ANYONE for green T in the Park? The mogul behind Scotland’s most successful outdoor music event is in talks with officials in Beijing to stage a pioneering festival in China.
Geoff Ellis, the chief executive of DF Concerts and Events, hopes to establish a large-scale outdoor event with well-known international acts performing alongside Chinese artists. In an interview with Scotland on Sunday, he revealed his plan has received “encouraging noises” from authorities in the country.
Already, he has toured potential sites and is in discussions with the governor of a province on the east coast of the country in the hope of establishing the festival from 2013, and turning it into an annual event. Having been impressed by the “humble” Chinese acts he met, and the roaring reception they received at gigs, he believe he can entice music fans from major urban areas.
Ellis, one of the founders of T in the Park, who is this month celebrating 20 years with DF, explained: “I have a partner in China and we’ve had some very good discussions. We’ve met with the governor of one of the regions about the plans. I don’t think it’s possible to do a festival in Beijing or Shanghai but it’s possible to do one within travelling distance of both cities.
“China’s so big that people can be very successful just in their own market. But there’s a market there for a festival and I love the country. It’s nothing like you imagine it’s going to be.
“I was only there for a few days but I travelled around a bit, and certainly got the encouraging noises about staging an event there.”
Although the concept of western rock music was once regarded with suspicion by China, authorities now actively sponsor festivals. One of the largest, the Midi Music Festival in Zhejiang, is run by the Communist Party at an annual cost of around £1.3m, and attracts upwards of 80,000 people, as well as corporate sponsors such as Jägermeister and Converse.
While numerous foreign artists have played China, every act must gain the approval of the ministry of culture. Some are banned indefinitely, such as Bjork, who sparked anger by calling for Tibetan independence during a concert in Shanghai. Ellis believes his festival would encompass a mix of western and homegrown acts, and said he was impressed with the Chinese bands he saw during his visit.
“They were all quite humble to meet somebody from outside the country who works in the music industry,” he added. “I saw them play and there was a massive reaction, the same you’d get at a Foo Fighters or Radiohead gig.”
Dr Rachel Harris, a lecturer in Chinese ethnomusicology at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, said audiences and authorities in China would welcome the festival.
She said: “There are occasional stories which come up about major bands who are told they’re not allowed to play a song, so there are instances of conflict about what’s okay and what’s not. But you’d have to be extremely overly political about something very specific and relevant to China in order to make trouble.”