FEATURE: From the Flying Squad to boss of music festival
Glen Moulds never really liked loud music. Easy listening was more his style.
So the ex-Flying Squad detective sergeant was probably the last person you would expect to organise a festival ... especially as he had never been to one.
His daughter, though, thought differently.
And her instinct was right. Her suggestion over the dinner table made him think: “Why not?”
Now every year he and his family throw open the gates of their sports academy to thousands of people for the annual Homegrown Festival.
What’s more he puts the show on the road to spread the Homegrown message across the UK, Germany, and even Russia.
He has even decided loud music is not so bad after all, although he still prefers to hear all the words.
Homegrown is a festival with a difference. It does exactly what its name suggests.
Once Glen resolved to take the plunge he knew he must make his events special for the people who turn up in droves to camp in his fields and listen to the music.
Everything comes from the local area – the bands, the suppliers, the people who sell the burgers.
Once, while booking The Voice contestant Leanne Jarvis, he famously refused an offer from her mentor will.i.am to come along too, because unlike Leanne he was not from East Anglia.
There is another important pledge in the Homegrown ethos ... fair pricing.
“I had never been to a music festival in my life,” said Glen, 58, who runs the Suffolk Academy sports centre in Barrow.
“Then a few years ago my daughter Jade came back from a festival, and was telling us about the disgusting toilets and rip-off prices.
“I asked, why do people go. She said it was about the music and the experience of living in a field with like-minded people, but it was a shame it was so much about making money.
“She said you should run one, Dad. I told her I knew nothing about festivals, but she said ‘you’ve done things before you didn’t know anything about, but you did them anyway,’”
So the former DS Moulds began making enquiries.
Friends in the music business suggested keeping it all home-grown.
“They said as an artist you can do the pubs and clubs but there is no stepping stone to bigger things like festivals,” said Glen.
“And they told me if we had our own East Anglian event it would get a lot of support from local bands.
“So we’d got our ethos. Then I started doing some research into how it would work.
“I wanted to make it affordable for families,” he said. “At some festivals the tickets cost £200, and if you’re a family of four, you finish up paying the price of a holiday.
“Our tickets are £45 to £50 for a weekend’s camping.”
Food and drink sellers are charged only £250 for a pitch so they can also adopt the fair price ethos.
The artists who appear are a mix of the well-known – Matt Cardle was on the bill last year – and those who are doing their first big gig.
All get the same warm welcome and hospitality.
This year’s festival will be the fourth. The first one attracted 1,500 people.
Even so, with 25 bands playing, it felt like the real thing, says Glen.
“My daughter, whose idea it was, had invited her friends but warned them it might be a bit embarrassing.”
As it was, she was so overwhelmed by the sight of so many people it brought tears to her eyes.
Glen, who used to coach the England karate team, has been married to his wife Julie – a former Essex county karate champion – for 20 years.
They have two daughters Paris, 17 and Charlie, 16, and Glen also has two daughters Jade, 27 and Yasmin, 24, from his previous marriage.
“When I retired from the police force I wanted to run my own sports centre,” he said.
“I wrote to 99 farmers in the Bury St Edmunds area looking for land, and only one came back to me – in our own home village of Barrow.
“It was a derelict pig farm, and it took a lot of vision to see it as it is now.”
That was 10 years ago. Now the Suffolk Academy, with its eight acres of tough, sports-ready fields, also makes an ideal festival setting.
“All the grass is like a billiard table, and very hard-wearing and compacted because it is mowed all the time. We don’t do mud.
“Our neighbour is lending us another 10 acres for car parking.”
Homegrown gets bigger every year. This year they are expecting more than 3,000 visitors, and 100 artists will perform on four stages.
“We’ve also introduced Spectra, our dance festival, with professional DJs and laser shows,” said Glen.
And he will be watching with special pride when daughter Paris makes her debut as half of the singing-songwriting duo Tom and Paris.
They met studying performing arts at West Suffolk College, and will be making their first recording later this year.
While Homegrown will always have its roots in Barrow, the project is branching out with another festival in Oxford in September.
More are planned in other parts of the country, and others lined up in Germany and Russia.
“We are like a travelling festival,” said Glen. “In this country take all the infrastructure with us, so just have the transport costs.
“I go to all of them, and I’ve even learned to like loud music. It’s good fun and the people you mix with are so brilliant.
“They really appreciate you putting things on for them.”
The Homegrown Festival takes place from August 28 to 30.
For the full line-up, more information and directions go to homegrownfest.co.uk