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Organisers of the Bingley Music Live event should have every right to feel proud.  The 2013 event finished to the classic disco sounds of Chic featuring Nile Rodgers soaring above the town’s Myrtle Park, as festival goers looked back on three days of music that included Primal Scream, Tinchy Stryder and The Human League.   This year’s lineup was as strong as any other festival of its size, but perhaps made more impressive by the fact that this is a council run event.  That’s not to say that we should be surprised that a local authority could organise something of this nature.  As our regular local authority spotlight articles highlight, councils up and down the country are regularly hosting large-scale events.  It’s more that in these times of council cutbacks and budget deficits, the fact that Bingley is not only still here but continuing to thrive is worth analysing.

The origins of the event as it is known now can be traced back 22 years to 1991 and the first concert hosted in Myrtle Park.  Organised by Bradford Council as a way of promoting the park, the event was little more than a small scaffold stage and a few panels of heras fencing.   Bingley Music Live’s current Event Manager Andrew Wood worked on that first event and spoke to Event Industry News following this year’s festival.

“I remember the first year very well”, said Andrew.  “Music at Myrtle, as it was then known, was part of an events package set up to attract people back into the district’s parks. The first event consisted of three days of music including Classical, Pop and Jazz. Over the next few years the event focused on the most popular attended of the days which was pop and featured bands like The Manfreds, Suzi Quatro and Edwin Starr. In 1996 we formed a partnership with local radio station ‘The Pulse’ who added to the event by presenting the familiar ‘Party in the Park’ style of event synonymous with many commercial radio stations at that time.”

This relationship continued until 2007 when the partnership with Pulse FM ended and Andrew approached senior figures in the council to propose a different style of event with the objective of bringing multiple benefits to the community and businesses in the area.  The idea was approved and, with only twelve weeks to prepare, the modern incarnation of Bingley Music Live was born.

Local Relationships

With only £3,000 generated through sponsorship this year, Bradford Council funds the event, with costs offset by ticket sales and concessions.  Even in austere times, the council has stuck by the event and continued to push it forward due to the hugely positive effect it has on the economy of the Bingley area.  Due to Myrtle Park being limited in size and being bordered on two sides by a river, the event is not able to facilitate camping on site.  Instead, local venues like Bradford & Bingley Rugby Club have seized the opportunity to offer festival goers a place to camp for the weekend, bringing revenue in to their facility.  The early finish of 9:30pm on the Friday/Saturday and 8:30pm on the Sunday also means that late night operations like takeaways and pubs also benefit from the 15,000 strong crowd.  This all contributes to a healthy relationship between the event and local businesses.  Official campsites are promoted via the Bingley Music Live website, with operators keen to maintain standards in return for this opportunity.

Producing the Event

The aforementioned river means that the site has been restricted in terms of adapting its layout over the years.  However, as the event has grown and bigger name acts have been attracted to play, significant developments have been made in the technical production of the show.  This year saw a brand new main stage that incorporated flying points for the line array PA system and for the two brand new video screens.

The second stage, first launched in 2011 as a simple 12m big top featuring community led content, has since grown to be an integral part of the offering.  With a price rise last year of £10, organisers felt that the second stage should be developed further to add value for money to the cost of a ticket, a decision vindicated by the 2012 performance on the stage of one Jake Bugg.

A residents committee, set up last year to keep local residents involved in the planning and delivery of the event, this year contributed to the decision to alter some of the exit routes from the site.  This alteration helped to reduce the number of people walking through a nearby residential area, a move that will no doubt have been well received by local residents.

With no camping in the park, the only vehicles coming on and off site belong to either production staff or artists.  Vehicles access the site via one entrance, which leads onto the existing network of tarmac paths in the park.  The main stage is in the lower meadow where portable roadway is installed, enabling access all the way to the stage and backstage area.

“When it comes to the production, we’re very proud of the level we achieve”, said Andrew.  “We procure our contractor services through a tender process but it’s pleasing to see that many of the Bradford based contractors who started out with us such a long time ago are still involved.  The process of delivering the required spec to the artists is also something we are very proud of, with a smooth and well-executed liaison process in place to deal with technical requirements and band riders once an artist has been booked.”

Moving Forward

With organisers recognising the challenges brought by the UK economy, a conscious decision was made to hold ticket prices this year at 2012 prices.  In terms of moving the festival forward this presented a challenge, not least due to the fact that the cost of suppliers increased.  However, a strong and loyal following appreciated the freeze on ticket prices and as a result numbers were marginally up on last year. The team also managed to be more creative with less budget, resulting in them losing some elements without detracting from the overall event experience.  With the Bingley Music Live on what would appear to be a continuing upward curve, EIN asked whether they had considered alternative sites in order to provide their own campsite and additional stages.

“We have obviously thought about it”, said Andrew.  “But the reality is we would spoil a good thing.   The event has maintained its funding because of the positive economic impact it has on the surrounding area, which is largely due to the fact that we can’t offer camping in the park itself.  If we were to move to somewhere that offered camping, we would remove that economic benefit and risk spoiling the relationships that the council has worked so hard to build.”

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