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This is a question Festivals

Mud, rubbish sex, food poisoning and the Quo replacing the headline act you've mortgaged your house to see. Tell us your experiences

Question from Chart Cat

(, Thu 4 Jun 2009, 12:33)
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Some people wonder
Why there aren't more small music festivals around the place in summer. My dad used to help organize one, so I know why.

They are an Unbelievable. Amount. Of. Work.

The festival he used to be involved with was just a small, local affair - held in a local park, 2000 person maximum capacity with headliners who had been reasonably big in 80s. The site was perhaps three acres on a good day.

It cost £60,000 - £70,000 to put on.

There is no way that ticket sales will cover this. So they had to get sponsorship. Major, major sponsorship. Normally around £50,000 worth. When you live in rural Suffolk, this is incredibly hard. It becomes even harder to keep it going year after year.

Then there are the artists to book - you have to work out touring schedules, costs, travel expenses, VIP reception (which, take it from me, is a MASSIVE part of the whole operation. When you're working at full stretch already and Geno Washington turns up with 20 extra people you're not prepared for, you can't afford to piss him off), security fencing, security guards, overnight security guards, helpers, ticket prices and sales, promotion... The whole lot. My dad used to be in charge of sponsorship and ticket sales and he said he did the work of five men.

Then there's the council to get past. The amount of red tape they can throw your way is simply unbelievable. They demanded £2000 for the use of the park for two days (they never have any charge for its use the rest of the year), then they demanded that after the festival we should hire a road roller to flatten out all the bumps they imagined we would leave, and then they demanded another £2000 for the on-site inspection.

Oh yes. The on-site inspection and permit to hold the festival in the first place. Which can only be granted, you've guessed it, on the day of the festival. If there's anything wrong, the festival is delayed (never mind the bands set up on stage and the several hundred punters queuing outside the gates - you have to fix it).

An example of this pedantry comes in the form of the toilet trouble we had one year. The park had some small toilets but not sufficient for 2000 people, so we had to hire portaloos. It turned out, ten minutes before we were due to open at noon, that the inspector wasn't happy with the step up to the loos. It was too far away from the cubicles themselves, and people would have to step over a whole six inches of air to get to them. So we got out the sledgehammers. Turned out the thing was stuck, but fifteen minutes were wasted finding that out. We had to close down that row of portaloos and make the others unisex - something that caused a hell of a lot of trouble later that day when people started getting a few beers inside them.

Then, of course, there are the artists. When you've been big in the 80s, you expect to be treated like you still are. And God help you if you don't give them what they want. As mentioned above, Geno Washington was a particular problem. He once stopped his set and spent twenty minutes arguing with the sound crew (who, of course, always set up their ENORMOUS tent in the most infuriatingly inconvenient place) about why he couldn't have more volume on the foldback speakers - the ones at the front of the stage that let him hear what he sounds like. The answer was that he was a deaf old bugger and the level he wanted was causing horrendous feedback. But, of course, he wouldn't take that. Not that we put it in those words.

Assuming you deal with all the other problems, you've still got to deal with the organising committee itself, no two members of which are on the same wavelength. A case in point was the man in charge of booking the bands: PC.

Normally he did well - we had The Commitments, Showaddywaddy, Osibisa, Edwin Starr, Geno Washington and so on. Showaddywaddy were awful, the Commitments were brilliant - especially from backstage and feet away from the lead singer. But occasionally, PC would go off on a tangent. Like the time he booked King Prawn.

Sleepy little towns in the heart of rural Suffolk do not deal well with a lead singer shouting "This one's for all the kids out there!" (there were none) before launching into a song apparently called "I wanna smoke some shit". That was certainly the chorus. Apparently he'd wanted "to shake people up a bit". Well done PC, well done.

Then there's the clearup afterwards. You never truly appreciate how messy people are until you clean up after a festival. It takes all day if you're lucky.


The festival stopped a few years ago due to lack of sponsorship. I still get people asking me why it stopped. I list everything I've listed above, but it never quite seems to sink in.

It was an enjoyable few years and I miss the festival, but I don't think it'll be back...
(, Thu 4 Jun 2009, 15:35, 10 replies)
So, er ...
Why isn't it going any more?
(, Thu 4 Jun 2009, 15:42, closed)
Because
The space lemmings won't allow it.
(, Thu 4 Jun 2009, 15:57, closed)
I click...
...at least in part for this exhausted answer.
(, Thu 4 Jun 2009, 16:03, closed)
Myself likewise
Hahahahaha
(, Thu 4 Jun 2009, 16:41, closed)
Hahahahahaha great answer.

(, Thu 4 Jun 2009, 16:42, closed)
"Some people" wonder
Those people included me - I was even considering jacking in my job and moving onto organising a small festival myself.

Having read your answer, I probably won't now. You may just have saved me from financial ruin. For that, I *click*
(, Thu 4 Jun 2009, 16:26, closed)
It depends on the size, really.
Small festivals (book the town hall, two acts and sell a hundred tickets) can make a profit. Massive festivals can make a profit. Mid-size festivals just don't work in terms of making money.
(, Sat 6 Jun 2009, 1:29, closed)
i love king prawn! ^_^
.
(, Thu 4 Jun 2009, 21:11, closed)
seconded
Saw 'em down Kentish Town Forum a few years back, amazing gig!! Was this close >.< to Babar Luck when he dove into the audience!!
(, Wed 10 Jun 2009, 15:34, closed)
i don't recall
wayne and garth having this much trouble.
(, Mon 8 Jun 2009, 12:54, closed)

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