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Summing up – Ciro Romano, 49

Summing Up
19 January 2018
Ciro Romano
Having been a corporate music business lawyer and then run his own artiste management business and record label, Ciro Romano launched Brighton’s Love Supreme Festival in 2013. Initially a 5,000-capacity event, it has grown to 15,000 by presenting jazz and jazz/soul influenced artistes such as Van Morrison, Gregory Porter, Nile Rodgers, Grace Jones, Herbie Hancock and George Benson. He also runs the 9,500-capacity Nocturne Live at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire.

 

What prepared you for the task?

As a teenager in Glasgow, I went to gigs regularly at the Barrowland and saw The Smiths, Cocteau Twins, David Byrne and many others in their prime. Later I started going to T in the Park in the days when it was just music, Tennents lager and poor food. I remember being amazed at how a big festival audience can change dramatically depending on who’s playing. At T in 1995, watching Paul Weller one minute and then Black Grape, was like being at different events.

“I became a lawyer and worked at PolyGram and then Universa, before leaving in 2002 to run my own artiste management company and a small record label.

“For Love Supreme, I was influenced most by the North Sea Jazz Festival [cap. 25,000] in Rotterdam and Latitude Festival [35,000] here. North Sea Jazz showed me that you could take a niche area of music and expand the offering to make it accessible to a broader range of people. As long as you were faithful to the musical DNA of the genre, you wouldn’t alienate core fans.

“This type of event didn’t exist in the UK at the time but I thought it would be possible to do something similar as a three-day greenfield camping festival. Latitude inspired me because it embraces art, culture and literature in addition to the music.”

 

How did you make it all happen?

“The vision was to take the ethos of the great European jazz festivals like North Sea and adapt it to a classic British camping festival with quality production and facilities. It hadn’t been done in the UK and I thought there was a gap to do something different.

“I have raised money for ventures a few times over the years, whether through strategic partners, individual investors or private equity and ventures. We funded Love Supreme through the latter. The concept came first and then we found the site, Glynde Place, an incredibly beautiful location in the South Downs next to Glyndebourne. If you have the concept and site, it’s easier to raise the money.

“With the line-up, some agents were more interested than others, but it’s always difficult with a first year festival and they are correct to be wary and questioning. Our first booking in 2013 was the Branford Marsalis Quartet. I couldn’t believe someone of that stature had said ‘yes’. Another early headliner of note was Chic featuring Nile Rodgers, who we booked just before his renaissance with Daft Punk and Glastonbury.”

 

What has made the festival a success?

“Through media partnerships with [publication] Jazzwise and our association with Jazz FM we immediately won credibility with core jazz fans. Then the challenge was widening this to embrace a larger non-core jazz audience. We did a lot of local promotion, made friends with important DJs, labels and clubs and involved them in the process. We embraced soul, R&B and hip hop, which positioned us as a modern boutique festival.

“I was very focussed on getting the curation right, selling tickets and delivering the event. Successes included getting five-star reviews in the broadsheets in our first year, the audience accepting hip-hop as part of the curation in 2014, Gregory Porter headlining this year when he was close to the bottom of the bill in 2013, booking Herbie Hancock and selling out in 2017.”

 

What have been your highs and lows?

“The first festival was the most terrifying but also the most satisfying. I had dreams where 100 people turned-up and where the headliner lay down and fell asleep during their set. The worst that happened was artistes threatening not to turn-up if certain newly-introduced conditions were not met, but we have always managed to sort it out. I have a great team of people who’ve helped me through the bad moments.

“High points include the morning after the end of the first event, reading hugely positive feedback on social media and great online and press reviews, and finally confirming certain artistes after a long time of trying and watching the audience going crazy over someone lower down the bill. And, of course, working with great people like [production manager] Mandy Johnson and Barney Dufton [marketing], along with Sally Davies and her team at U-Live.

“I think we have achieved our vision, which hasn’t changed since our original pitch in 2011. It’s now a question of refining the event and making it a better audience experience and never becoming complacent. Having sold-out in 2017, we have an option to increase to 25,000 if demand is there.”

Key Suppliers

Sound & Lighting Audile and Widget

Video             XL PRG

Stages           Acorn

Marquees Brighton Marquees

Other structures various including AJ Big Tops/Wernicks Cabins

Stewarding Festaff

Loos              Site Equip

Power            SWG power

Trackway      Live

Fencing         Entertee

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