Festival Land

The recent post-event evaluation of the Crystal Palace Overground Festival has made me think that it’s time to reflect on the two festivals with which I was closely involved this Spring.

Clapham was a great success – I’m still being congratulated in the street by people who know I was involved in organising it. It completely took over my life for a few weeks, but was hugely enjoyable.  The list of  Clapham writers is ever-growing. I’ll be attending the book launch of one of them – Anne-Marie Neary – this evening at Baita, the Cafe on the Common. Her new book is The Orphans and it is, in part, set on Clapham Common.

I am currently busy, with my fellow organisers, setting Clapham Writers up as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Though this will also attract cost – indemnity insurance for trustees, for example – the structure will allow the Festival to develop in a professional way. It will make things much easier if there is an entity independent of the individual writers, so that we can contract for services, open a bank account and apply for funding from lots of different sources. The Book Festival will be our major ‘product’, but we can also do other events, not just free ones like Clapham Summer Fete or the Christmas Bazaar.

CPOF made this structural change last year. Yet it seems, after the huge success of almost 30,000 people coming along to Crystal Palace Park on 17th June, that it is still in transition. It employed a paid manager for the first time this year, but, even so, it has become much bigger than its trustees and organisers ever imagined (the estimate for attendee numbers this year was 10 – 15,000).

This is good news, but brings its own problems. The queue for beer was half an hour long!

This was more than just inconvenient for would-be beer drinkers. It meant that a major fund-generator for the festival, which is free to enter I remind you, didn’t yield as much as it might have done. Likewise programme sales, because there weren’t enough sellers or programmes to service almost 30,000 people. Opportunities lost which might be regretted come January next when grants are being sought and fund-raising is in full swing.

CPOF is also morphing into a different type of festival, not just about music and, while remaining free to enter, it is becoming more professionalised. It will be interesting to see just how it develops. It’s possible that there will be a Literature Zone, or something similar, next year – there is certainly the appetite there, both The Spoken Word and Storytelling drew good-sized audiences through-out the day and the children’s Creative Writing workshop was ludicrously over-subscribed. Watch this space.

Meanwhile I compose Clapham Writers aims and purposes and our trustees sign the required forms. Onwards and upwards.

If you enjoyed reading this article you may also enjoy reading about the Clapham Book Festival and Crystal Palace Overground Festival 2017. Use the tag cloud or try          Storytelling with a Tent and a Chair      The Clapham Book Festival Begins            Death and the Past            Interesting Lives

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