bands exclusively to their own venues and festivals, all this sort of stuff, actually is an opportunity. It’s not as terrifying as it looks for young festival organizers. Our world isn’t driven by the main-stage lineup. Our punters know they’re going to get diversity.” Apart from local council, which provided the funding to go ahead with the premiere of Grinagog, Tofu is working with “at least 30 different promoters of underground music,” mostly from the southwest.

In charge of overseeing this massive operation is the founder of Love Summer, Billy Hughes, who is Tofu’s main partner on the ground. Tofu, who runs stages at various festivals, not just Shangri-La, and who is “completely, utterly swamped in new bands all day and all night,” is also in charge of booking the lineup for Grinagog.

His aim was to provide “inspirational artists” in all the genres present at the first edition.

Akala, Jah Shaka Soundsystem, Slamboreee and Electric Swing Circus are among the first 25 announced acts. DJ Chris Tofu is on the bill as well.

Overall, more than 200 acts will play the 15 stages. Spoken word, art exhibitions and food will also play an important role besides the music at Grinagog. There will be no camping, which isn’t a good idea in England in April anyway.