The best and most established events are always built on humble foundations, and GuilFest is no exception. The festival began in 1992 as a one day event organised by keen festival-goer Tony Scott. Still run by Tony, the festival has now grown into one of the area’s biggest annual music events.
The philosophy behind the festival was simply to put on an event with great music. Based on his expertise in the events business, Tony wanted the infrastructure to be an improvement on that found at some other festivals (for example, the first Guildford festival toilets had piped music and flowers!). Out of this thinking the Guildford Festival was born, albeit initially as a one day folk and blues event costing a mere £5.
In 1993 and 1994 the festival remained a one day affair; however, in 1995 it made a leap in status, took place over two days and added camping. The music reflected the increase in scale, offering a more diverse range of bands. The festival was held at Loseley, 4 miles away from Guildford, that year – Chris Evans even auditioned to play at the festival on his Radio 1 show. In 1996 the festival returned to its origin at Stoke Park. 1997 saw the festival become a three day event – it now rivaled Cambridge and WOMAD. The increase in size lead to a great increase in popularity and the festival sold over 11000 tickets in total.
Guildford Festival 1998 saw bands such as Space, Shed Seven and The Lightning Seeds headlining, indicating its capacity for growth once more. Since then, the festival has occupied the position of the UK’s 6th largest outdoor music festival. 1999 saw bands such as James, The Saw Doctors and Jools Holland & His Rhythm and Blues Orchestra gracing the main stage; and while the festival kept its roots with the inclusion of the Acoustic Stage, it changed its name from Guildford Festival to Guildford Live – an indication of further modernisation by the event.
In 2000, the festival had its licence increased to allow a capacity of 12000 per day – allowing more people to see acts including Van Morrison, Joan Armatrading, David Gray, Culture Club, Motorhead and Rolf Harris.
2001 saw Pulp, James and Reef all headline the main stage over the three days, while Dreadzone, Lonnie Donnegan and Dead Men Walking headlined Stage 2. The next year had Jools Holland, The Fun Lovin’ Criminals and The Pretenders headlining while very many more bands also entertained the crowds.
Last year? Well, GuilFest 2003 demonstrated the strengths and developments that the festival and its now up to 15000 per day audience continue to enjoy. While the main stage was headlined by Alice Cooper, Madness and Atomic Kitten there were many other joys throughout the three days, including The Darkness, Jamie Cullum, Love, Clint Boon, Bez, Drunk In Public, Thea Gilmore and Mitch Benn.
Since 1992, Guildford Festival has grown and evolved in GuilFest. It still meets the demands of a changing music scene while maintaining the original ideal that it is possible to provide excellent music without compromising on the surroundings or amenities. As a result of its ability to grow and adapt, GuilFest now ranks as a highly valued and important UK music festival. See you there this year.”