Curators / Entreprenuers

Leah Bazalgette and Tasha Marikkar: Going Electric

Growing up, Leah Bazalgette, found herself “hungry for good music.” As an adult, the experience of being one in the surging crowd watching a band perform live, of seeing other “fans screaming in unison as an act they loved, sang a song they loved,” became something precious and incredible. She would go backstage, becoming a part of the industry that created these moments. Working with big names like Harvey Goldsmith, Leah produced VIP after-parties for Latitude Festival for Grace Jones, Reading and Leeds Festivals for Festival Republic and was part of the team that designed the campaign and organized the MTV Europe Music Awards, 2008.

Having a ball: Leah and Tasha at Glastonbury Festival (above) and (below) in animated conversation about the Peacock festival that kicks off on December 16
Pix by Indika Handuwela

Most notably she also was a part of the Glastonbury Festival for three years running. There she worked with Greenpeace Field, helping one year to design and build a replica of the Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior Ship.

The ship, which travels around the world campaigning against everything from seal and whale hunting to nuclear testing, is something of an icon. “People could donate by buying parts of the ship and they would get their name on it,” Leah explains.

Leah loved Glasto and she had the advantage of being in the company of people who were perfectly at home. Her father-in-law had been a part of the festival in the early years – designing the solar heated showers – and her husband had attended the festival several times.

Today, she and her sister Tasha Marikkar seem to be in the process of bringing a heavily downscaled version of Glasto to Sri Lanka. The Electric Peacock Festival is about great music, but it’s also a lovely blend of art, street food, and theatricality. But like every other great festival, it’s the fans that decide just how awesome it’s going to be.

The theme is ‘Mad Max meets Tron!’ Tasha tells me. Where Leah has a manager’s instinct and can “sell anyone anything,” Tasha allows herself to get creative, dreaming up ways to improve the festival experience. From the art installations and graffiti to the silent disco and the performers in costume scattered through the crowd, Tasha can see it all. Like Leah, Tasha too has a passion for orchestrating great music experiences. Working with Parisian promoters, she created a cross country band exchanges, taking new music from London to Paris and vice versa.

Working at the 02 Arena she helped run events as varied as NBA games, Ultimate Fighting Championship games and Gorillaz after parties (where she managed to sneak Leah in.) She’s also been trained in security, operational logistics and crowd capacity management and has handled events with celebrity guests that have included Stella McCartney, The Clash and Ellie Goulding.

When we meet them on a weekday afternoon, the two sisters are practically radiating energy. (“We could power the entire city with the energy that comes out of us!”) It’s something they’ll need plenty of in the days leading up to the festival. They hit the ground running this year with the success of their debut festival having given them the street rep they need to draw in both sponsors and crowds, but one of the great challenges remains actually communicating their vision. Of course, there’s also the matter of luring some of the big names down to headline the festival.

Excitingly, this year it will be an appearance by the British duo Basement Jaxx as well as the chart topping British electro act Chicane, and BBC Radio 1’s DJ Nihal. For the latter, who won the ‘Best Radio Show’ at the UK Asian Music Awards for his programme on Radio 1, this is something a homecoming, says Leah. Local DJs Asvajit and Tim will also be featured that night. Leah explains that they’ve taken great care to see that they’re supporting their artists with high end infrastructure and sound, and that the production values of the festival meet international standards.

Though the crowd is likely to be modest compared to what the stars are used to playing to, the girls are hoping to double their numbers from last year. It’s why they’ve dropped ticket prices substantially. “We are doing this for the country, for the people and for ourselves too obviously because we want to see big acts play here all the time. And we want people to feel the benefits of it,” says Leah.

The festival kicks off on Friday, December 16 at the historic Galle Buck Lighthouse in Colombo but this year it will overflow onto Saturday’s Colombo Night Races with the Festival directing the music and the entertainment at a series of after parties following the main event. “We’re taking it to a whole new level,” says Leah, anticipating a long-lasting collaboration with the CNR. It’s a big deal and the two sisters know exactly what they’re gunning for: “we want to create an atmosphere of euphoria.”

Published in the Sunday Times, Sri Lanka on 4 December 2011. Words by Smriti Daniel. Pix by Indika Handuwela

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