IN A sense Adam Ryan has the dream job – albeit an undeniably busy one. He is responsible for programming the line-up of Europe’s biggest new music festival, The Great Escape. Before the 2018 edition gets underway, boasting major new developments such as the 2000-capacity site The Beach, Adam gives EDWIN GILSON an insight into how the event comes together

Is this the biggest TGE yet?

We always try and keep to the same amount of artists each year. It’s normally around the 450, 500 mark. That’s big enough to make a noise and for each artist to have some visibility. I think it’s definitely the most diverse line-up we’ve had so far – there’s everything from grime and hip-hop to jazz and dancehall and indie rock.

Was it your intention to be more diverse?

It is definitely a conscious decision, for sure. It’s a reflection of the UK music scene. A few years ago, grime was crossing over to the mainstream with people like Skepta and Stormzy. Two years later we still have that but we’ve introduced more UK jazz, for example.

How do you keep your finger on the pulse, especially with previously influential magazines like NME ceasing publication?

With the rise of the internet since we started the festival, everybody’s got an opinion and they’re out watching gigs. It’s easy for artists to upload music, too. I remember when I used to work at The Barfly in Camden, people had to post their music through the door and I had to sit in a room and listen to them all. We also work with big media outlets like YouTube and Vevo to make sure we’re keeping track of the top-end acts. The key is to be always be engaged, and if you’re passionate about music that’s not a problem.

You mention working at The Barfly. What’s your background in music?

Years and years ago I handed out flyers and had a full-time job, and also promoted gigs on the side. I started DJing at the Barfly before I got the junior booking job and then the senior job. In between those two jobs they started The Great Escape, so I’ve seen it grow from 13 venues to now. I used to work at the festival as a rep, running venues like Komedia. I’ve always been involved. The first thing I wanted to was diversify the line-up.

Do you think the line-up was previously too rock heavy, then?

I don’t think there was anything wrong with the programme back then – it was a reflection of the time. People were more tribalistic then. We do a better job now, but maybe it’s easier for us to do that because people consume music in a lot of different ways. You look at some of the other music festivals in the UK who claim to be new music bastions, but they’re generally quite male and white.

In terms of booking acts, is the ball rolling throughout the year?

I’ll book right up to the first announcement because you want to make sure it’s as hot and fresh as possible. Acts can blow up and blow out very quickly nowadays, and as much as we’re not fickle in what we do we want to make sure we’re backing the right artists. There’s a point during the booking where you’re like, “I don’t understanding what I’m doing”. The closer you get to the festival the more your decisions are justified. It’s only when you get to a later date when everything blossoms and you can go, “**** yeah, that was amazing”.

You’ve announced a new 2000-capacity venue this year, The Beach. What’s the thinking behind that?

We used to do loads of Spotlight shows sold on separate tickets. They were good but they were almost separate to the festival so I didn’t feel quite right. The point of The Beach is to have all those kind of shows in one area. It’s also to have a feeling of community, a place you can go and have a beer and talk about what you saw the night before. It’s also about providing the people of Brighton with an exciting new venue.

Yes, festival CEO Rory Bett has said he wants to make TGE for Brighton residents, as well as music fans coming from further afield.

We definitely don’t want the people of Brighton to be forgotten about. The whole point of us doing it here is to celebrate the city and its artists. It’s really important for us to engage with the city. That’s what The Beach will try to do.

Has The Beach been an ambition for a while?

We’ve been wanting to do it for ages, but it’s difficult. Believe it not there aren’t that many spaces you can use. It’s also really bloody expensive. We costed it up a few times and thought, “It’s going to cost a fortune”. We’re in a position now where we need to add something new to the festival. Otherwise, people can get bored quickly. You need to raise the bar each year.

The festival team is based in London as well as Brighton, right?

We have two groups, a London-based office and a Brighton one. An event like The Great Escape would never work in London. It wouldn’t have what Brighton offers. Brighton is synonymous with rebellion and youth anarchy and that’s a really beautiful fit for bands just starting out in music. Bands start because they want a creative release and Brighton is a great place for that. Also, you have a lot of hotels here which we can use as venues.

Adele and Ed Sheeran have passed through TGE. Is it bizarre for you to look back on their performances now?

People like that are going to be stars anyway. It was great we provided them a platform but they were destined for stardom. I like it when a really unknown artist plays the festival and then gets a manager or their song played on a TV show. I much prefer those small stories of success to the big chest-beating moments when we’re like, “Oh, Ed Sheeran”.

There’s an element of timing. With Rag ‘n’ Bone Man last year, we announced him early and then he won a Brit Critic’s Choice Award. I like it when you know for a fact you’ve been a massive help to somebody’s career.

The Great Escape

Across Brighton, Thursday,

May 17, to Saturday, May 19,