Birmingham’s Supersonic festival is set to double the number of international visitors this year by taking inspiration from Barcelona’s Sonar Festival.
Now in its seventh year, Supersonic – which runs from July 24-26 at the Custard Factory – is expecting 5,000 people, 80 per cent of whom will come from outside the region.
Many of those coming to the experimental music and visual arts festival are from overseas, with people travelling from as far as Moscow, Athens and Australia for the event.
Supersonic is run by Capsule, a Birmingham-based duo who present and curate live music events.
One of their other activities is to coordinate the British presence at the Sonar Festival in Spain – seen as the number one event worldwide for electronic music and digital arts.
Capsule, which comprises co-directors Lisa Meyer and Jenny Moore, said Supersonic took inspiration from Sonar and its focus on a niche audience.
Ms Meyer said: “We were inspired when we went to Sonar and we realised that niche activity could capture a wider audience if you look outside your regional audience and start to attract a national and international audience.
“Sonar started off with 1,000 people and it now attracts 90,000 people – they come from all over the world because it offers something that’s unique.
“That was our model for Supersonic – to offer something quite extraordinary.”
This year’s Supersonic is putting on what its organisers describe as their best line-up yet, although many outside the experimental music community may be unfamiliar with some of the bands.
They include Japanese band Corrupted, who will make their debut in the UK, and Black Country industrial rock band Head of David who have re-formed to play their first gig in 23 years.
Ms Meyer added: “It’s also supporting regional artists and giving them a platform.
“The people coming are taste-makers and there are also six international music publications coming over.”
Ms Meyer believes it is Supersonic’s focus on creating a distinctive offering designed to appeal to a specific audience which brings in the high proportion of visitors from outside the region.
“On a national level people come from all corners of the UK, from Glasgow down to Brighton, and what’s quite exciting is we have a really good take-up from London,” she said.
“You would have thought that London was saturated with culture but if you put on something that is unique and exciting people will travel,” she said.
“We’ve sold out the Paragon hotel already and now we have moved on to other hotels within Birmingham city centre.”
Capsule has also extended the festival programme to two days in London in a bid to develop the brand which is hoped will attract an additional 1,000 people to the events.
Another highlight is “the Marketplace” which builds on the success of the concept last year.
The Marketplace offers somewhere for independent record labels, distributors and artists to sell their wares and network on an informal basis.
Geoff Barrow, from Portishead’s label Invada, Rough Trade, Southern Records as well as Kings Heath’s Polar Bear record shop will be present.
This year will also see the festival collaborate with other Digbeth-based arts organisations, including Vivid, Ikon Eastside and Eastside Projects, as well as working with Fierce! and Birmingham Jazz to raise the perception of Birmingham as a cultural city among Supersonic festival-goers.
Ms Meyer said: “It’s a group operation between like-minded arts operations to take advantage of cultural tourists.”
Capsule has strong links with the promoters of other independent festivals in Birmingham and is part of group which takes in Flatpack, Rhubarb Rhubarb, Fierce! and The Book Festival.
Supersonic, which is funded by the Arts Council, PRS Foundation and Sound & Music, is also in negotiations with Birmingham City Council to see if it will support the festival in the future.
Ms Meyer said: “Supersonic is something that has been recognised within the city council and we are working towards being supported by them.”