Tony Cummings quizzed James Stevens about an event offering 40 live acts and soloists for an amazing £60, KINGSSTOCK
Just look at this list of songs and artists who've made it to the CR playlist: "Magnificent" by folk rock fusionists Speak, Brother; "Beans On Toast" by idiosyncratic singer/songwriter Jessie Dipper; "Bring The Rain" by Yorkshire's progressive Americana team The Paul Mirfin Band; "Do The Unthinkable" by pop princess Philippa Hanna; "Satisfy My Soul" by rock worship man Marc James; "Waiting" by pop punk band Peter118; "Fall On Me" by thinking man's songsmith Pyramid Park; "Stranger Things" by Glastonbury festival favourites Flight Brigade; "The Fear Master" by Bournemouth rock veteran Dave Griffiths; "British Soul" by acoustic R&B duo Daughters Of Davis; and "Innocence" by hard rock veterans Verra Cruz. What will strike you is the variety of musical styles by this list of all British performers. What may not have registered with you is that all the artists listed above will be, in August, performing their radio hits and a lot more songs at one of the best kept secrets in the British church calendar - the KingsStock Festival.
While many festivals boast of their size and endeavour to bring in more and more international attractions to boost their attendances even further, the KingsStock Festival, held at Moggerhanger Park in Bedfordshire from Thursday 8th to Sunday 11th August, likes to point out its smallness. While big festivals can lose tens of thousands of pounds if it rains or a top act pulls out, KingsStock can confidently expect a gradual rise in their attendance. The reputation KingsStock has amongst soloists and artists who have played Britain's only Christian music micro-festival is nothing short of remarkable. In fact, this year, to celebrate its 10th anniversary, KingsStock have been able to ask back to the event a number of artists who've previously topped the bill. The event has also engendered loyalty amongst a growing legion of supporters (some who travel all the way down from Scotland to attend). They will tell you that the well-designed multi-stages; the top-rate PA; the attractive Moggerhanger Park setting; the economically priced food stalls; the amazing atmosphere of warm-hearted bonhomie; and the excitingly diverse range of quality music performers make for a unique musical event.
As one regular KingsStock goer told me recently, "I love going to a huge event like the Big Church Day Out. There is something thrilling about enjoying music and being touched by God in a huge crowd of 25,000 people. But there's also something thrilling about chilling out with a crowd of a couple of hundred, listening to artists like the Bean Baker Band or Paul Bell or the rapper Feed'Em and being caught up in the intimacy of everything. Big Church Day Out is very big, KingsStock is pretty small, but they both are so thrilling and so enjoyable that I will continue to go to both as long as the organisers can put them on."
KingsStock is put on by James Stevens with, he emphasises, the help of his wife and a team of amazing volunteers. I spoke to James about his much-loved micro fest.
Tony: Now, to somebody who's never heard of KingsStock, how would you describe what you are and what you do?
James: "That's a good question. We are a musical festival organized by Christians, which sounds a little bit different to a Christian music festival. Our primary purpose is to promote a platform for UK-based Christian musicians, who take the message of hope beyond the walls of the church to pubs, clubs, parties and festivals. I guess we promote contemporary Christian music, although I think that phrase started to fall out of use about 30 years ago now. We're a small festival that happens near Bedford in the grounds of a stately home. It's a lovely little event and we actually quite enjoy our anonymity, which has its advantages sometimes.
Tony: Moggerhanger Park is a pretty large place. You've probably got the room and certainly the PA and facilities to entertain thousands. If, say, something miraculous happened and you suddenly found yourself tripling, quadrupling your attendance, you could cope, couldn't you?
James: "Yes. We've changed the layout around a couple of times in the last few years, to embrace the grounds a little bit more and the beautiful surroundings. There's certainly enough space at the venue that we won't run out of space soon. If we quadrupled in size, we wouldn't need to change a lot, except order a few more toilets and another shower block! Remember, we're a camping event although we get a fair number of day visitors."
Tony: KingsStock has a unique vibe, doesn't it?
James: "It does. I think we really try to show hospitality. KingsStock actually started in the garden of our home. Now we're in a stately home. It's still a home, it's still a house and gardens. It's not a great big agricultural building or somesuch. It's a little bit more personal."
Tony: Tell me a bit more about the venue.
James: "The festival is held at Moggerhanger Park which, I know, is a curious name. It's in Bedfordshire, about three minutes' drive from the A1. It's really easy to access from across the UK; if you can get to the A1 or the M1, then you can quite quickly get to the festival. Moggerhanger Park has got a really interesting history. The house itself was designed by the same chap who designed 10 Downing Street, and the families that have lived there over the years include the cousins of William Wilberforce. It's always been a home to people of Christian faith."
Tony: Tell me a bit more about KingsStock's history.
James: "It seems a little bit crazy looking back. It started in 2008, when we hosted a barbecue as part of the Hope 2008 Initiative, which many churches across the UK took part in. The following year, we had a barbecue again, and a friend came along and played the guitar. We had the brainwave at about 2.30 in the morning, cleaning up after the event, that we could actually tweak a few things and call it a micro music festival, invite some more friends that were musicians along. So in 2010, we had our first KingsStock, the name was meant to be a humorous acknowledgement of the village where we live and a nod towards Woodstock, which is of course one of the most well-known festivals on the planet. We didn't realise that we'd be using the name for another 10 years at that point, and hopefully we'll still be using it in the future. So yes, it started in our garden. The first year, I think we had about 70 people turn up. From there, we grew into the woodlands at the back of our house, so we became a multi-stage festival quite early on. Once we outgrew the garden, I think we got up to about 200 people in our garden which is hard to manage, we moved to a farm about 20 miles away and continued to grow there and added more stages. From there, we moved to Moggerhanger Park, the stately home, and again we've added more stages. I think we're up to five performing areas now, and they include an open-mic busking stage for developing talent, and we also have a DJ-specific stage as well, which I think is fairly unique for the Christian music scene."