Vince Power – Hop Farm’s Godfather
VF’s Steve and Dan were granted the privilege of a rare audience with the self-proclaimed ‘Godfather of Live Music’ – a man whose very name strikes fear and awe into the hearts of many grown men we have encountered over the years…
Vince Power is a living legend whose story reads like a Hollywood biopic of a mafia don. Rejecting the poverty he was born into in rural Ireland, he burst onto the streets of London at the age of 15 and embarked on an entrepreneurial rampage that saw him gatecrash the highly fortified live music industry, barge his way to the very top and carve a fearsome empire throughout the 80’s and 90’s. It was called Mean Fidder and, at its peak, it owned 27 live music venues (from The Astoria to The Jazz Cafe) and seven festivals, including Reading, Leeds, Homelands, The Fleadh and slices of Glastonbury and Creamfields.
He then sold up to Live Nation in 2005 and went into exile, forbidden to run festivals in the UK for three years as part of the deal. Astute as ever, he invested his time and money instead in Benicassim, in Spain, turning the event into one of the most successful European festivals, and one that attracts more brits than most medium-sized festivals in the UK. And then last year he came back. His first step was to establish Hop Farm festival, a boutique-style event in Kent that frightened Power’s rivals by its very modesty; it could only be the first step on a much larger plan.
VF: What always struck me when you were at Mean Fiddler was the strength of emotional connection that your festivals (like Pheonix, Homelands, Fleadh, Reading and Leeds) managed to forge with their fans, which I haven’t seen to the same degree at other major festivals today. How did you achieve that – what did you do differently?
VP: “I think Neil Pengelly and all the bookers we had at Mean Fiddler all had an integrity about them. Reading has an integrity in it. The Phoenix was very hands on and we were very personal and we did persona things for people and it’s about the way you treat people. You don’t treat them like sheep, but you treat them like individuals. We had some great fun at The Pheonix. I think the Pheonix was my best, it wasn’t financially successful; it stopped in the last recession.”
VF: Do you have any ambitions to bring that back?
VP: “I think I might bring the Fleadh back. The Fleadh blossomed during the last recession in Ireland and now we’ve got a mega recession on our hands and people are going everywhere to get a job, I think it’s a good time to bring the Fleadh back. Maybe not on the 30,000 level but maybe something like 15-20,000. I’ve already made enquires into Finsbury Park.”