Southsea Sound has been working with Icebreaker Festival for a few years, whether through playing, sponsoring stages or doing live sound. Having a multi-venue music festival on our doorstep is a treat, and this year, we produced six live videos of artists selected to perform. The premise? Turn up, set up, two takes, and you’re done.

Before we launch into those over the following few blogs, an introduction to the festival is called for. I caught up with Mike Hartley a couple of weeks after the festival to see how it went.

Icebreaker festival

• Hello, please introduce yourself.

“I’m Mike Hartley and I’m one of the organisers. Musically, my background started as a performer in 2001 as a bassist and drummer in several bands including KruD (Don’t ask), The Dynamics, TFO & The Underground Pilots. I was also part of Pilot Promotions from 2013-2020.”

• Who are the core team behind the festival?

“We currently have six organisers – Dudley Stagpool, Ben Elsom, Matthew Brydon, Billy Colburn, Lizzi Kenyon and Myself.”

• How did you all meet?

“Dudley, Ben and I were in The Underground Pilots together and I’ve known Matt since 2006 as he’s a major part of the alternative Portsmouth music scene. We met Billy and Lizzi along the way. Billy’s a Southsea’s resident DJ, and Lizzi is one half of Idol Promotions and shares our passion for live music.”

• When and why did the festival start?

“We began plans in February 2014 after we hosted a Pilot Promotions Friday night show at The Fat Fox on the 31st of January. We expected a quiet evening and got a full house! We realised that this time of year needs something on the calendar; everyone was itching to get out and listen to live music and release their built-up post-Christmas energy! After we hosted Feedback Festival (One Venue / One Day) in May 2014, we decided to put together… Icebreaker Festival.”

Icebreaker Festival

• Biggest challenges?

“Yearly challenge – Not being able to pick more bands to perform. We receive hundreds of incredible applications yearly, but only 80-90 slots are available.

One-off challenge – Hallan (Wedgewood Rooms Headliner in 2022) dropped out the day before the festival due to COVID. Fortunately, we had local heroes Fake Empire who stepped up to close the festival and were outstanding with 24 hours to prep a headline set.”

• Greatest success?

“Reaching our 10th festival and still (we hope) positively impacting the bands, community, venues involved and everyone who attends. We didn’t think we would get this, far but we’re incredibly proud of what we have achieved.”

Icebreaker festival

• What cool things do you and the team want to tell us about?

“Fun Festival facts
– In 2018, we had Ben and Kieran from The Cooper Temple Clause (an early 2000s underground rock/alternative band) perform with their new band Type Two Error. A very surreal moment as we (mostly me) idealised them growing up.
– Our initial plans for the festival were to host two days, between 10-15 venues with over 200 acts. We quickly realised that we needed to scale back and start small and began with one day, six venues and 60 acts.
– There are still 1 or 2 musicians who have performed at every festival.

We’d also like to mention Carl Wood, Tim Gordon and Tyrone Drinkwater who was also instrumental in the birth and running of the festival’s early years.”
Icebreaker Festival

The next Icebreaker Festival is on the 3rd of February, 2024. Want to play? Go here to submit your application before the Friday, 30th June closing date.

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