Stephen Parker

Barber & Event Curator

So how did you get into hairdressing at festivals then?

I suppose it was more kind of because I wanted to do a stage at Shambala because they didn’t do much late night stuff at Shambala so in 2006/2007 I just think they needed more dance music so a friend of mine runs Shambala and I asked them if I could do a dance stage and they said you can do it as long as you come up with an original idea so that’s what we came up with.

So is that when you started putting on events?

Um before that I was running a club night called Lost at Timbuktu which was a techno night which I got into well it sort of came about through cutting hair really I was chatting to a guy called Marco who now runs Motion and he basically offered us the opportunity to do a Saturday night once a month kind of about the same time I started doing Shambala. My mind gets a bit muddly on dates and times. And yeah then got into doing that and stopped doing the night at Timbuktu because Timbuktu is sort of old and tiny and then went more into festival stuff.

So are you still doing loads of Festival stuff?

Well not as much like Shambala we had a year off last year and we are going to be back there next year and then we do like less things but bigger stuff so like Love Saves The Day stage is like our biggest thing.

I mean you interviewed Femi the other day and I basically draw a thing on a piece of paper and I say I want it to look like that he has the sort of skills and the kind of technical know how to make it happen but I definitely muck in and get involved like I’m good at the bigger stuff and not so good at all the small twiddly artist things but I suppose their overall concept is and me and Femi kind of make it happen.

You have a 5th Birthday Party at Crofters rights coming up, how did you get involved with that is that to celebrate your Shambarber store or?

Yeah so we have had the salon for 6 years now and we just wanted to do a sort of 5-year celebration thing yano

Have you got anything special planned for the night, have you got some sort of stage design on the go?

umm not so much on the design front because of the Croft, It is quite a small club so were only in there for like 3 or 4 hours but were going to bring a few of our lightboxes and stuff like that in, deck it out and make it look pretty. But yeah we haven’t designed anything pacifically. We just have a lot of um like there’s a night called Alfresco Disco and they came to play for us the first time we did Shambala even though we were pretty much the smallest tent of site so I wanted to do it with them and Shapes and the people who sort of helped us out when we first started.

So like the Shambarber shop whenever I walk past all the workers seem to have incredible hair styles and sort of new designs how do they sort of stay ahead?

I think in hairdressing it’s kind of like organic so like you kind of feel things moving and you don’t have to push it and it kind of almost happens together so people who come in and are after interesting unusual haircuts it usually comes from things that have happened culturally like everyone’s banging on about getting Peaky Blinders haircuts and things like that and it comes from TV Shows or yano all those things. Basically Popular culture.

How do you think your shops are different from other ones in Bristol?

uh i suppose it occupies a space where it’s not just a hairdressers/barber shop so we try and kind of do stuff and that is what I wanted from the get go is so people don’t just know it for just one thing so it’s a hairdressers it’s a club night, it is stages. Kind of like different things. That kind of helps with the branding as well a lot of that is the reason we do extra different things so it’s more fun to do advertising like that rather than putting an advert in a paper it is much more fun to do a party and put the photos out.

Do you have any plans for the future or just carry on doing events?

Hopefully get a few more salons and there is also talk of moving into the dog grooming world as well. So that’s sort of the next thing. Which will be still in and around Bristol.

Did you learn to cut hair in Bristol?

Yeah so I did an apprenticeship with a guy called Franco who still has a shop on Gloucester Road who has been cutting hair since like the early 80’s so he has been doing it for 30 years and he taught me.

Do you have any pacific equipment which is yours?

With all hairdressers everything is personal to you so nobody uses your comb apart from when Greg steals it um or like siccors they are yours do you know what I mean? 

When you had to come up with your concept for your event did you instantly think hairdressing or did you go between ideas?

I instantly thought hairdressing to be fair,, I rang Sid who runs Shambala in the morning asked him if we could do a tent and he said you can do one but you have to come up with a creative idea and I think by the afternoon we got it booked in. It all happened quite soon, that was the only idea that I came up with. We usually have a barber shop 3 meter by 3 meter barber shop all sort of done up like a sort of proper shop with chairs, mirrors and all that sort of stuff and then we have a secret entrance so one year we had a caravan which we cut the back off of so it looks like a caravan and then you climb through it and then you’re kind of like in the venue.The year before that we had a wardrobe with loads of clothes in it like Lion the witch and the wardrobe feel so you walked through it and then you are in the shop. We try to make it like a barbershop/ hairdresser back room. We took this year off Shambala but we will be back next year.

Do you have an idea for your next?

Well there is a venue there called the Botanical Disco which Femi does and we are going to become the second room to that so we are going a kind of Techno dome. The past few years we have moved away from even doing haircuts um so the last year with the venue we did Stiletto Disco so it’s kind of a stiletto themed disco on the side with loads of decor and dancers which Femi makes the decor for.

How did you meet Femi?

I met him through a night called Shapes and they started their night and I met him through cutting his hair and then they were all doing Shapes together and Femi had a night called Medicinal Sounds which was like a dub night and I met him through that. I think he did sign writing for us. Femi made the lightbox sign for our shops as well. So the first year he finished university he came and made loads of lightboxes and stuff for us for all our Shambala stuff, Love Saves the Day and stuff like that. 

Why did you pick Femi to make all your lightboxes and decor?

Because he’s a friend and well yeah this sounds a bit wank but we click creatively quite often, when we sit down and were trying to come up with ideas like we always sort of end up at the same place together or like it works well so when we did the Temple of Lust which is what we do for Love Saves the Day we wanted to make something that was a bit opposite to Love Saves the Day so its all love and that but we wanted to make something a bit dirty and lusty and all that sort of stuff. We kind of just have the same sort of creative ideas and it was like that when I first met him. So when we first started doing Shambala he would always come up with great ideas for lightboxes and stuff like that and I think we just work well together. He’s just a nice bloke.

Are you collaborating with anyone else?

No, it is just usually me and Femi to be fair and then George who he works with who is his right hand man, George is really super practical so me and Femi want to make it all magical and stuff and George is like ‘well that is going to break or fall over or whatever’ and sort of says “oh that aint gonna work”.

Do you cut hair at both branches of Shambarber?

No so I manage both of them but I only cut hair two days a week now, so two days cutting hair then managing the salon for the rest of the week. So when I’m not working I am a dog walker and a dad.

When are you looking to set up the dog grooming?

Ah ha in the next year or so. Yeah why not. Came up with the idea a couple months ago, we are at the sort of back of a napkin sort of stage in terms of plans. Its going to happen though.

Have you ever thought about setting up your own festival?

Most UK festivals are run from Bristol; Boomtown, Shambala, Glastonbury. They have their offices here and the people that set them up are Bristolian. As a city it’s heritage, it has festival culture kind of inside it; as part of its like DNA and there is just a lot of people who love and spent their childhoods at festivals. Trying to make an actual profit out of it is almost impossible, trying to make a profit out of just one stage is hard as it is. Even like Love Saves the Day they are in their what seventh year and they have only gone into profit in the last year or so. The money that goes into it. Love Saves the Day a couple of years ago they were at a different venue at Castle Park and it absolutely pissed it down all weekend and the whole park got shattered so they had to pay for the park to be re-seeded or something and that was all their profit. Like it was all going well and then you get an act of God and it’s hard to sort plan for it. So forget doing festivals, I’ll stick to Barbershops and dog grooming! I’m good at that.

Have you always wanted to cut hair from when you were younger?

No not at all. I’ve done it since I was young but I just kind of fell into it really, all my family are academics so I’m the youngest of four so I was kind of just made to do science A levels and it just wasn’t for me so I dropped out and then I wanted to go travelling and then I thought I better get a trade so I didn’t want to work on a building site or anything like that; I’ve always been quite arty and I just fell into hairdressing and I loved it. So I went into a barbershop got a brush, started sweeping and learnt from the ground up. Which inspires you to get good. I learnt with Franco on and off for 10 years that and I went travelling, I went back to Canada where I’m from originally and was working in Toronto for a year or two and worked in Vancouver for a couple of years. I missed Bristol to be honest so I came back. I will go back I have a dual-nationality so I want to retire and go build a log cabin by a lake and fish all day and I don’t know if I would still have the shops here this is like a 10-year plan.

Where did you go travelling?

I went on 3 massive trips so I drove a motorbike across India for like 7 months sold the bike and went all the way across South East Asia. I took my scissors with me so I worked in shops in Vancouver and then cutting hair on the beach and stuff in India, prop a mirror up against a tree and then ready to go; made quite a bit of money to be fair so kind of kept my outgoings and ingoing’s at neutral get a couple hundred rupees to pay for your food and your beer. I cut travellers hair more because they didn’t want to go to local hairdressers because they didn’t speak the language and didn’t know what they were going to get. Probably get like a bowl cut haha.

It’s a very good transformable skill this one.


Stephen Parker is the owner and manager of Shambarber. Shambarber is a hair salon in Bristol which has two stores; one located on Stokes Croft and the other at the Wapping Wharf.  Shambarber is known for not being your average hair salon; They have hosted stages at Festivals including Love Saves The Day and Shambala and hosted nights with Alfresco Disco, Just Jack and Sleazy Sessions.