UK festivals

Law or medicine? Banking or dentistry? Traditionally, these were the professions most likely to please our parents. But the career zeitgeist appears to be changing.

A YouGov survey has revealed that 73 per cent of British parents with a child of 19 years or under would be very supportive of their child if they wanted to pursue a career in the creative industries. Good job really, as not so long ago, a further YouGov study highlighted the significant interest young people have in events. While most respondents aspire to being an author, becoming an event organiser appeared at number five in the dream job list.

The latest findings show that of greatest concern to parents is the lack of stability offered by creative roles, especially when they entail self-employment and short-term contracts. However, while redundancies within the events realm have been rife, the worldwide economic crisis has led to a perception that previously solid financial and legal professions are neither the stable prospects they once were.

True, true… event owners and founders are taking risks when launching an event but surely it’s hats off to those brave enough to give it a go?

If you are bankrolling the event, it’s natural to feel the pressure. No one could agree with this more than 32-year-old Josh Ford, founder and creative director of Winterwell, an intimate music festival for 1,500, which takes place near Cirencester.

“I bankrolled the event. Financial mishaps directly affect me but I’ve always put my own money into events. A 20 to 30 per cent swing on ticket sales changes things. In the first two years, I set the budget and there are always things that you forget about but things are sorted now.

“Organising at times has been a total nightmare but I wouldn’t do it if the upside wasn’t so good.”

Ford, alongside Natalie Vincini, founded Winterwell four years ago. The four-day event, which takes place from June 18-21, has a £100,000 budget, and is about to put its sound, light and power contract out to tender.

Talking education, Ford graduated from university with a degree in design and art direction, with modules in marketing and communications benefitting his now chosen career path. He began organising club nights during his studies and until three years ago he had a share in an events business that specialised in student events. He sold his share, now has a small portfolio of property developments and organises the festival “for the love of it”.

Winterwell has grown over the four years it has taken place, from 500 in 2007, 900 in 2008, 1,300 in 2009 and 1,500 this year. A three-day ticket for the event, which as well as music features vintage tearooms, a late night cinema and a football tournament, costs £90, and as Ford explains the festival allows its discerning and intelligent audience of those 25 and over to escape in “luxury”.

Posh campsites comprising tipis, Touraeg-style canvas and five-metre Bell tents add a further dimension to the event; plus festival-goers are encouraged to wear fancy dress on the Saturday. This year’s theme carries the title “The complete works of Roald Dahl”.

“The character playing, props and themes encourages interaction between people,” says Ford, who explains that previous years have seen fairytales, Hollywood and out of space re-interpreted.

As far as festivals go, engagement is key. Waitrose is to headline sponsor the sixth annual Wychwood Festival, a boutique, family event. According to Karen Himsworth, manager of Waitrose Events, its presence will help the supermarket brand “reach out to new audiences”, engaging customers in a way it has not experienced before. Waitrose’s move clearly defies the advice of Dr Andrew Bengry-Howell’s study at the Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) Festival of Social Science (see editor’s letter, page 4), which suggests that corporate branding is unrecognized by festival-goers, looking for escapism.

Taking place at Cheltenham Racecourse from the June 4-6, it has been announced that The Lightning Seeds are to headline the event.

Greenbelt Festivals has appointed Gawain Hewitt as the new festival director of Greenbelt. Greenbelt, which takes place at Cheltenham Racecourse from August 27-30, is an arts, spirituality and comedy festival that mixes talks, discussions, music and performing arts in a family-friendly environment. Attracting over 20,000 people. Hewitt has been brought in to “grow ambition and nurture distinctiveness”. Previously creative director and events organiser at charity Community Music, he succeeds Beki Bateson, who left Greenbelt after nine years in the role.