Against all the odds, the surprise 2020 edition of Head For The Hills may just have been the biggest yet…

The Met and Head For The Hills Artistic Director David Agnew reflects on new way to share the festival:

In a year of making alternative plans we excitedly approached a digital Head for the Hills in partnership with Bury Council and United We Stream. Bury, in what should have been a celebratory year as Greater Manchester’s Town of Culture, as with everywhere has had a tough year. We at The Met have been determined to keep doing as much as possible where the national lockdown, followed by Tier 3, has allowed.

Head for the Hills is a festival that celebrates the arts and culture outdoors and the wonderful unique characteristics of our home in Ramsbottom. We have enjoyed 9 years of showcasing those characteristics alongside the very best in live music and outdoor arts – contributing to local pride, visitor experiences and local economy.  We were determined to do the festival – and Ramsbottom – justice in a digital version.

2020 has proved the case for working in collaboration. The Met is fortunate to enjoy great partnerships which has got us through. We work with Bury Council, Arts Council England and crucially in this year Greater Manchester Combined Authority. All of these partnerships contributed to the broadcast we pulled together for 5th December. 5th December for an outdoor festival? only in 2020…

The digital version also gave us the opportunity to recognise that our usual festival partners have had a difficult time during the pandemic. Brilliant skilled production companies who bring the sound systems, staging, lighting rigs, generators and security to the physical festival are in really dire straits (no future headline hints intended). We were thrilled to be in a position to offer work around this event, including to artists. The money was appreciated but the relief of people to be employed doing what they loved was tangible. We had a great day pre-recording content which wasn’t possible to stream live from Ramsbottom (broadband in a valley is still broadband in a valley) – driving bands up Holcombe Hill, recording brilliant artists in the clubhouse, setting fire to the pitch (again not in a normal year) and projecting onto Peel Tower all made for a version of the festival.

Talking to people in Ramsbottom we were struck by the delight and fondness for the festival and the hope that we will be able to return in 2021 and bring back the visitors and the pride and economic boost those visits bring with them.

The broadcast on United We Stream reached 35,000 people worldwide. We had amazing feedback from families separated by lockdown but brought together for a day’s viewing. First time festival visitors marvelled at the backdrop of Ramsbottom, seasoned Head for the Hills fans (still shouting Rammy Festival at our rebranded selves) enjoyed some of the festival’s most loved acts and Ramsbottom had the well deserved moment it usually enjoys multiple times throughout a busy annual events programme.

For us – the team at The Met – we LOVED being back into festival mode. We’re agreed that 7 days in September will always top 1 freezing cold day in December but we’re thrilled to bring some festival magic in a desperate 2020.

We’re looking towards 2021 in hope of returning to the brilliance of a 3 day festival packed with people, surprises, talent, friends and festival tradition and memories. We’ve made some new friends to add to that too – we’ll be making the best of what we’ve learnt this year and what we’ve missed. Our sincere thanks to those that have helped us with this project and to those we will be with again in 2021 – outdoors but maybe not in December.

– David Agnew, December 2020


Keep an eye out in the new year for highlights from the day shared online, and for news of the future of Head For The Hills. Don’t forget to sign up for the newsletter on the Head For The Hills website to be among the first to know the festival’s news.