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A Camden Crawler's Guide to Festival Management: Looking Back

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As I write this, it's exactly two weeks until the 2012 Camden Crawl kicks of in what I hope to be all its glory. We have been working extremely hard to finalise every artist contract and every last second of the schedule, and there's still an awful lot to do - the big red 4 May on my calendar has the look of Sauron's great eye in The Lord of the Rings, watching me malevolently.

What that proximity does bring back, though, are a lot of memories. Last year was, depending how you count, either the 10th Camden Crawl or 16 years since we launched the first event. I helped establish the Crawl in 1995, at the very height of that thing we called Britpop, and it was a relatively modest affair back then: a few venues, a friendly audience, and The Wedding Present.

Everyone's moved on since then - for instance, Lauren Laverne, the lead singer of another of our headlining bands that first year, Kenickie, currently has a career caring for Charlie Brooker and Jimmy Carr. The Crawl, too, has changed a great deal, though not, I like to think, beyond recognition: we're still a festival focused first and foremost on emerging talent, and celebrating the new and the exciting. We're bigger, and hopefully better, but this year especially I think we're always true to our founding principles.

Many of the acts who have featured on our bills have gone on to big things: when Mogwai played the 1996 Crawl, they weren't the post-rock darlings they later became; in 2007, Adele wasn't even dreaming of the success of 21; likewise, 2008's Florence and the Machine and Mumford and Sons are now mainstream acts in their own right. I spotted one of last year's artists, Beth Jeans Houghton, on Later with Jools Holland the other night; this time last year she was playing an early slot at a small venue in Camden.

Not that I'd say the Crawl is responsible for those artists' success - instead, I think they show that our curators have an unerring eye for what's going on across the music scene, and it's our job to reflect that breadth and depth of emerging talent. We aren't snobs - Amy Winehouse was already huge when she played in 2007, and Graham Coxon in both 2005 and 2011 was a household name - but music fans know they can come to us for a snapshot of what's next, as well as the latest and biggest alternative acts.

However you count it, whether this is our 11th festival or our 17th year, that's why we're proud of these memories - and why I know we'll be proud come 4 May. Proud, but exhausted ...

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