Sound engineer Mathew Podd launched Happy Days in 2011 with ex-police officer and bar operator Chris Holding, and session guitarist Eddie Cox. What they saw as a “no-brainer” became a baptism of fire, before the event began to attract more than 6,000 people per year, featuring artistes ranging from Tony Hadley, Lisa Stansfield and Billy Ocean to this year’s Jimmy Cliff.
What prepared you for the task?
“I run Podd Sound, which provides audio to Sony Music artistes’ showcase concerts, among other events. I’ve worked with Annie Lennox, Beverley Knight, Jocelyn Brown, Rag’n’Bone Man and Little Mix. Eddie was once in punk band Chelsea, and used to buy PA from me.
“Chris is a former Metropolitan Police officer and ran venues including Bar Eivissa (250) in Kingston and Esteem (300) in Esher. In 2007 we organised The Podd Party for 700 in the back garden of Esteem, with Jocelyn Brown and Alison Limerick performing.”
How did you make it all happen?
“We met in 2010 to plan a festival. My pitch to Chris and Eddie was almost Del Boy – ‘It’s a no brainer’, I told them. Chris is a member of Imber Court, The Met’s sports ground in Esher, and he said we could run it there. We wanted retro but chic acts, and came up with the name Happy Days to suggest times gone by.
“Putting the event on in 2011 was the biggest learning curve. We tried to do too much ourselves. I booked Brand New Heavies and Aswad through my own contacts and Kool & The Gang through an agent. On the first day, the site manager let people in without anyone being ready [see below]. About 1,000 turned up. Afterwards my garage was full of unsold vodka and beer. We could have paid everyone £15 not to come and been better off.”
What has made the festival a success?
“The hardest thing was getting going again the next year. I realised it was more economic to have a house band and individual artistes. We got a ticketing company and someone to run the bar, which took pressure off us. In the second year we attracted 3,500, in the third year we broke even with about 4,500 and now it averages 6,000, with 7,000 the maximum attendance.”
What have been your highs and lows?
“Worst was opening the gates of the first event. Everything I do for a living went perfectly and everything else went wrong. The tap of the onsite water barrel was left on and we lost 20,000 litres of water, the emergency tanker got stuck in the mud, the generators weren’t wired-up properly and I got covered in diesel just as our site manager let everyone in without checking if it was okay. I ran across the field covered in diesel to sell drinks tokens while my business partner was still in the cash-and-carry buying stock.
“Among many highs were Marc Almond’s crowd going ‘Say Hello, Wave Goodbye’, the Happy Mondays, who despite their partying reputation, had just one beer beforehand and were fantastic, and Tony Hadley asking if he could do one more as curfew approached. I said, ‘You’d better ask my mum.’ She was so proud.
“It will be out 10th anniversary in 2020 and the site holds 12,000, so we’re looking at a bigger field next year with a really big couple of headline acts.”
Sound: Capital Sound
Lighting: Lightwave Productions
Stages: Trust Events Staging
Marquees: Alexander Marquees
Security: Armour Security
Toilets: John Anderson Hire (Superloo)
Bars: Blindmans Brewery