Over the last two years the In the Woods festival has consistently received excellent reviews and coverage within some leading national papers and magazines. Yet despite the good press and year on year increases, the organisers have no desire to increase the capacity or extend the duration of the one-day event.
The festival began several years ago as a simple gathering of friends, organised by the band Laurel Collective. There was some music, a few drinks and everyone went home happy. In the words of festival co-director Will Brown, “the following year there were a few more people and some sausages”. In this writers book that definitely constitutes progress. Things continued along the same track until year four, when the event got to the point that a temporary events notice was required and the organisers had a ‘real’ festival on their hands. However, the steady growth that they achieved didn’t sway them to get carried away and in 2012 the event was limited to just 750 people, with those who do attend only given the address once they have purchased tickets. The secret location was born out of them originally wanting to keep gatecrashers away, but has now become part of the festivals identity.
Developing the Event
As an event that is built on showcasing new music, it’s interesting to know why the good press coverage hasn’t tempted the organisers to go big, something that presumably would garner greater exposure for their artists and generate higher revenues for the festival.
“Quite simply, we didn’t want to wreck what we had created,” said Will. “We’re not festival organisers per se. It’s a part-time project for those involved and we’re fortunate that the event has developed a certain mystique which adds what we feel is an exclusive element to it.”
As a part-time project this makes sense. They are confident that the event will sell out without the need to market it massively, something that has huge cost implications for festival organisers. Fewer people also mean’s less temporary infrastructure is required; something that also has a positive effect on the balance sheet. Many smaller festivals looking to establish themselves should take note. Ten stages of African drumming, dub-step and mid-European house music when you only have 500 customers will never pay the bills. Big is not necessarily better.
Funding the Festival
In the Woods has been fortunate enough to secure funding from both the Arts Council and the PRS, the resulting income being used to raise the overall quality and breadth of the event through raising the artist budget and developing the artwork and poetry areas of the festival.
“We went to the association of independent festivals conference and got chatting to people,” said Will. “Someone recommended to us that we apply to the arts council for funding. We were confident that out criteria met theirs, but still staggered when we were approved for funding. As a result we also went to the PRS and were again successful.”
Once again a note to smaller events organisers; there is assistance out there but it won’t take the time to find you.
To minimise cost and simplify procedures, no actual tickets are printed and issued. Instead, customers are required to bring their printed e-mail confirmation along with photographic ID.
The Technical Side
For the first two years, when the event was essentially just a gathering of friends and some live music, the organisers used their own audio equipment. As things progressed they brought in the expertise of the SRD Group, who Will says have been invaluable to the festivals progression.
“Their level of expertise in all aspects of running an event has been crucial to helping us learn ‘on the job’. They have been extremely patient and accommodating as we’ve looked to develop the festival and have always offered useful advice as well as practical assistance in some pretty difficult moments.”
Production build has slowly increased as the show has developed, with things stating to grind in to motion about three weeks before the event. Structures and power get installed one week prior to the event, and this year saw the hiring of a Portakabin for use as a site office.
Live music is halted by 11.30pm to ensure that they comply with the license, with guests then able to make use of a silent disco until the small hours. With four residential properties on the land that they use, Will says they have to be respectful to ensure the long-term prospects of the event.
“We had a situation earlier this year when someone from the same area held a similar type of festival on some land very close to where In the Woods takes place. It generated a lot of complaints due to noise and behavior, which caused us some real concerns for our own festival. We have always taken a considerate approach to running the event, but this made us up our game as far as communication is concerned. From day one we’ve always posted letters to the local residents ahead of the event to advise of all the timings relating to the show. Based on the negative reaction to this other event we widened the area that we distribute these letters, allowing us to reassure the residents. We’ve got an excellent event that is well thought of locally and we want to sustain that trust by being diligent and respectful of the surroundings.”
Category: Event / Festival Interviews & Reviews