Festival fever

How do you keep your event fresh? Stand Out chats to festival organisers who are developing their 2010 events…

James Shepard is recalling a trip to the Oval.

“Wherever you looked there was an advert, and it was really off-putting,” he comments, as he settles to talk all things Larmer Tree.

Larmer Tree Festival is the brainchild of festival director Shepard, who has spent years at the forefront of outdoor events, and who refuses to be governed by corporate branding.

Larmer Tree is funded entirely by ticket sales. Shepard insists that sponsorship does not allow an organiser the gift of financial stability, as sponsors come and go.

“Ticket sales give me a clearer understanding of where we are. Sponsors can drop out and then you may not be able to go forward to next year. “

Shepard suggests that the festival scene has mushroomed.

“When I started Larmer Tree, there was Glastonbury and folk festivals. Now, the whole boutique thing has sprung up but we were the first to crossover and offer theatre and workshops.”

2010 sees Larmer Tree boast 150 workshops – it’s an event that has slowly evolved and one which remains in the hands of Shepard and co-director Julia Faith. In 1990, the event took place on one day and saw a few hundred revellers. Today 4,000 descend on Larmer Tree Gardens, near Salisbury, for five days, to watch comedy, music and street theatre.

Just announced, Larmer Tree is to play host to Mark Kermode’s Film Club – the film critic will curate a small film festival within the event – plus Shepard plans to move the concessions to make the food areas more accessible.

Very important people

S-FX Productions’ Neil Pickett is production director at Vanfest, a VW camper van festival, playing host to 25,000 enthusiasts at the Three Counties Showground in Malvern each September.

“I got involved five years ago to produce the entertainment for a (then) crowd of about 10,000. With only one 3,000 capacity venue on-site, and low-grade ‘tribute’ acts performing, my first year was easy, but I was already planning for the future,” he says.

“Subsequent years have seen the venues increase to five around the site, with our massive temporary 70m x 60m structure now housing the main entertainment, with a full 15m x 10m stage, full sound system and state of the art lighting rig. Accommodating at least 4,000 people, this now means that I can entertain about 10,000 people each evening.”

For 2010, Pickett is turning the main entertainment marquee into a paying venue, with visitors having to pay an additional £20 to be entertained over the course of the weekend. Vanfest fans are in uproar on the event’s forum pages, yet Pickett argues that the additional monies are necessary to help with running costs. He is taking the concept seriously by surrounding the clear span marquee with Steelshield rather than Heras fencing, plus, working alongside event director Simon Holloway, he is aiming to sell VIP hospitality to 350 people.

He continues: “It’s the first time that we have introduced VIP hospitality, but we felt it was a natural progression to offer people an enhanced offer rather than experience a muddy field. It’s not costing us much more to do so we’ll give it a try, knowing that we can revert back to our normal formula if it doesn’t prove successful.

“Each festival is unique: their reason for existence, their attending customers, their foibles, their attractiveness, and their consumer satisfaction. But each, along with the 500 or so festivals on offer in 2010, offer the one thing that the public cannot do without, particularly in these times of fast paced life and stress – entertainment!”


Hugh Phillimore, managing director of SoundAdvice and organiser of Cornbury Festival, is re-introducing the festival’s children’s area, following last year’s cutbacks. The area will be run by Jem Maynard Watts. Plus, Phillimore is focusing greatly on glamorous camping offering everything from Podpads to gypsy caravans, tipis and yurts. Podpad’s Robbie Falconer is looking after the event’s accommodation offer while Michelle Adams of One is developing Cornbury’s corporate hospitality packages

Explains Adams: “For years I have thought that unless you are a large corporate it has been almost impossible to take either a group of clients or staff as an incentive trip to UK festivals. They always seem to be either a standard VIP package, that anyone can get their hands on, or only cost effective for large numbers of people.

“So in answer to the problem, this year we are offering packages for smaller groups and tighter budgets.

“A corporate village will sit between the VIP tent and backstage, meaning that guests are as close to the action as possible. Each company will have their own private tent, in which they can personalise, working with our brand team to maximise their brand impact. Benefits include a fully-furnished private tent, front garden, smart loos, VIP parking with a shuttle from the car park direct to your tent and free access to the VIP tent and arena.”

New additions

The Rival Organisation’s 80s Rewind Festival takes place from August 20-22 at Temple Island Meadows, near Henley-on-Thames. Rewind was launched in 2009; “in the worst year known to man,” says festival organiser David Heartfield,

“I have organised concerts at Blickling Hall for many years. Three years ago it was the event’s 10th anniversary and we wanted something new with a different PR angle. We couldn’t book anything. Anyway, Carol Decker, the lead singer from T’Pau is a neighbour so we decided to put on 10 acts from the 80s. Now, 80s is a festival in its own right. I’d had an eye on the Temple Island Meadows site and the two just glued together.”

Heartfield has increased the capacity from 30,000 to 40,000 and already has plans to launch 80s Rewind North in Scotland in 2011. He is also in discussions with partners in the Middle and Far East to take the brand overseas.

Building on the success of 2009, Heartfield has added a raft of sponsors to this year’s event. Heart FM is once again a sponsor yet joining them is Woman magazine, First Great Western and Absolute 80s Radio. Commercially, Heartfield suggests that 2010 has been an easier year, adding to revenues with the introduction of VIP and corporate hospitality. A comedy and karaoke tent as well as a silent disco are all new additions and AP Security, Serious Stages, A1 Loo Hire, Piggotts, PRG and Roustabout have all been awarded yearly contracts to work on the event.

Serious Stages has also won the contract to supply a stage to Africa Oyé Festival 2010, which takes place in Sefton Park, Liverpool, from June 19-20, and Green Ant Creative Events will also for the fourth successive year produce the event, the UK’s largest free African music festival.

Green Ant Events will be in-charge of the full production and safety management of the event, including all emergency planning preparation, traders management and site production on the day.

“We had a safety advisory group meeting yesterday and had our provisional license approved by Liverpool City Council,” says Joe Blackman, director of Green Ant Events and the festival’s events manager. “Providing we submit our temporary event notice for the bar, everything should be ratified at the next meeting.”

Each day, around 10-15,000 people visit the site, based in Sefton Park’s Review field. Blackman has put both the power and security contracts for this year’s event out to tender and is working with events director Paul Duhaney to introduce a more intimate feel to this year’s proceedings.

Increased levels of funding from Liverpool City Council has allowed the festival to introduce a health, learning and participation zone, as the council stands by its mantra of a year of health and wellbeing in 2010. Africa Oyé will also see the expansion of the Oyé Village area where guests can sample food and buy music, arts and crafts from all over the world.

Continues Blackman: “The structure of the festival is established. Now we just need to dress it up. Site branding can fall down on looking nice as well as feeling nice so we are producing hand painted signs to it feel more rustic. The site layout has also been changed to allow for a more amphitheatre feel, which lends itself well to such a community event.”