Until last year putting on a festival had only been a distant dream for Annie Mac. She’d always had the idea sat in the back of her head, but assumed that when she eventually came around to curating a festival it would be in some muddy farmer’s field in Britain. In fact, when she was presented with the idea of throwing a weekend of parties across Saint Paul’s bay in Malta, she’d never even been to the tiny island that sits between Italy and North Africa. A self-confessed micro manager, Mac tested everything from the distance between the hotel to the shuttle bus to ensure that nobody would feel slighted by their experience, and visiting AMP Lost & Found, now in it’s second year, it’s clear that this is all paying off.
When we catch up with Annie in London a week after the festival, she's only just getting her life back in order. She's just dropped off a black sequinned cape, embroidered with the word ‘RAVING’, off at the dry cleaners – it was a gift from one of the 8,000 music fans in attendance at this year’s Lost & Found and feels quite symbolic to her. “It’s a very intense situation,” she admits. “But it’s a lot of fun.” From brief sightings of Annie over the Lost & Found weekend, it feels like this is a perfect summary of her time there. She somehow seems to have the ability to be everywhere at once, and no matter which party you’re at, she makes an appearance to give the DJs and artists some support. It’s no coincidence: “This year I wanted to make sure I went to every party,” she explains. “I wanted to make sure I saw all the DJs, make them feel welcome and see which parties were popping off.” And with two pool parties running simultaneously each afternoon as well as Castle Raves and boat parties, plus two stages running at the festival’s main site each night – that’s no mean feat, but it certainly gives a sense that Annie is fully involved in the creation of the festival rather than just being some figurehead that’s been stuck on once the real work has been done.
“It’s got to look and feel like it’s coming from me, otherwise it’s pointless putting my name to it,” says Annie. While her main roles surround the curation of the line-up and the aesthetic of the parties, she gets stuck into everything and initially struggled with the idea that a festival was too much of an undertaking for one person to have full control over. “I've calmed down a bit now,” she admits. “I was actually able to enjoy it (this year). I knew that I could trust everyone that was working on the festival to do a really good job.”
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One of her goals this year was to provide more of an alternative to the house and techno sound that AMP (Annie Mac Presents) events have become known for following the success of appearances from Kaytranada and Virgil Abloh in the festival’s first year. “Mark Ronson and Hudson Mohawke doing a back to back set was something I was really excited about,” says Annie. “And it didn't let me down. Their tribute to Phife Dawg from A Tribe Called Quest was a real moment for me that I’ll never forget.” Those looking for a more diverse Lost & Found experience could also catch the likes of Stormzy, David Rodigan, DJ EZ, Logan Sama,, Preditah and more. “I really enjoyed watching Charlie Sloth headlining the ‘Big Man Ting’ pool party,” Annie adds when reeling through her list of musical highlights. “I’ve never actually seen him do a proper DJ set, I see him doing his thing on the radio, but I've never seen a full festival set and I loved watching that.”
Sloth also loved his time at the festival, upon returning to the UK he booked a family holiday to Malta. Others - including Disclosure, Skream, Jackmaster and Artwork – chose to stay beyond just the nights they were playing, to attend other parties and soak up the vibe, something Annie is very pleased about. “That’s kind of the aim,” she says. “You want to boost tourism overall. Obviously you want to bring money to the economy over the weekend of the festival but you also want to boost awareness of Malta as a destination.” With the majority of its residents speaking English, and its warm and welcoming culture, Malta is an ideal location for festivals. Following the success of the first Lost & Found festival last year a few other promoters have begun to set their sights on the island. But that isn’t something Annie is concerned with. “It's good for us too to have other festivals going out there,” she explains. “I’m glad that we were the first one, but it's really good that there are other people putting stuff on there.”
Her endless list of personal festival experiences – from attending the Christian festival Greenbelt in Northamptonshire as a teenager, to presenting for the BBC at Glastonbury and DJing at festivals for the past ten years – has proven very valuable in ensuring that the Lost & Found experience is a memorable and thoroughly enjoyable one. She’s taken inspiration from Bestival in particular, due to the personal touches that Rob Da Bank and his wife Josie (who art directs the festival) put into it. “It's very clear that it's a real personal project and I love that about it,” she says.. “That's what I want to maintain with Lost & Found, a real feeling of personality and humanity throughout it. I don't want it to become a big corporate, generic vibe, that's my worst nightmare.”
Annie’s own personality and attention to detail is rife throughout the festival, from last year’s flamingo theme making a return – “People came back with flamingo outfits and loads of people had flamingo tattoos as well, which is crazy, but great!” – to the more intimate Castle Rave’s allowing punters to watch headline acts like Disclosure performing atop turrets with a great view of the island, decked out in AMP flags and medieval banners. Every party has its own distinct aesthetic, which is of particular importance to Annie. Alongside her friend Aimee Phillips, who assists her with creative direction, it's something that she enjoys really going the extra mile with. “That's the bit I have to get right from a personal perspective,” she says. “I wanted to make everything have a different vibe. The pool parties were particularly important, because that's something you get with the price of a ticket – whereas the Castle Raves you had to pay more for – I wanted to make sure that the pool parties felt like their own individual brilliant days in their own right.”
While it's resounding success suggests that there is plenty of room for expansion with Lost & Found, it's something that Annie is treating very carefully, not wanting to lose that human element in the process. With the intention of taking things slowly, she does have a bigger picture in mind for AMP. “I obviously live house and techno, but it's important that it feels eclectic. Obviously we can have Stormzy with just a mic and a DJ, but it would be nice to bring a bit more than that.” With her week-night show on BBC Radio 1, Annie is now responsible for breaking a lot of new music, and that’s something she hopes to reflect moving forward. “We started a new strand last year called AMP Collected which is nodding to my week night show and being able to put on people like Kojey Radical or Lapsley. I’ve been wanting to do that for a long time, to broaden the horizons. Its something that we’ll grow into slowly but steadily. I'd like to slowly merge the two strands so that in five years time in Malta we’ll have a live stage where we’ll have a load of bands. That would be amazing!”
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Words: Grant Brydon