Festival news: Brave moves

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Organisers of some of the most established and highly regarded festivals talk of axing riders and cancelling firework displays…

Two major new developments are set to take place at this year’s Bristol Harbour Festival, as the event prepares to celebrate its 40th anniversary from July 29-31. The three-day festival will finish one hour and 30 minutes earlier in the evening to allow a specially commissioned programme of ticketed, cultural shows to take place within five venues across the city. The festival’s famous firework display will also no longer feature, and instead visitors will be encouraged to engage with the cultural institutions that reside in the city all year round. Some of the ticketed shows will take place at the Tobacco Factory, Arnolfini and Bristol Old Vic and will run alongside free “promenade” activities throughout the city centre, explains

Phillippa Haynes, head of arts and culture, Bristol City Council.

The festival will drum up support one week prior to the main event by honouring its roots and hosting a week of water-based activity in and around the harbour itself. Boat activity, walks, talks and trips will feature, Haynes tells Stand Out.

“Preparations for the event are going well,” an enthused Haynes continues. “We’ve changed things a little this year to make sure that visitors have the opportunity to interact with cultural organisations as I believe in providing a quality cultural product. The festival ethos means that we have to keep things fresh and so we listen to our audience. This year’s site is the same size yet we’ve spread out through the harbour area of the city – but this spreads the love and spreads wealth and extra revenues to businesses.

“Also this year, we’re giving activities more space and zones are becoming destinations for visitors. That means people do less mooching about and instead engage more with an area, locating themselves for the duration and with business and markets in those spaces.”

A study carried out in 2010 identified that 33.5 per cent of the festival audience were not from Bristol, and of those visitors, 74.2 per cent knew about the festival before they came to the city. Furthermore, 66.8 per cent would not have made the visit to Bristol had it not been for the festival. Approximately two thirds of visitors (69.4 per cent) had been to the event before, demonstrating significant audience loyalty.

For 2011, Bristol City Council has appointed the following suppliers to work on the spectacle – Alide Plant, SAS Network Recycling, AP Security, Stage Electrics, King Sound Reinforcement, Danco, Powerline, WE Audio, The Event Safety Shop and Richmond Event Management – a blend of national and local suppliers that will provide all the necessary infrastructure to showcase the buskers, free screenings, markets and picnic evenings that are to be held.

Competitive edge

According to Charlie Dorman, director of Connection Crew, the festival arena is a competition field – organisers are fighting for markets and not just punters. Festivals that have sprung up like forest fires will struggle if they haven’t developed a relationship with their audience. What’s needed is a product with identity that isn’t a fleeting whim – hence, Dorman and

his team are working with Greenman, V, Big Chill, Secret Garden Party and the Greenwich and Docklands festival. Well- established events with substance.

Linzi Wilson, co-director of Allez-Oop Promotions, organiser of Jersey’s Grassroots festival, has some big plans for the 2012 event. She’s currently working with Star Events, Peppermint Bars, G4S, Arrow Electrics, Vibert Marquees, Marquee Solutions, Stage 2 Productions and Jersey Pottery to create the one-day festival on July 23. Next year, she and husband Jeff Wilson would like to catapult the event into a two-day spectacle, keeping capacity at 4,500 and staying true to its blues, dub and reggae roots.

For 2011, Grassroots has increased the size of the bars on-site and the organising team, comprising festival co-ordinator Jess Reynolds, site manager Ben Vignola and event producer Lucy Vignola, has made sure there’s room for a myriad of brand and experiential activations, which involve pedal-powered generators.

Explains Linzi Wilson: “We’re changing the backstage area – we’re taking a risk and are not doing band riders. We have done for years and there’s huge amounts of waste. A caterer is setting up backstage with local produce, there’ll be a bar but there’ll be nothing in the band’s dressing rooms. Also, we’re not having a VIP area as it doesn’t fit with the spirit and ethos of the event. Special folk will now get a guided tour of the site, a backstage tour and a better experience. A VIP area is too exclusive for Grassroots – it’s like saying ‘we’re better than you’.”

Supply and demand

Elliott has a busy summer schedule planned and is supplying cabins, containers, toilets, showers and sleepers to a host of festivals – Glastonbury, Lovebox, WOMAD, Global Gathering, Bloodstock and Wakestock to name a few. Jigsaw Events too is working flat out – it’s providing nine of the 10 stages required for Guilfest, staging, power, production and pit barriers to Weyfest as well as power and staging to Kidsfest and Lazy Bishops Festival, Farnham. Blackbird Event Management is producing Belfast’s Open House Festival and Blackbird’s director, Suzie Shorten, is also production manager for Sea Sessions festival. Wall to Wall Communications is supplying Bournemouth Air Festival, designing a bespoke radio comms system that will allow all management and security to communicate and to control the 1.5million visitors to the event. There will be over 200 radio users between Bournemouth management and SPA Security and so a multi-channel system is to be devised.

But in 2011, Ryan’s Cleaning is rolling out a new service, following successful trials at V Festival in 2010. Recycling Rocks has now launched and will encourage food recycling as well as glass, plastic and cardboard. High visibility bins will also be present. As well as V, Ryan’s Cleaning trialled the new offer at Download with half of all staff on-site dedicated to recycling. This summer, Ryan’s staff dressed in green will meet festival goers at campsite entrances with clear bags, encouraging campers to recycle; the clear bags making it easier to identify recyclable items. As the season goes on the initiative will be rolled out and throughout the festival season, Ryan’s will work with AluPro to showcase to visitors what can be done with recycled cans and goods.

Time to tinker

Jon Walsh, director of Kambe Events, organiser of Shambala, is investing in hard standing track for the car parking fields,
as a result of severe weather last year, and is also looking to introduce a reusable cup system, based on an exchange and deposit model. The system would have to fit with the festival’s ethos and it’s another example of how it is looking at reducing waste. Shambala works with Network Recycling, assessing waste, the reduction of waste and its treatment and it’s an issue that needs to be constantly addressed and evolved.

The event, held in Kelmarsh, Northamptonshire, also employs the expertise of Fineline, T & L Marquees, Tiger Tents, Wangos, A&J Big Tops and Castle Yurts, which will house this year’s acoustic stage an ever bigger interpretation following its successful introduction in 2010.

Loud Sound’s Jim King has revealed details of a new arena that will feature at Rockness. Emerging acts will play to 1,500 people in the Rock n Roll Circus arena tiered seating all round the venue will provide festival goers with an unrivalled view. The arena will sit in a new field which is yet to be named a former campsite accessed through woodland. The arena also gives day ticket holders access to an extra space. King told Stand Out that Nestival has also got a new layout,

“I like tinkering,” explained King. “The layout has been the same for the last three years and I don’t want people to be bored. It’s been laid out in a way that’s customer friendly and it doesn’t look boring, and I think it’s important to evolve and add new attractions.

“If you’re visiting for three days it’s not just about looking at bands on a stage. Creativity and thought is needed and I get excited about Rockness each year, if not more,” he concludes.