Interview: Meet the Brains behind Boomtown

We caught up with Boomtown’s leading art director, Dan Borg, to discuss the construction of the site, production standards and approaches to environmental sustainability. The physical scale of Boomtown, combined with its extensive creative mythos, sets the festival aside from others, striving for bigger and better each year. Its unique efforts have been noticed, attracting a population of over 60,000:

What makes Boomtown stand out from other festivals with its set design?
The sheer scale – in terms of the amount of set and detail that goes into each set, it’s just huge! It’s what helps to create that immersive environment which lead to all the storylines and helps you feel like you’ve been transported into another world.

I read that you constructed Sector 6 using scrap metal, for such big sets how do you source your materials?
Haha, that sounds like a bit of a Chinese whisper! To be honest there’s not much recycled metal, it’s pretty much just a really good paint job. We largely use wood because it’s recyclable and eco friendly being low carbon – trees are way better or the environment than metal so a very small percentage of our sets are made from metal.

Is sustainability an important aspect of the sets construction?
Yes it definitely is, we recycle as much as we possibly can. All the sets are recycled until they’re pretty much turned into mush! We’re actually looking into a scheme where our timber usage can be assessed so that we can then replant the same amount of trees – we want the festival to be as sustainable as possible.

When do you start the construction of the stages?
We’re constantly working on the stages so there’s not really a specific start date. The in house team are building from the beginning of the year for the upcoming festival and then more people come in 2 months or so before the festival when everything speeds up before we head down to the festival together at the end of July to start the big build!

What is a typical day on set like?
Generally pretty fun, loads of jokes. The best part of it is you’re mainly working with your mates but the hours creep up so after a couple of weeks of 12 hour days it can get tiring. The best bit is definitely socialising in the evening and hanging out with everyone.

Could you describe the process from the initial thoughts of a stage idea to its final construction?
Well, breaking down the process behind Sector 6, it was a bit tricky because architecturally it was so complex. I looked at a lot of artists and photographers for references and researched all the good elements before picking out my favourite bits and mashing them together in 3D on my computer before working out how it would all fit together as a structure. It was definitely a challenge doing that whilst thinking about how it would actually be built and the limitations that would come up before even thinking about fitting in all the cool stuff like video screens and pyrotechnics. It takes a lot of time, I started around February 2016 and worked on it until the construction phase 2 months before heading down to the festival site and then we had 2 weeks to put it up!

Last year Sector 6 was the most impressive stage I’ve seen at a festival, how do you make sure to be bigger and better every year?
Our vision is always 2 steps ahead of where we are, so right now we just want to keep making it taller and wider, bigger and better and really manipulate that 360 degree environment that you get in that bowl where it’s situated on Matterley Estate so you’re totally enveloped, totally immersed. The main thing is always to have a vision much bigger than where you are.

As each stage is assumingly managed by each set manager, is their rivalry between stages?
No, not at all. We are all just so impressed by the amount of detail that goes into each district – that’s what makes the festival what it is, the ability to be transported into all of these different worlds. Boomtown’s about community, not rivalry.

Chapter 9 of Boomtown, Behind the Mask, takes place on 10-13 August at the Matterley Estate near Winchester. For ticket info, head here:

For general information about Boomtown, go here:

Milly Gill


Interview by Emilia Gill.