Indietracks: An epitaph

Indietracks: An epitaph

After 2 cancelled years due to the pandemic the beloved indiepop festival Indietracks has announced they are no more, and their 2019 festival has become their last. Popoptica editor Sarah Lay watches the festival depart. 

Indietracks main stage lit at night, 2016

You always think you have more time, until you don’t. The rhythmically comforting clacking on the annual trip along the railway line toward the magic and the music, has turned to the sound of a thousand indie hearts breaking in unison as we learn our beloved Indietracks is no more.

Following 2 years of cancelled events due to the pandemic Indietracks announced on Monday 15 November their 2019 event had become their last, and after more than 10 years of festival perfection there would be no more.

A statement said, “We realise that the festival was very special to many people, and this isn’t a decision that we’ve taken lightly. Thanks so much to everyone who has attended and supported Indietracks – the festival has successfully raised funds for the Midland Railway Trust each year. However, despite significant effort from all concerned the event has sadly proved unsustainable, principally due to the ongoing ramifications of the pandemic.”

The statement goes on to acknowledge the magical atmosphere the festival held, and the many great acts who’ve graced its stages and played against the backdrop of softly tooting trains as the heritage railway which hosted it shunts back and forth around the revellers.

Magic really is the best way to describe Indietracks – from the ride down the line to arrive at the festival site, to the community which came back together year-on-year to celebrate their scenes, to resisting the churn of the music industry to show genuine support for new artists who needed a safe space to grow. Indietracks was joyous, filled with kindness, never less than excellently curated, and is a loss which will be felt long and deep by those who loved it, but throughout the many music scenes too.

With many festivals now corporate parties where the same bands appear across multiple line-ups, Indietracks remained resolutely different and with a form of radical kindness stayed subtly subversive too. The palpable release as we stood around a steam roller chanting ‘can crush! can crush! can crush!’, the velveteen feathers of the birds of prey keeping a watchful eye over the passing parade of people, the coming together to make and do in the craft hut, the after-hours campsite disco. The commitment to book artists who are being consistently denied space elsewhere, and to blend with established acts in a carefully curated programme meaning clashes were few and far between and you were never far from the next moment which would embed itself in your heart forever.

Indietracks indoor stage 2016

From the pin-drop silence as Allo Darlin’ held us all captivated in their main stage performance of 2014, the faces pressed up against the windows of the tabernacle church as so many bands packed it to its rafters, the confetti and the balloons of the indoor stage, the liminal space opening up as bands played on trains slowly chuntering up and down the line.

On a personal note this festival has been so important to me as a music lover and terminal outsider, as I finally felt a sense of belonging. The community that bubbled up over that one weekend could see me right for the rest of the year.

As a mother it gave me the safest and most welcoming space to introduce my children to the joy of live music – my then 7-year-old bought his first 7″ in the merch tent (Dream Nails) and fell in love with LIINES as they played the main stage (and then bought him a can of coke on the bar train). An effortlessly inclusive atmosphere pervaded the festival, where the additions and changes in people’s lives as we grew up, grew older, and grew into ourselves were accepted and welcomed.

As a music journalist it gave me the most diverse line-up to dive into each year. This is something that other festivals seem to actively work against and in time, we’ll need to raise our voices to demand artists who would have had their day at Indietracks are included elsewhere.

And as a record label owner our heritage is pulled from Indietracks, the spiritual gathering of the clans for labels who inspire us: FortunaPOP!, Sarah, 4AD, Postcard and so many more. So many of the bands who we’re thankful are part of our Reckless Yes family also gave us wonderful live experiences at Indietracks: Chorusgirl, Panic Pocket, Nervous Twitch, the list goes on. Tears fell as I sat in the back pew watching Grawl!x perform in the church in 2019, so many Reckless Yes artists and (literal as well as figurative) family members in the rows ahead – this is the sort of memory which is engraved deep and remains fresh no matter the passing of the years.

This is the tip of what it meant to me, and I have no doubt there will be others reflecting on the way it supported and changed them over the years. Indietracks was music at its best; so much more than the songs played and a real community that felt welcoming to all-comers.

Indietracks 2016

As we say goodbye we recognise a part of us will be forever stood on the gentle slope in front of that main stage, the sky ablaze with a summer sunset, as we raise a hand and joyfully wave at those travelling past on the train. Around us wind the tendrils of something beautiful, something interesting, something delicate or detailed, or both. Strawberry-cider stained lips and a thousand charity shop outfits, music and play and joy and friendships. Indietracks was music, magic, and love.

What more to say than farewell, Indietracks, and thank you so much for the years we’ve had and the memories we’ve made. You will be missed in more ways than we yet know. But all aboard now, the last train is departing.


If you’d like to support the Midland Railway Butterley, which hosted Indietracks and is charity, you can do so here.

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Sarah Lay

Sarah Lay is editor of Popoptica.
A long-standing music journalist she's also co-founder of independent record label Reckless Yes, an author of novels, and when not messing around with words and music, a digital strategist.
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