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indietracks outdoors

In deepest Derbyshire each summer thousands of indiepop devotees bask in the splendour of good music…and steam trains. Stephen Tudor goes jangly.
Summer festivals are increasingly becoming commercialised behemoths that have lost the very spirit that founded them. Now it’s all a sea of flags, a horde of Sebastian and Jemimas waving their wristbands to Mumford and bloody Son ahead of their gap year to save elephants, and soulful, eyes-closed performances sponsored by Vodaphone. They are fast resembling T4 in a field.
But take heart because deep in the Derbyshire countryside there is an annual rejoicing at the altar of lovely known as IndieTracks, a small, perfectly formed festival that celebrates the twin wonders of indiepop and steam trains. Yes you read that last bit right.
Here, snug in the Amber Valley of the Peak District, the pure ethos of the festival shines on luminous with ace bands playing in slowly moving locomotives through picturesque beauty. There are workshops that teach how to sew or set up a record label. Everyone smiles and strikes up conversations with like-minded strangers. And there is very little evidence of flags proclaiming something oh so student and witty such as ‘sausages’ that blocks your view of a band you’ve travelled half the length of the country to see.
Now in its seventh year we asked one of the organisers of IndieTracks Andy Hudson what is involved in running such an eccentric and fantastic event.
Could you briefly sum up Indietracks to anyone who may be unaware of its existence?
NH: We’re an indiepop festival that takes place on a steam railway in Derbyshire, UK. We started in 2007 and have been running for seven years. The festival was the idea of Stuart Mackay, who worked at the railway restoring steam trains and thought it would make a great location for a music festival.
We’ve around 50 bands playing across four stages, including a picturesque outdoor stage, a locomotive shed, a railway church and on the steam trains themselves. This year’s line-up includes Camera Obscura, The Pastels, Bis, Still Corners, The Secret History, The Ballet and loads more. We also have art/craft workshops, free steam train rides, discos and real ale! It’s a very friendly festival and the location is really unique.
What have been the biggest hurdles in establishing the event?
NH: I think in the early days Stuart and the railway staff had a lot of work to do in adapting the steam railway site for a music festival, including starting from scratch in terms of stages, ticketing, fences, refreshments etc. Hopefully that’s a lot smoother now we’re in our seventh year, but it’s still a vast undertaking for the railway staff and volunteers.
Indie music and steam trains is an unusual combination. Do you think it is precisely this eccentricity that is part of the festival’s appeal and charm?
NH: Although it seemed like a crazy idea at first, combining indiepop and steam trains has felt like a perfect fit from the start of Indietracks. The steam railway is a wonderful place to visit; it’s a very welcoming and picturesque location, and as a charity it has a sense of independence and a certain DIY spirit.  When you combine that with some uplifting pop music and a friendly crowd it seems to work beautifully.
You have hosted some ace bands who have played in locations as diverse as restored churches and train sheds. What has been your own personal highlight?
NH: I really enjoyed Edwyn Collins and The Hidden Cameras playing in the locomotive shed in 2011 – the atmosphere was electric! I also loved the spectacular La Casa Azul performance in 2009 and Elizabeth from Allo Darlin’ sending a whole field into perfect silence playing Tallulah on just a ukulele last year.
Is there a band you’ve been after for a while without success? On that note how difficult is it to attract bands given the fierce competition from other events?
NH: We’ve been trying to get The Pastels and Bis for years, so we’re delighted that they are both playing at our festival this year! We really love all the bands we’ve booked, and it’s not really fair to talk about any that haven’t made it to Indietracks yet. We have quite a distinct music policy and we’re a fairly small festival compared to some others. As a result, I don’t really think competition between festivals has been a major factor for us in terms of booking bands.
Indietracks is run entirely by volunteers and all profits go to the upkeep of the site and trains. Is it fair to say that yours is a festival that is true in spirit – especially in comparison to the more commercialised behemoths?
NH: It’s wonderful that people are happy to volunteer to work at the Midland Railway and at our festival, and I think that helps create our atmosphere. I wouldn’t really want to compare us to other festivals though. We just focus on our own event, and we’re probably quite independent from the wider festival world. However, I really love going to other festivals, and can think of several bigger festivals which have retained a great spirit and atmosphere. Hopefully Indietracks offers something a bit different.