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Craig Pennington

Craig Pennington is the Director of Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia: established in 2012, and named ‘Best Small Festival’ at 2015 NME Awards, it is an annual event in the Baltic Triangle that celebrates the vibrant genre of psychedelic music and its wider counterculture. Craig is also known for Bido Lito magazine – as the Editor-In-Chief and Publisher since its inception six years ago – and as Director of Syndikat / Syndikat: a new creative agency, set up by the same team, and working with a variety of different organisations across music.

Hi Craig! What’s the origin story of Liverpool Psych Fest?

The festival was never really meant to be what it has become; it’s kind of a lovely accident. My good friend Tom Lynch, who runs Harvest Sun Promotions, was offered the chance to put on a show by Dead Skeletons. He knew I was a big fan and suggested the idea of doing the gig as a co-pro with Bido Lito. I’ve always been obsessed with Austin Psych Fest, the whole aura and aesthetic. Like so many kids in this city, Nuggets / Pebbles [a psych compilation album], that was my musical awakening. I had this idea of doing a festival in the UK, building on that whole idea of Austin, but doing so in a way which was honest to our interpretation of what Psych meant — a British / European interpretation — but also being completely 100% and thoroughly modern. I am always interested in the countercultures spawned when music and visual art melt together. That’s what we really wanted to celebrate. We’ve never been interested in the throwback nostalgia trip.

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How did you get started into the music and publishing industry?

I’ve ‘worked’ in music since I started throwing parties for all our mates when we were kids. Booking the back room of a pub in New Brighton and filling it with 600 16 year olds wanting bands from our schools. I went away to University in Leeds and started putting on shows on a larger scale; ran a record label; had a stint working at a major label; and ended up part of the events team at Sheffield University Students Union. That was an amazing learning experience; such a brilliant Union with a range ranging programme and the opportunity to push yourself. After that, I set up my own rehearsal and art space in Leeds, before coming back to set-up Bido in 2010. It’s been a round about journey.

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Our city has this aura and allure when it comes to music and counterculture, and it’s something we play on.

Why do you think Liverpool is best suited to host Psych Fest? Why here and nowhere else?

70% of the audience who come to Psych Fest come from outside of Merseyside, and the fact the festival takes place in Liverpool is all part of the appeal. Our city has this aura and allure when it comes to music and counterculture, and it’s something we play on. The festival isn’t so much a showcase for Liverpool artists, more using our city as a canvas for an international celebration of an art form and movement which is part of the city’s DNA. We love Liverpool, it’s our home. We also love playing away and have presented festivals and curations in Eindhoven and The Azores, but this is our Mecca.

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What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t ever treat anybody any differently than how you would expect to be treated yourself — my Dad.
You can do anything you set your mind to — my Mum.

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Where do you see the music scene in Liverpool in five years, post-Brexit?

As a music city, we’ll always flourish, but I find it hard to see any way in which Brexit will make anything better. It is a thoroughly unnecessary compromise, sold to people on a lie. Our 2008 [Liverpool as European Capital of Culture] experience gets to the core of what the EU is actually all about: collectivism. The idea that collaboratively we’re stronger economically, socially, culturally and politically. Either you believe in that as a basic position, or you’re an isolationist. The EU, like any collective idea, is about providing a platform to discover who you are through dialogue. It’s about solving the hard problems of physical infrastructure in the places that need help the most and then valuing and having faith in celebrating individualism, on an international scale. Liverpool was given a platform to tell the world our story, to celebrate what makes us unique, in the faith that, as a European people, strong local voices and empowered communities can create an amazing collective – an understanding, tolerant and cohesive whole. This is what I mourn; I mourn the opportunity taken away from other UK cities to embark upon the journey Liverpool has been on. We are all the poorer for it.

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See Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia on 23 and 24 September 2016, at Camp and Furnace, Blade Factory and District, Baltic Triangle, Liverpool

Photography by Craig Magee.

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