By Rowan Gavin

Since its foundation in 2019, Wild Paths festival has quickly become Norwich’s premier multi-venue live music event. The hotly anticipated 2021 edition of the festival will take place over four days from October 14th-17th, with headliners including Sports Team, Biig Piig and Palace as well as dozens of other acts playing at over 20 venues across the city. With just over a week to go until the festival began, I spoke to Ben Street, festival founder and director, about his experiences of organising the event.

Could you give us a brief history of how Wild Paths came to be?

“When I moved back to Norwich I ended up meeting up with the Gonzo’s team. They were looking to start up a live space on Timber Hill and wanted to see if I was keen to get involved… so I jumped in! This helped me integrate into the live scene in the city and after a few pints with some fellow venue directors and promoters it became clear to me there was a hunger for a multi-venue event to celebrate the creative scene in the city. From there it was a crazy and tumultuous journey to the delivery of the first ever Wild Paths Festival, and we’ve never looked back.”

Norwich is known for having a passionate music community – what has the experience of organising an independent music festival within that community been like?

“There’s been a huge amount of local support from both the venues involved and the local music community. Norwich is fiercely independent and although at times it’s slow to accept change, the Wild Paths team and what the event brings to the city has been welcomed and nurtured by the creative community. We’re a collective of musicians and creatives from this fine city and this is what gives us our passion and drive to bring something different to Noz!”

Is there anything special or different about Wild Paths this year that you’d like to highlight?

“This year we’re expanding our late-night events, staging a couple of Supper Clubs (at Artel and The Wallow), using St Laurence Church to host music, poetry and a late-night jazz jam and turning the upstairs of the Shoe Factory (St Mary’s Works) into a VIP, Delegate and Artist Lounge – complete with ping pong, projections and free beer!

“We’re also championing and working with a number of sustainable partners and companies to go plastic-free across the whole festival site, provide up-cycled festival merch and help attendees to balance their travel-based carbon emissions by donating to Ecolibrium – supporting tree planting projects and green energy initiatives.“

Jerome Thomas plays at Wild Paths 2019.

You appeared on a panel at War of Words 2019 to speak about the future of Norwich music. Two long years later, has your outlook on the future of the fine city scene changed?

“The local scene has mostly gone from strength to strength. We lost two key venues during the pandemic (Open and The Birdcage) but a number received vital Cultural Recovery Funding allowing them to update their audio and visual equipment and are pushing to support a diverse local network of exciting new bands. All the pieces are in place for Norwich to step up and become a notable cultural and music hub, on a national scale!”

Who are your favourite acts you’ve seen at Wild Paths in previous years?

“Franc Moody at Epic Studios was pretty special and catching Pom Poko at a packed out Norwich Arts Centre was also a highlight.”

Which act are you most excited about this year?

“There’re so many… Me and my co-booker Dec listen to and scour through a heap of great stuff! I’m excited for Pip Millet at St Laurence Church (on St Benedicts street). Her soulful, jazzy vibe is making waves in the scene right now. I also can’t wait to catch NiNE8 at The Shoe Factory and Do Nothing at Voodoo Daddy’s… I just hope I’ll get the chance to see a bit more this year!”

Wilds Paths 2021 runs from Thursday 14th to Sunday 17th October. Get tickets and find out more at the festival website.

All images and video courtesy of Wild Paths.

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