A good friend of mine, Richard Haswell, once advised me as we looked over the wastelands of Wirral Waters pondering the wisdom of holding an arts festival there, that there was much more to a festival than having a band on a stage in a field. There had to be an air of festivity about a festival: this might involve things like celebrating local and ancient myths, establishing annual rituals and dressing up in strange clothing; it might include being prepared to spend days up to your eyes in mud: and it would almost certainly involve the proximity of intoxicating substances on a very large scale meaning that if you were a festival goer, you would, before long, be out of your mind due to the combination of your creative expression through contemporary dance, blocked Portaloos and the most recent legal highs extracted from horse dung imported from Patagonia. You would have made the transformation from festival punter to festival celebrant.
The business opportunities at festivals are of course immense but as a young start up, you need to be careful that you don’t get drawn into so called festivals which are nothing more than the equivalent of a couple of bands on the back of a tractor attached to a spluttering generator.A new start up needs to watch with a degree of caution the promotional opportunities that present themselves as ‘Walking Festivals’, ‘Chess Festivals’ or even ‘Festival Festivals’ as there is a strong likelihood that there is nothing festive about any of these events. Instead, they are more than likely to be incoherent programmes of activity which are dressed up as essential festival content and which try to persuade you that you’re a celebrant when in fact you’re nothing more than a punter.
If you are faced with the opportunity to present your business at the next big un-festive festival, ask yourself 6 things about that event:
Is there Ritual? Myth? Debauchery?
Will I be able to establish long term relationships with other festival goers?
Will I be able to sell more than it’s costing me to attend?
Am I a seller?
Am I being sold to?
If your answers become increasingly of the ‘yes’ variety as you work your way down this list, then you’ll be a field with a load of other punters listening to some lousy cover band banging out some-one else’s top 10 hits: if they become increasingly of the ‘no’ variety, you’re more than likely to have a life changing transformative experience in the strangest of places which will do wonders for your life, nevermind your business.