Clockenflap: Santigold, West Kowloon and free entry!

Clockenflap: Santigold, West Kowloon and free entry!

Hong Kong music and art festival comes of age with superstar indie acts and the city's most coveted venue
Santigold: I'mma see you at West Kowloon, folks.

Hong Kong Clockenflap Music and Arts Festival sounds ridiculously good this year.

The line-up of musicians for the two-day festival is headlined by Santigold and Bombay Bicycle Club. The venue is West Kowloon Waterfront Promenade's swathe of parkland rimmed by a glorious harbor view. The entrance fee is non-existent. 

The organizers must be some crazy altruistic music-loving rich people.

"I'd like to say that free entry was part of our original concept," says Clockenflap Festival Director Mike Hill. "But no, it wasn't, although it works to our liking.

"We are a commercial enterprise. We have to make sure we don't lose all our money."

It turns out one of the conditions for using the West Kowloon location is that Clockenflap cannot sell tickets.

Odd, but not as odd as the conditions set by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) two years ago when Clockenflap first started wrangling for the West Kowloon venue.

ClockenflapClockenflap is in its third edition this year.At one point, red tape included no admission charge, no selling of food, no selling of alcohol and no sponsorship. In other words, Clockenflap could forget about it.

"It's been two long years of backward and forward discussion with LCSD and the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority," says Hill. "Ticketing or non-ticketing was a real issue."

In the end, a compromise was made and Clockenflap was able to get the West Kowloon Waterfront Promenade with sponsorship by the British Council, San Miguel and Belvedere. Sales from food and beverage will also go towards balancing accounts.

Unchartered territory

The non-ticketing condition has turned out to be a boon, attracting thousands of people signing up for the event online within the first three days of registration.

But that isn't happily ever after for Clockenflap. The enthusiastic response from festival goers was unexpected.

"We're in unchartered territory for a festival of this scale," says Hill.

"It's a different dynamic than other festivals because it's free. It changes the game. We can't refer to a model for understanding how we're to manage the response, the capacity, the huge amount of people."

More international artists are still in discussion to play Clockenflap even as I type this article. Hill has said to look out for "another big announcement" to come early this week regarding the line-up.

Hill and Clockenflap partner-in-crime Jay Forster have been working with Justin Sweeting to sign music acts. The process has not been without challenges. 

"Does Hong Kong draw musicians? Of course," says Hill. "People don't know it, so it's exciting. Certainly for the West it is a very interesting place. From a commercial point of view, it is a growing market.

ClockenflapBombay Bicycle Club."But rarely the band has anything to say about it. There was a band who really wanted to come, they were super excited, but their agent thought the deal didn't fit. It had to do with promotion and all that sort of thing." 

Hill and Forster would love it if festival-goers could do two things: Buy from the food and drink stalls at the festival to ensure Clockenflap makes money and is sustainable; and arrive early to ensure you get in, as people will have to wait outside the festival area if maximum capacity is reached.
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Clockenflap Music and Arts Festival

December 10 and 11, 2011 at the West Kowloon Waterfront Promenade

Clockenflap is a music and arts festival for the whole family. There will be a kids' area, a crafts market, a film tent, dining areas and five music stages.

It's free to get in, but you must register online first at

After traveling around the world on a fistful of dollars, Zoe returns to Hong Kong, where she grew up, to discover and write about all the inspiring stuff that happens here on a daily basis.

Read more about Zoe Li