For its 3rd year, Festival Congress and AIF delivered a weekend to remember. It was bright, bold and brimming with opportunities to get inspired and informed. Held in the prestigious Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay, the two day event gave us everything from TEDx style ’talking heads’ and fireside chats with some of the industry’s biggest names.
One of the ‘talking heads’ struck a particular cord with the BIMM students attending the event. Simon Parkes is that guy we all wish we were. In 1983, at the young age of 23, he bought the then riot stricken Brixton Academy for just £1. Crazy right?! His words of wisdom and advice really made us think – his journey is an inspiration. Odds stacked against him, he created a venue that is now one of London’s most sought after locations for audiences and bands. He has put all the doubters, cynics and gangsters to shame and proved that his love and passion for live music prevails over all.
‘I love live music: I don’t believe you can duplicate the passion, the atmosphere, the energy’ – Simon Parkes
Another section of the event really intrigued me. John Giddings (Isle Of Wight Festival) and Lee Denny (LeeFest) had, what I saw as, a coffee meeting but live on stage for us all to hear. Two very different men spoke about two very different festivals, the hurdles they overcame, and how their events have grown over the years.
Isle of Wight needs no introduction – it has housed bands and artists such as the late great David Bowie, The Who, Fleetwood Mac, Foo Fighters, and many more incredible acts. It would take days to name them all! John’s experience as an agent to Iggy Pop, Pharrell Williams etc only helps to sky rocket the festival’s success.
Meanwhile, worlds away from IoW, Lee Denny set up a festival in his back garden for friends and music lovers whilst his parents were away on holiday. It has grown from strength to strength since then and is now venturing into its 11th year, featuring artists such as Lianne La Havas and Everything Everything. It’s a magical immersive glitter filled event that lets visitors experience the Kent countryside like nothing else.
The two chatted about their experiences and how they had overcome hurdles of the past. Giddings revived IoW from its yacht sailing days and made it the vibrant and animated festival it now is, and Denny has built his event from a back garden party to a Kent weekend spectacular.
They showed us that something that seems to need a serious head to create, actually needs a bit of fun and laughter injected into it in order for it to become successful.
‘(festivals) never grow old, they are that child-like thing’ – Lee Denny
The last talk that really stood out for me was from our very own panel. Brought back by popular demand, the BIMM Sessions reach out to not only BIMM students but to students from all over the country. An audience filled with our own students and others from Middlesex University, the Young Promoters Network, and Cardiff & Vale, soaked up the words of wisdom our panel had to offer.
James Scarlett (2000 Trees, ArcTanGent) lead the panel of Ian Evans (IME Music), Rob Haworth (Entourage) and Simon Maltas (ArcTanGent, 2000 Trees) in talking about their experiences, lessons learned, advice, and anecdotes about festival mishaps.
Ian Evans gave some marvellous advice when considering booking your bands – the ‘Rule of 4’. When booking a band, book 4 that are similar in genre – that way when someone researches who is on your bill in comparison to another they are likely to be a fan of all 4 and therefore attend your event. This gives you a step up! Tactics was also the topic of most questions: many of the students wanted advice on how to book a band, budget, and how to approach agents. All of the panel spoke of respect when it comes to booking an artist: respecting your artist and their agent is key as their needs are important to you. A happy artist makes for a better show.
‘Treat the bands with respect let them know you’re happy. It takes time to build the relationships…’– Ian Evans
Simon Maltas spoke from experience concerning keeping your cool – the key to a good event is like a swan on water. We have all had that moment when you feel something is going horribly wrong onstage, behind the scenes, or even prior to the event but Simon makes a crucial point we should keep in mind:
‘You might be flapping out the back but your audience don’t know what’s happening behind the scenes and they’re having a great time. The most important thing is that the customer is having an amazing time’ – Simon Maltas
This is something I think all directions of the industry can take note of – is the audience enjoying themselves? Yes? Then good – that’s the most important thing. If they have a good time they will come again.
The guys chatted for an hour or so and gave many snippets of advice. Their collective experience made for a powerful panel and I think the students there really benefited from their words. I know I did!