Manchester Punk Festival

MPF 2020

“MPF 2020 and Other Tall Tales: Ian ‘Tree’ Robinson” is relevant to the question above. A question that is in its sixth iteration of annual linger. MPF 2020 is indeed fast approaching, that much is true but it simultaneously seems to be taking its sweet and possibly sentient time. As much as it IS getting closer, as with recent years, the time elapsing between initial announcements and all the way to the festival itself is a gap that needs filling. I published a piece on “Why MPF 2020?” which you can find – Here – but for now, speaking of sentience, I had a chat with MPF’s resident Ent, Treestubble.

MPF 2020 and Other Tall Tales: Ian ‘Tree’ Robinson – Engage!

Before we begin, just in case anyone is unaware, who are you, what do you do and what is an MPF?
I’m Ian (or Tree). I’m one of the organisers of MPF. I also run Anarchistic Undertones (gigs in Manchester) with a couple of friends, Tom and Danny and we also occasionally book UK and European tours under the AU Booking banner.

MPF is a multi-venue city centre festival started in 2015 by ourselves, TNSrecords and Moving North. We wanted to host an event that brought together the amazing DIY Punk community as well as try and set an example to other events in terms of paying all acts, booking inclusive line-ups and generally promoting who we think are the best bands around that maybe don’t get a look-in on bigger events.

It’s hard work and kills us for most of the year but we are very proud of what it’s become.

How very succinct. You’ve done this before…

And so, MPF 2020, the sixth iteration. Comparatively, how do you feel this year stacks up against the previous efforts? I’m not talking of simple things like attendance or getting those bigs names for the headline spots sufficiently filled or just because its “the best yet”. From your personal perspective, WHY is MPF 2020 an event eyes should be on?
Haha yes, I have!
It’s nice people care about what we have to say but they shouldn’t care too much because we are clowns.
I try not to compare to previous years. It’s easily done but it’s not necessary. Each year is its own stand-alone thing. If you start trying to top what you’ve done previously or essentially competing with yourself, you can really feel the pressure and end up making rash decisions. Some people tell us this is our best line-up so far, others may disagree, it’s all subjective innit.

I like to think MPF is a nice celebration of the DIY scenes in UK cities (along with inviting friends from abroad). We all go to a lot of gigs or put on a lot all year round so we’re never short of discovering new bands. I see the event as a place for cool people to come together and catch up, see some great bands and just enjoy a few days of Punk-Rock whether that’s discovering new bands or seeing old favourites. In the simplest terms, eyes should be on it because it’s mint.

I like your point about self-competition and I have to agree. That, and you’ve again quite excellently answered the question. Is there some untold power up there that us smaller mortals aren’t privy to? Can you teach me? I promise I won’t stab you in the back until I learn everything…

Regarding your statement on punters seeing those they love as much as discovering new bands. It’s pretty well rumoured that you have to have seen a band for them to in turn be shortlisted for MPF but I wanted to ask you. When you’re thinking in advance about the festival, going to and putting on shows, do you take note of specific scenes or countries that you want to look into for later or is it more of a case starting with a band you already know and then extrapolating from there?

I think it’s the altitude up here…

That’s not actually true. People seem have to built-up their idea of what it takes to be booked for MPF which is always funny to read but it’s not always true.
There are three promoters that do the booking so I can only speak for myself here. There’s a perception that it’s hard to get on the line-up and it’s just not the case. I’d be confident if you asked every band that’s ever played it if they had to do anything special to get booked that they’d say no. Personally I look at loads of things; bands I’ve worked with for years, bands that put gigs on, bands that work hard, bands that attend and support gigs when they aren’t playing, bands that tour off their own back, bands that other people highly recommend and obviously just some bands that I want to see amongst other things. I think the other guys adopt a similar approach but obviously you’d have to ask them. We agree on a lot of slots as a group but get to put our own stamp on it too. 
There probably are some bands that have played MPF that none of us have seen live but I expect those numbers would be very small. Like you, you fucking midget. 

Somehow I’m not surprised at that. But hey, interviews are supposed to informative, so if anything, if they don’t dispel rumours and literarily deconstruct the rumour mill what really is the goal? Ha! I’m actually just under 6ft 2 you noodle-limbed greebo.

ANYWAY, is there anyone you personally are particularly excited to see? Either for the first time or just because? List as many as you see fit. Don’t just regurgitate the line-up poster though or your “super happy fun privileged altitude” time maybe be downsized a little…


6ft 2 is a midget, shithouse.

It definitely helps if one of us have seen the band live but it’s not necessarily that or nothing. Looking for bands other people like too, it’s not just about our own taste is it. 

There are tons I’m looking forward to. It’s hard to just pick a few, to be honest. I’m Crazy excited for Shai Hulud and our Japanese friends that are heading over. The Decline playing is something I’ve wanted for years so that will be cool. Belvedere are long time favourites, having legends like Discharge play and seeing my friends in Roughneck Riot headline a stage for us is huge. I could just list the whole line-up mate. I’m also really looking forward to hosting a nice afterparty for our friend Kathy who sadly passed away last year. We’ve called in some of her favourites to play. She was a special woman to a lot of people so that will be ace.

It all started so well! 

I suppose your answer is acceptable. Personally catching Roughneck Riot is definitely up there for me as well, I was mad into them back at uni so it’s nice to see them back doing the thing. Ah! That’s a nice touch, honouring someone with music is definitely the better way to go.

That ties into something else I wanted to ask you. Within the day-to-day running of MPF, obviously you want to watch sets as much as the audiences. But, being you and one of the hefes of the whole shindig, do you and the others have to organise who is on and off the clock so to speak or are you all always on call?

We are all on-call all weekend really. We all make a time to watch who we want mostly but we might have to run off and do something. We have a great team of volunteers that help us over the weekend organised by Chris and Kaz Hinsley. We’d really struggle without them. We don’t ask too much of the volunteers over the event as we want them to still be able to enjoy themselves and check out the bands they want to see. The stage managers are crucial to the whole thing too.

It’s difficult catching up with everyone you want to see and all the bands we’ve booked but we do what we can.

I’m assuming you’re running on excessive amounts of caffeine for a lot it then?!

Through doing all this for so long, MPF, gigs, all-dayers etc… You’ve been in the midst of how the scene is changing, progressing and becoming more inclusive. It’s obviously about fucking time and from a fan’s perspective, great to see. What’s it like being on the other side of the stage seeing this change happen? Have you come into any issues when trying to push all this forward?

Yes. Definitely just caffeine.

I think the Punk scene has come very far in terms of being more inclusive and diverse but at the same there’s still a long way to go. It’s not perfect by any means.

People have educated themselves on it a lot more, myself included, but there are still people that challenge it or don’t get it.

We got a bit of shit about the line-up first year for it not being diverse enough in terms of the people on the stage but unfortunately, that was just how that year fell. It was always our intention to try and set an example and I think we do that with some things. It’s also a common opinion that making your line-up more inclusive means compromising on quality and we just think that’s bullshit.

People might think the line-up or the event is shit which is totally fine. I’d encourage anyone to do it themselves. That was one of the reasons we started it. Got bored of full line-ups at overpriced events so fancied giving it a go.

Don’t know if I’ve answered your question here but I’m rough as fuck at work so you’ll have to just accept me for what I am.

And as an extended question, what within the UK scene and/or elsewhere are you most excited about currently?

There’s a lot to be excited about. I love seeing how busy good labels are like Lockjaw Records, Pumpkin Records and TNS amongst others. Be Sharp Promotions and Upsurge are doing some mega things at New Cross Inn in London. A couple of friends in Dundee have taken on a venue called Rad Apples so I’m looking forward to visiting there eventually and seeing how that develops for them. I’m also excited for the future of some of the newer local bands like Incisions, Aerial Salad, Fatalist and Follow Your Dreams for example. It’s awesome seeing new bands find their feet and keep getting better.

I mean, what else is there? Did the Descendents not say, MUG MUG MUG?!

I’d have to agree with you there, there’s only so much education that can be directed your way before you have to take a step up and discover some yourself. Whether I’m just more aware of it now I don’t know but the scene has definitely moved forward but like you say, it’s not perfect by a long shot or at least half a magazine anyway. But, again, there is a lot to be excited about! A friend of mine has set up her own promotions company out Surrey way and its really kicking off for her and with everything going on at the moment, it’s nice to see the music scene thrive and the right people doing the thing!

Would I be right in assuming you get a lot of people over the social media-verse or otherwise telling you how it should be done? Or is that but a minor irritant?

Oh, you have no worries there! I will, of course, accept you for who you are, oh vertically gifted one! Forgive my earlier transgressions!

We ask for feedback every year through an online form. We don’t pretend to be experts and the people who attend are best placed to tell us what to do better. Some of it has been helpful and we’ve definitely improved some things each year based on suggestions. 

People will always have their own ideas on how to do things but that’s the beauty of DIY, you can always do things how you want if you wish. 

Sounds like you’ve certainly got a lid on it all. Is it April yet?

Right so, you obviously know a lot of people from the UK scene and beyond, which is great! However, if you could be an instrument what would you be? And to further that, who would you want to be played by and why?

I would be a bass guitar played by Richie from Eat Dirt because I like it when he fingers me.

Moving on! Same instrument, different instrument, it matters not! Who would you hands down not want to be played by and why?

Big Hands… For obvious reasons. 


Finally, being the large tree-like individual that you are, what are your thoughts on photosynthesis? And do you have anything MPF related you want to say?
I literally have nothing of any use to say about photosynthesis, haha!
I’m excited to get to the weekend now. Still got a lot of things to do but I’m at the stage where I just wanna enjoy catching up with so many friends and watching some great music. It’s shaping up to be one of the best we’ve done!
MPF 2020 and Other Tall Tales: Ian ‘Tree’ Robinson – I think that went well and hopefully, it satiates your burning desire for it to be “April yet” just a little bit more. Finally, when asking Mr Robinson if he wanted me to use a photo of him, I was sent this by his dog, DCI Burnside, with the following officially sanctioned caption.
MPF 2020 and Other Tall Tales: Ian ‘Tree’ Robinson
‘Sleep well large hooman, it will be April soon’

Founder of Ear Nutrition, Matt is sadly over 30 and first cut his words writing for the now defunct site, Musically Fresh. He enjoys a variety of guitar-driven music but can usually be found navigating a web of Skate Punk, Hardcore and everything in between.