Arts & Culture Outdoors Things To Do

We talk exclusively to Clockenflap co-founder Justin Sweeting about what to expect at this year’s festival

By: Sarah Richard

Clockenflap 2015, Hong Kong’s premier outdoor music and arts festival is upon us. Going into their 8th year, it is earning its stripes in the festival scene, and is undoubtedly one of Hong Kong’s ‘must go to’ events of the year. We talk exclusively to one of the founders Justin Sweeting about Clockenflap, his vision, why he is a ‘constant dreamer’ and the importance of keeping it local!


Here at Expat Living we have to applaud you for your success in putting Hong Kong on the map for music festivals. Before Clockenflap, quite shamefully HK didn’t have much going for it in the festival scene. Was it always your aim to change that? What was the beginning goal?

Our goal was (and is still) very simple – do our very best to create a festival, of the type we felt was missing in Hong Kong, and make a positive difference in our city.

This is the 8th year for Clockenflap, did you ever imagine it going this far and becoming this popular?

Everyone told us we were crazy when we first started. That it would never be possible to make an event like Clockenflap in HK work: marrying music, arts and festival experience together, and being able to deliver an event that would cater and interest both locals and expats. So whilst the scale of the event has certainly ramped up, I’d say that since day one we’ve had a very clear vision which hasn’t changed, and we’re of course delighted that people are responding by coming in ever greater numbers.



As residents and hardcore Hong Kong fans, we are easily convinced that Clockenflap is one of the most exciting events in our calendars. But how are you reaching out to an international audience?

As things are presently, Clockenflap already welcomes festival tourists coming into HK in the thousands from all around Asia as well as further afield, and we will certainly do what we can to keep encouraging this trend. Hong Kong is an incredible city to visit, especially in November, so we just want to make it as easy as possible and as much of a no-brainer for overseas visitors to time their trips to our festival. The way that happens is simultaneously across several levels: both organically with fans, media and artists spreading the word; as well as on our end by pro actively working with targeted marketing campaigns and through our partners across the region and internationally.  A large part of my own role is also to be the link between the festival and the international industry, and in those circles the festival is relatively well established.


The Libertines, one of the headliners for Clockenflap 2015
The Libertines, one of the headliners for Clockenflap 2015


The line up for this year is the best yet! If expectations are met Clockenflap is set to be a huge success and one of the next ‘must go to festivals’ around the world. How will you stay true to Hong Kong and support local performers? 

Thanks!  We’ll always remain true to HK and the local performers, there’s absolutely no worry there. The festival has far more resonant meaning and importance for the overall local scene infrastructure, and its completely in our interests to do what we can to keep that momentum moving positively forwards. I’ve always said that my proudest moment with Clockenflap will be the day we have a local headliner justifiably headlining our main stage. We’ll get there in time. Especially as we put our money where our mouths are, and are further investing into Hong Kong talent by establishing ‘Clockenflap Pro’ this year.  This has several elements to it, including a free local band showcase night taking place on Thursday 26th under the Kwun tong Highway featuring three of the best HK acts currently around.  We cover all the production costs for this and fly in international and regional industry to attend with the simple aim to encourage further opportunities for the local artists.  Last year, other events like Laneway came to Clockenflap and were blown away, and since booked GDJYB to play their own event next year.  This is wonderful news and exactly the type of continued opportunities we would want to act as a catalyst to create.

How important is it for you to highlight local artist and performers rather than just throwing out big names to attract the crowds?

Festival programming is all about balance, and a key component to this is the discovery side of things.  We are exceedingly proud of our Hong Kong roots and want to showcase local talent to the festival fans who may not be regular gig goers.  Our hope is they will unearth some new favourites at the festival and go see them at their own shows throughout the year.



Was it always a dream of yours to start a festival? And honestly, how easy is it to turn that dream into a reality?

We’re constant dreamers and although it’s immensely challenging doing what we do, all of us involved are the types of people who prefer to focus on how we overcome them, rather than complain or be deterred by them.  Keep those dreams alive!

Personally what are you most excited about for this year’s festival?

Ride on the Friday night will be a special moment for me personally.  They were a really important band for myself and the generation of music fans in my formative years in Hong Kong, and it’s an act which had previously thought would have to go down as a dearly loved band we’d never get to see.

Are there any surprises in store? What improvements have been made from last year?

The most important thing about surprises is not spoiling them, so you’ll just have to come and see for yourself! In terms of improvements, across the board we’ve both ramped up in scale as well as focused on a micro level on the details.  That’s not just on the music front, though especially in terms of our most ambitious Art programme to date (be sure to check out the ‘Magnet Palace’; an expanded family area with more child-focused entertainment across ages, more food options, and lots of site infrastructure improvements.  Every year we work tirelessly on how we can continuously improve and ensure that this year will be a truly enhanced customer experience for all clockenflappers across every aspect of the festival.



What is one part of Clockenflap you will always guarantee no matter how much of a worldwide success the festival becomes?

Clockenflap is what it is precisely because of our unique mix of many many factors. From day one we’ve never wanted to be known for one thing, and instead sincerely deliver an event where the collective sum is so much more than any one individual part.  So it’s impossible to answer this question except by guaranteeing that every Clockenflap will always be our very own peculiar, inspiring, and most of all, joyous fun mix of all our elements!

Justin Sweeting, one of Clockenflaps co-founders
Justin Sweeting, one of Clockenflaps co-founders

We all hate the question ‘Where do you see yourselves 5 years from now’ so let’s put it this way; How many sleepless nights, hangovers, backstage selfies, emotional grande finales and smiles do you envision for the future?

Countless! There are lots of exciting plans we have in the pipelines for the future.  We’re in this for the long haul…

Clockenflap takes place on Friday 27th- Sunday 29th November (5-11pm) at West Kowloon Cultural District. Tickets are availble from Ticketflap