THE BEGINNING

This is how it all came to be.

EOTR-posters

Last year End of the Road celebrated its 10th birthday. One look at the posters above tell you that it’s come along way over the past decade. With another brilliant line-up all set for this September, organiser Simon Taffe guided us through how things got here.

2006
Simon Taffe, a man with a background in construction and a love for music, spent 2005 at 10 different festivals. Whilst at one of these, he got drunk and felt inspired to launch End of The Road the following year. “You could email bands directly back then,” he says, “so I started emailing bands and I got a few messages back from managers and I got so excited. Like, ‘this is easy!’ I had no idea what I was doing – I called the NME to see how much advertising was, and I called a toilet company, and worked out the back-of-the-cigarette-packet calculations.”

He then recruited festival co-founder Sofia Hagberg, a friend who was good at blagging into shows, to help convince bands to come and play. Between them they booked Ryan Adams and Badly Drawn Boy for the inaugural End of The Road in 2006, at Larmer Tree Farm in Dorset, budgeting for 5,000 tickets. They sold just 1,600, so decided to run competitions on the radio and the Internet where everyone who entered won. With 2,600 people on site, Simon says: “We got just enough people to create an atmosphere, and luckily it didn’t rain. If it had rained, I don’t think End of The Road would have continued.”

2007
Losing “only 30 grand”, End of The Road’s second year was considered a huge success as it sold 4,300 tickets and secured bands like Yo La Tengo and Lambchop, as Simon and Sofia became more established names with artists and their bookers. The same year they wrote a letter to Sufjan Stevens but never heard back.

2008 – 2010
In 2008 End of The Road sold out its 5,000 tickets for the first time, with Conor Oberst, Mercury Rev and Calexico topping the bill and a lesser-known Bon Iver lower down.

“And then we were stubborn for three years,” says Simon. “We kept selling out earlier and earlier, but we thought we’d ruin it if we got any bigger. Then I looked at it and thought, no, it can still be the same festival if we still have this garden area [then the main stage] and have really good names on it. Without expanding we were going to start repeating ourselves, like ATP did a little bit.”

2011
End of The Road’s capacity increased to 9,000 in 2011, as the festival landed a particularly strong headlining trio of Beirut, Joanna Newsom and Mogwai. Simon considers it the festival’s seminal year, due to the introduction of a new, huge main stage. He says: “Basically what we’ve done with End of The Road, everything that’s there has grown over the year. We’ve had a comedy line-up from day one; it was just really small. Rather than coming up with loads of new stuff each year we think how can we improve all the areas and make them as good as they can be.

2012 – 2014
After the success of 2011 (EOTR sold all 9,000 tickets on their first attempt, in a record time), Simon and his team launched the fabled No Direction Home festival at Welbeck Abbey in Nottinghamshire, in 2012. “We don’t really talk about that one,” says Simon, noting that its failure was most likely down to it not being a different enough festival from End of The Road. It even detracted from EOTR ticket sales that year, and was jettisoned for 2013 and 2014 as Simon’s original festival got back on track and reached its current capacity of 11,500 – “The most we want to go to, certainly on this site.”

2015
The line-up for End of The Road in 2015 rose the occasion of a festival celebrating it’s 10th birthday. The names of Tame Impala, The War on Drugs, Future Islands and Laura Marling were over shadowed by one, however. After 10 years of asking, Simon and Sofia finally got a positive respond from Sufjan Stevens. He announced he’d be playing the festival with a blog post that included a photograph of the original letter they’d written him in 2007. Beneath it, he simply wrote ‘Better late than never’.

Below is a team photo from the very first End of the Road festival…

eotr-team-photo-2006

dot