Thought I’d post up a top 10 list of how to create a great festival. These tips are based on my experience as both an audience member, organiser and performer at many different types of festivals over the last twenty years.
1. Have a cooperative approach to the development, production and management of the festival
To have a bunch of people working together for a common purpose is critical to all great festivals. It takes the pressure off the individual and builds trust, friendship and an element of fun and excitement between the group. A cooperative approach does have its problems – especially when things go wrong – but if the group are dedicated to the idea then this should see them through the inevitable problems that arise in organising a large event
2. Be sure to have a good reason for creating a festival other than trying to make money
To create a festival for the sole reason of turning a buck is a waste of time. Festivals are and always have been a celebration of something that has meaning to people. By concentrating on trying to make money you’ll only destroy the essence of what a festival is all about. It’s hard to make a festival pay. There are much easier ways to make a few quid.
3. Give the festival a sense of place
Great festivals always have a sense of place – they are rooted in their community i.e. an area of the arts, culture, tradition, geographical area, etc. However, the last number of years has seen an explosion of large companies and tourism agencies parachute generic festivals into areas where they believe they can make a profit, generate large tourist numbers or create unique marketing opportunities. This has denigrated the special power that festivals once held over us. It has to start with place
4. Engender a good relationship between the organisers, performers and audience
A great festival should always seek to develop, or rather engender, a personal relationship between the three necessary elements in a festival; organisers, performers and audience
5. Try to develop a sponsorship free festival
Sponsorship, although tempting and let’s face it sometimes necessary, should be avoided whenever possible. Some companies are happy to get involved with a minimum of interference, others are not. A distinction should be made and organisers should think carefully about the long term consequences of corporate donations.
6. Put an element of surprise and fun in the programme
Although a good programme has a fundamental part to play in any festival it is not the be all and end all of everything. Take me for example, I always remember what the atmosphere of a festival was like but very rarely remember what exactly I liked about it. A good way to build that atmosphere into your festival is to inject some surprise and fun into your programme
7. Develop a space for people to interact and exchange information
Festivals are always a good opportunity for organisers, performers and audience to workshop, talk with one another, exchange information and so on. Creating a space for that to happen is always a good thing to have in a festival programme
8. Be fluid and open for change
You’ll never get it right. You can always do better. Be open to criticism. Be open to new ideas. Listen to people. Look for how you can do things better and remember to do it the next time
9. Get everyone, including the audience, involved in the building and dismantling of the festival space
Volunteer programmes are essential in the running of every festival. However, volunteers should always be treated with the utmost of respect. They’re your core audience. They care enough to work for you for nothing. They want the festival to work. So treat them very well. Have a party for everyone involved afterwards
10. Transfer your feeling of fun, excitement and interest to all those who come to the festival
If you don’t have a good time then why expect anyone else to. The festival should reflect your core principles, ideas, interests so be sure to engage and shout it out. If you don’t enjoy running a festival then stop doing it. It’s not worth it. Too much work.
If you can think of more tips please stick them into the comments box below