High spirits

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Grass Roots demonstrated its commitment to CSR with the creation of Spirit of Tring… Stand Out visited the two-day musical extravaganza, which raises funds for the local community…

In 2010, Grass Roots celebrated its 30th anniversary. It took the decision to hold a party for staff and their families, raising money for the local community. At the time, David Evans, Grass Roots’ chief executive officer, argued that corporate social responsibility (CSR) was a term that had been banded about for some years yet stated that it was cemented in the agency’s DNA from the very start.

Evans met with MA Concerts’ Rob McIntosh, opting to create a two-night show – with one evening hosting staff and the second night opening up to the local community. All proceeds from ticket sales went to the Hertfordshire town’s local schools, community groups and sports clubs. In total, 3,000 people attended the Music of Queen concert format on the Saturday evening and raised a staggering £75,000. Phenomenal feedback for the event led to the creation of Spirit of Tring, and so one year on Stand Out finds itself at the home of Tring Athletic Football Club and Tring Rugby Club, the scene for today’s 4,000 ABBA-music spectacular.

Nick Wake, Grass Roots’ head of marketing communications, takes up the story: “Having got a taster last year for what can be achieved for the local community, the question was should we do it again? We didn’t take a decision straight away but the pressure from the local area came in November because everyone had had such a good time.

“If the show, however, was to be sustainable we had to find a formula where the income matched the cost. Even though Grass Roots is a major sponsor we had to look at other potential sources of income and how we would market the event.”

Last year, 25 per cent of the town supported the event but further steps needed to be taken to stand any chance of obtaining an audience of 6,000.

Charlotte Moore-Moffatt, Grass Roots’ special projects executive, has led the organisation, managing the event, which now forms part of the Tring Summer Festival.

“The Spirit of Tring website went live before Christmas, as we knew some people would buy tickets as presents,” she says. “The reaction was assuring and the good will for the event was evidenced in ticket sales.”

Moore-Moffat is wandering round the site, radio in hand, calmly inspecting the audience, which is a real mix of old and young, couples, groups of friends and families. Grass Roots staff have also been given the option to purchase tickets at a discount but as it stands, a ticket on the gate now commands £32.

Pelican Printing, Tring Brewery, Mix 96, the local BMW garage and Thatchers Cider are all supporting the event: Thatchers has been actively looking for events to promote its new Katy Rose brand and has seen Spirit of Tring as an opportunity to approach a target audience.

“All of our beneficiaries have been marketing and selling tickets on Grass Roots’ behalf,” explains Moore-Moffat. “Local schools have been selling tickets on a 10 per cent commission basis. This is a not-for-profit event but the minute we hit profit we will divvy up the funds and distribute the money raised. The local sports clubs are here running their own stalls and stands to generate cash. Our focus is definitely on the community. This year, we have more people to consider but it’s easier to look after.”

Community work

Moore-Moffat has worked closely with Dacorum Borough Council’s Sally Taylor, and McIntosh to produce the event. A 16-metre Super Nova stage from Serious Stages is central to the set up, Meadow Marquees is also visible on-site, as is Prestige Toilets, Fineline, Capital Sound, MA Security and St John Ambulance.

Trade stalls and concessions are set up stage left and right and the local BMW garage has created a display. Nestled in amongst the plethora of cake, crepe and paella stalls is a hubbub of dancing, singing and revellry. The audience has enjoyed performances from four local bands – winners of Play Live, a talent competition created by Grass Roots to find a local band to open the show – and are now watching local disco and party band Planet Funk.

In 2010, Grass Roots worked with We Got Tickets yet decided to change tack, opting to work with bookingsfirst.com in 2011, which not only offered a better rate of commission but also issued e-ticket barcodes, Moore-Moffat explains. The result is an easier ticketing process for the 6,000 people being welcomed on-site, who have turned out with picnics, folding chairs and blankets.

Wake continues: “Last year, we kicked off something fantastic and we got a fabulous reaction. But we’ve always had to think ‘can we do an event that has the community at the centre and one that’s sustainable’. For the people who work at Grass Roots, Spirit of Tring is a huge source of pride.”

The event now forms part of Tring Summer Festival, an umbrella brand that comprises Tring Carnival and Tringe Comedy Festival and an identity designed by Grass Roots’ Malcolm Hawkins. The trio of events, which are embraced by the local community, put Tring on the map. Moore-Moffat sits on the Tring Summer Festival committee that shares best practice and knowledge, helping each event to achieve full potential and exposure.

Any information that can be shared sits within a bank of knowledge, aiding the organisation process, and can only benefit events in the future.