Founder Julia Benfield by a pool, in a sequinned jumpsuit

Julia Benfield is Sneaky Experience (the company behind YOUPHORIA)’s founder and director and has been creating events from family days out to large-scale conferences for over a decade. We speak to her about the reasons this exciting new festival has come into being.

What prompted you to set up YOUPHORIA?

Like so many stories we’ve heard recently, it all came about during the enforced lockdown Covid necessitated, and the loss of control we all experienced over our choices to take a holiday, go out to see friends, even just leave the house for a walk, and the subsequent knock-on effect on our mental health. After two years of this lack of control, missing out on so much fun and just being with people, I wanted to organise something to mitigate all that and get people back out there again. The concept was you getting back to you, and what it is that brings joy to your life, hence the name YOUPHORIA.

It was important that the event offered something for everybody to make them joyful, whether that be jumping around a field to a rave, listening to an informative talk or spending time with their children. There’s so many fantastic specialist festivals out there, from music to literature and everything in between, I wanted YOUPHORIA to offer something that had a little of everything but that was also current, acknowledging how fitness, nutrition, and just generally looking after ourselves had come so much to the forefront of people’s minds. There’s finally a trend toward looking after our mental health as well as our physical health and I wanted YOUPHORIA to help people do both, with the one simple overarching aim of just having fun.

Who do you think would enjoy YOUPHORIA?

Without wanting to sound too clichéd, it really is for anyone and everyone. All genders, all ages, all cultures and backgrounds; whether you come by yourself or with a group of friends, your family or your partner. YOUPHORIA is for the adventurers, the seekers of fun, the seekers of new things. And we want people to have the opportunity to try new things at YOUPHORIA too; it’s just going to be a bit of a different festival experience and we want people to embrace that.

What do you think visitors will take away from visiting YOUPHORIA?

Our aim is simply that people leave with smiles and memories. It’s Sneaky’s ethos that underpins everything we do, that people look back on our events and say ‘oh that was brilliant, do you remember when…’. Whether people leave having tried something new, or just done something for the hundredth time that they enjoy, we think people will look back on the weekend with a smile on their face.

What makes YOUPHORIA unmissable in the festival calendar?

The YOUPHORIA team is a small one at its core, and each one of us deeply, profoundly cares about the festival’s ethos and aim of improving people’s wellbeing. The programming is excellent, we have music, we have talks, we even have dawn raves, but it’s the heart and soul that has gone into creating and programming YOUPHORIA that we think will really make it a special experience. It’s also going to be a bit more of an intimate experience than some of the bigger festivals, we’ve capped numbers at 10,000 so there’s no excessive queuing, you can get close to the acts, you can find space and time to just be quiet and reflect if you need to.

What part of YOUPHORIA are you most looking forward to?

I’m really excited about the Anything Goes stage, mainly because this is going to be such an eclectic collection of things. Whether it’s challenging yourself with one of the talks curated by Pinky Promise, the utterly irresistible mash up of gospel and karaoke that has people singing their hearts out without a care in the world, or embracing your creativity with a live art class, I love the fact that this stage is going to have such a ‘think what you like of me, I’m going to have fun’ vibe and enable everyone to throw away their inhibitions and just have a good laugh.

What’s the most inspiring festival you’ve been to?

It’s got to be Glastonbury. I’ve been for many years on the trot and it’s probably the only place on earth where I forget about everything that’s going on in the outside world; bills to pay, commitments, work, the lot; there’s just so much going on and it’s such a whole world you could never get bored, yet there’s space to take time out if you want to. You can go mainstream and commercial with what you decide to watch, but equally you can fall down the rabbit hole and find the secret spaces, visit the Healing Fields, and generally just get totally lost. The whole experience is just so inspiring and uplifting.

YOUPHORIA is scheduled for the 12th – 14th May 2023 at Knebworth House. Tickets will be available in the summer of 2022.