Building a festival #3 - Requirements

Building Peckham Digital:
- Part One covered the festival idea, aims and first steps
- Part Two covered finding an audience

So, we have an idea of why we’re doing this, and who it might be for. Now, what do we need to do to make it a reality?

What needs to happen

At the absolute core, we need:

  • Venue
  • Equipment
  • People
  • Marketing

Venue

Venue suitability depends on various factors, including what works best for your audience (accessibility, familiarity, amenities, right vibe), availability and cost.

There are loads of options, including galleries, warehouses, shopping centres, restaurants and purely virtual spaces.

Using multiple venues allows flexibility, lowering the need for one large venue and increasing the ease of working with local organisations (e.g. they could host one event that appeals most to their audience). This boosts potential marketing reach and can make events more viable and appropriate (i.e. a better venue for a music event), but increases complexity.

Risks include the increased logistics, inc. getting between venues, needing more people and increasing the risk of things going wrong.

Physical spaces

Physical venues allow you to meet up in person. We’d love a physical event, supported by digital - e.g. real life workshops that may be livestreamed.

The wishlist of criteria are:

  • Large space with multiple areas for exhibitions and events
  • Established venue with track record and well known by locals
  • Local amenities including food and drink options
  • Foot traffic

Being in a high traffic area can be a great way to go to where audience members already are, increasing attendance and awareness. It’s a balance between amenities / ambiance and practicality, plus cost (i’ll cover budget in the next post).

At this stage of development, I looked at a range of venues in Peckham and got some quotes from desirable venues. The favourite was Copeland Gallery, with a range of other venues possible. There’s also lots of multi-venue options, for specific events, and I’ve started conversations with various organisations.

Digital spaces

I almost didn’t point out the festival website as it seemed so obvious, but it’s the main hub of information so acts as an essential virtual ‘venue’ of its own.

The website can host a range of resources, alongside the main festival information. Virtual galleries can support a much wider range of artists than the main exhibition, and we’re looking into different forms this can take e.g. Peckham Festival (no relation!) has a fantastic directory of local artists, so a digital artist equivalent could be great for both artists and attendees.

Similarly, we are intending to create some guides for beginner creative coders, getting people up and running simply and easily without needing technical knowledge (which is one of our key aims as a festival), and there is the potential for directories of open source resources and information for more experienced creatives. Ultimately the aim of any resource is to actually be useful for our audience, so it needs to start with their need.

Especially over lockdown, online spaces have bloomed and are now standard. Many events are held online, live-streamed or recorded. Livestream or video platforms like Twitch, Vimeo, Youtube and Facebook, or digital spaces like Mozilla Hubs let you organise simple virtual gatherings. Virtual worlds like CryptoVoxels, Somnium Space and Decentraland also let you buy land and create virtual galleries, which could be used to host an event. We are likely to incorporate some form of live-streaming and/or recording of events, to help reach audience members who can’t attend in person.

Equipment

We need two types of equipment - event and artwork.

Event equipment covers everything we need for talks, workshops and events. The venue may provide some basic equipment, but it’s likely we’ll need at least some speakers, microphones, screens, projectors, a bunch of cables, power adapters etc, plus backup wifi options such as a 4G dongle (especially if live-streaming).

Workshops need tables and chairs (of varying heights, depending on audience and accessibility), the venue may need portable heaters, the audience may need baby chairs, etc. Audience involvement events may also benefit from having laptops or tablets available for use.

For digital artwork, the technical equipment requirements are likely to vary quite a bit. Many artists will have their own setup, which they may bring along (see insurance, below), or use standard or specific screens, projectors, motion sensors (e.g. Kinect), lasers or other light displays, tablets, etc. We’ll also need plenty of power cables and adapters to ensure distribution of power.

Speaking of which, we may be using a lot of power, especially if some artworks have unusual or high consumption setups, so checking with the venue beforehand could prevent that awkward power outage.

People

It doesn’t happen without people, obviously!

We need people to organise it (oh hello there!), and it’s much easier with more than one of you. We also need artists to submit and exhibit their artwork, plus presenters for workshops, talks and events.

Front of house attendants welcome people to the event at each venue, answer questions, provide assistance and support as needed and ensure the event is kept safe.

Ideally we’d also have a graphic designer for branding, plus a marketing manager to help with the below.

Marketing

No one will come if they haven’t heard about it. So we need core messaging channels to start a dialogue with our audience. For Peckham Digital:

  • Website
  • Email list
  • Social media (Instagram, Twitter)

Our website is our core information hub. This should include an email list (using Mailerlite, Mailchimp or similar), to collect audience details.

This requires web development, using free or no-code tools or custom development. I built the existing website and am planning to handle redevelopment as we build an identity and set of resources. Development time can be significant, so (given this is unpaid) there’s a trade off between time and flexibility (and accepting it will be ‘good enough’).

Our audience is digitally native, so social media form our main channels, specifically Twitter and Instagram. These have the potential for significant reach, and are free and simple to use.

It’s essential to start building our audience in advance of the event, so they are ready and engaged by the time it starts. To do so, you need a marketing strategy that consistently builds up your presence over time. I’m anticipating this taking a significant amount of time - likely 80% of our time in the build up, as it’s so important.

A consistent and professional visual identity significantly helps attract an audience. Ideally, created by a graphic designer specialising in branding, who can create templates that can be reused throughout the campaign.

Event

At events for digital communities (e.g. networking, live coding, VJing), providing drinks and/or food (or having them available in the vicinity, i.e. an adjoining bar) can be a bonus.

Having an event photographer can be a source of marketing images, as well as being a great way to celebrating success, saying thank you to attendees and presenters and acting as a showcase for subsequent events.

Everything else

Event insurance is essential, including public liability coverage and coverage of equipment (hired and borrowed).

Accessibility measures are also important, including signage and information communicated in advance (e.g. on the website, plus info for attendants so they can help out as needed). This will need to be guided by audience needs (e.g. wheelchair/pram access methods).

Covid safety equipment is also necessary, including masks, hand gel, anti bacterial spray and cleaning materials, signage and tape for distancing guidelines (in line with other events and gallery spaces).

7 years project management experience have reinforced the need for contingency funds. Many things will go wrong. They will break or get lost, quotes will go up, you’ll need last minute delivery, etc. Contingency means you’re walking on a plank not a tightrope.

And finally, fresh air for those deep deep breaths.

That’s a long list, and no doubt I’ve missed loads off. Next up, the burning question - how much is that all gonna cost?