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On the Streets I Ran With Kaya Herstad-Carney: Artistic Director, Threshold Festival

A festival experience can be a joyful and magical experience.

I have enjoyed the festival experience at various places, in various countries. Following my hero, my passion and my obsession. I’ve watched in awe as the vocals, lyrics, live experience, environment and my emotions somehow changed the colour of the sky. Moments to treasure and treasure them, I will. However, it was still a slightly confusing experience as life stood knee deep in mud started to feel normal!

Those moments delightfully fill up my memory bank. Although some are refused entry – no VIP pass either – such as the festival in the middle of nowhere. For some reason, it provided only one tiny food/drinks tent that over the course of the day, smelt of vinegar and violence. And at a festival nowhere near anywhere, I realised my tears flow faster than the drinks pumps. Not that I was crying waiting – well nearly…

I do also have a tendency at times to ruin my own enjoyment – at festivals or not. The younger me, instantly grew into the hapless me. There has been the usual festival experience of losing tents, clothes, money, marbles and friends. To leaving a festival on the floor of somebody else’s packed minibus, heading to a city I didn’t live in. To informing everyone, I’d lost my keys, money and dignity and could they help locate them for me? My investigations concurred; my keys were at home, my money was in my coat and I didn’t have any dignity before I arrived at the festival.

But, these days, I feel the festival is a well-oiled, organised machine (although I am not).

I fill life, at times – when I can, with the things I love to do. And being amongst music lovers listening to live music can be a triumphant slap in the face to the harder times in life. The festival experience still provides a buzz. When you stumble across a grassroots band, enjoying their set, leading to following their careers, enjoying music is still the reason I go along and still the reason when the line-up is announced that I scrutinise it.

There are many festivals up and down the country; but the one, near my Liverpool home provides much excitement. Threshold festival is returning in March 2019 for its 9th year and is just as appealing as ever. Over time, this festival has delightfully and more importantly, respectfully pushed and nudged itself over the threshold into the established world of festivals. Intentions are wonderful and warm as Threshold founders explain: “Liverpool has so much creative talent, Threshold is about giving those people new opportunities to shine”

Baltic Triangle is the thriving Threshold setting. Artists and musicians are taking up residency to sweep a creative breeze and artistic air throughout the old stranded warehouses and flailing factory buildings. Buildings that could tell their own story, but on this occasion, they open their doors to allow the grassroots to bring to life their own story. Warehouse walls are currently waiting to watch, wave and approve this celebration of cultures.

At the festival, a wander from one venue to another will bring delight after delight. From artists, musicians, bands and comedy – each make your night extra special and a step above your average gig night out. Around 100 acts will be brought together across several venues, from psych-folk band Seafoam Green, singer Emilio Pinchi, to burlesque star Little Peaches and Norwegian soundscapists SKAAR. It must be noted, these artists are not here to make up the numbers – they absolutely love the festival and love playing here.

To hear more about the Festival, I met up with Threshold director Kaya Herstad-Carney and I also asked the artists on the bill for their thoughts on playing at Threshold;

Liverpool is awash with cultural riches and creative talent – do you find the artistic and creative worlds are growing by the year?

That’s a bit simplistic, as years vary depending on inspiration, but it’s always been amazingly creative! But perhaps the world is paying more attention…

The creatives keep creating, but the number of venues available for artists to flourish and grow has been noted “a concern” in Liverpool, but with platforms such as Threshold moving from the city to industrial zones such as Baltic Triangle, it gives hope these pivotal platforms will continue to exist. How do you see the future of venues across Liverpool?

We have always resided in the Baltic for the past 9 years; long before most people had ever heard about it. The only venue around was ‘The Picket’, what’s now known as ‘District’. A lot of the creative industry seems to be moving towards the North Dock area, but we will hit 10 years next year, and it feels right to at least stay until then where we are.

What could be done to help any venues struggling to survive?

It’s important for music fans to keep supporting the independent venues! If you are in to music, you should support it from the first tour to the arena, not just from your sofa!

Going back to the days before Threshold, the concept to have audiences wandering from one venue to another with a variety of artists before then sweeping the audience member off their feet, is obviously a huge success, but did you feel any risks to this approach?

Of course, but it’s also what is at the core of our offering – audience sharing! It’s relatively easy to put on nights of genre specific music. Our passion is in creating an experience and being surprised by running into something and, hopefully, going away loving a band or artist you’ve never heard of!

Has it been a learning curve as such, and has your approach changed over time?

It’s been a super steep learning curve, even though I’d been involved in Liverpool Music Week, Øya Festival and Sound City before, this has always been like creating the road we were travelling in front of us. At the beginning we didn’t have the blueprints, but gradually we are working out all the things that are most important to us!

Is the organisation of Threshold becoming easier each year, or do new hurdles appear each year to overcome?

The easy answer to this is YES! Some things become easier as we can improve on things rather than recreate, but other things are constantly changing and a constant challenge!

Threshold is an invaluable platform for grassroots artists to shine, and for me, there is more on offer at Threshold than your average night out. The variety of artists for the audience to enjoy is amazing – how are the artists and venues selected?

Thank you!! The artists are chosen mainly through application with some headliners booked independently. There’s a team of us on the Threshold volunteer team (do you know that all the team are volunteers?).

Thats creates a wonderful warm feeling about the festival. And how do you match the artist to the venue?

By looking at the journey of the event overall! How can our audiences have the perfect journey?

Threshold festival has pushed itself over the threshold, into the festival world. It must a rewarding feeling, is the aim for it to grow and spread into more venues?

Maybe, but not necessarily! Our first festival was almost as big (see CUC Threshold festival), but we’ve maintained the combination of the personality with the normal stuff we post.

You have some amazing artists performing this year. The established talent amongst the emerging talent at a location within the community certainly creates an inclusive community spirit. Is this something you aim to retain, to keep it accessible for all – of all ages and tastes?

Thanks again! It’s going to be amazing and yes, as artistic director my main goal is to encourage the breaking of boundaries, whilst still achieving the artistic plans!

Finally, On the Streets I Ran ; Please name Three Liverpool Streets that mean the most to you and why ?

1) Bold Street – I love how you always run into people you know and I also lived on this street for 5 years!

2) Jamaica Street – I have to pick a Baltic street, and this one is the buzzing

3) Corner of Pilgrim street and Mount street – My first meeting with Liverpool was LIPA and this area, and I love looking down towards town during a sunset with shadows playing on the cobbled street

Thanks Kaya . The artists then provided much love and gratitude for Threshold;

“ I ******* love Threshold, for us it’s a checking in with all our friends that we don’t get to see all year” – Dave O Grady , Seafoam Green

I love Threshold because it feels like a massive celebration of the local scene. They gave me my very first gig, so I always want to do something special there – and I’m so excited that SK Shlomo is headlining this year! I’ve been a fan for a long time and his recent project, he opens up about his mental health, it’s awesome – Mersey Wylie

As a proud scouser, Threshold is a great opportunity for me to contribute to the artistic community in Liverpool. It’is cool that’s such a wide spectrum of creatives from musicians to visual artists (like myself) can get involved” – Danny O’Connor”

“The Secret Circus draw huge inspiration from Threshold Festival. This will be our fourth show as part of the festival and their ethos is so greatly matched to ours, we were honoured to be asked to be involved again this year – Eve Howlett, The Secret Circus.


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