Last week in an interview with the Director of Goodwood Festival of Speed, BBC Radio 2’s Chris Evans asked how he keeps the festival fresh with changing content each year. The response was simply that this is what the audience require and they must be doing something right as it keeps selling out. This resonated with John Fox’s (founder of Welfare State International and godfather of large scale community events) guest lecture at Falmouth University a couple of weeks ago where he said that an event becomes a tradition after 3 occurrences. That’s all it takes – 3 years of an annual event to make it a feature of the events landscape, 3 years to make it something unmissable, 3 years to create a legacy that has a life beyond its often small beginnings.
When we create a tradition, an event experience that people of all kinds want to be part of, it can be easy to sit back and happily capitalise on the positive audience response. However, as Goodwood demonstrates, we event managers simply cannot afford to rest on our laurels. We must continue to develop and invent and create to meet the ever increasing expectations of our ticket-purchasing, event-attending public.
For City of Lights, the largest switch on event in the UK outside London, this has never been more true. We have been a lantern procession since our small community beginnings 17 years ago and it has grown and evolved and expanded to become the cornerstone of festive celebrations in the South West. It is a complex logistical challenge in itself with lanterns, school children, bands and over 25,000 people in the audience and, although it is a tradition and a rite of passage for many of the children particularly, we cannot just do that. We are now exploring how we engage digital technologies in terms of production, distribution and marketing, going beyond simply posting on Facebook, and this will present new challenges that will enable the event to continue to grow, will develop the artform of spectacle, and will enable new audiences to engage with this wonderful event.
Adapting to changing circumstances and creating new event ideas are vital for the ongoing sustainability of our events and festivals across the triple bottom line – we always need to find new creative ways to generate a sustainable income stream for event projects; we constantly need to reduce our waste and minimise our negative environmental impacts using mechanisms such as SAVE and ISO20121; and we need to continue to engage the imaginations and aspirations of our audiences. Their expectations of the event experience are ever increasing and it is our responsibility to meet and continue to exceed them.
MD of Mackerel Sky Events and Event Cornwall