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Bumper harvest from the Autumn Pumpkin Festival and beyond…..
Bumper harvest from the Autumn Pumpkin Festival and beyond…..
Make 2012 the year that the 'JST Cultural Olympiad’ reaches your town, village community…..
After the 2010 bumper harvest from the Autumn Pumpkin Festival, Southampton JST volunteer support group set about producing their 14th festival traditionally held on the second Saturday in October, hoping to keep it on an even keel and continuing the value for money, high quality event that the visitors have grown to expect. It was a hard and challenging task but with the help of even more community groups such as Scouts to help with parking, Masons and Rotary groups to help with fencing, marquee erection/ dismantling and entry gate duty, the scene was set for another spectacular festival. Avoiding the extreme heat of the previous week the weather was still kind and with high winds calming down in the nick of time the crowds, over 8,000 of them, poured through the gates.
Many had attended before and were seasoned festival goers drawn to the wide array of family attractions, entertainment, stalls and of course giant pumpkins, not to mention bringing their own scarecrows to be admired by others in the popular Scarecrow Avenue. Over 640 scarecrows were counted on the day which included art scarecrows, facepainted scarecrows and even cakes with scarecrows on which were duly eaten! A record for 'the most scarecrows in a field in Hampshire' was well and truly set.
"With a larger festival inevitably comes larger costs including hiring in extra toilets, something we have never done before, but it made the festival experience a more comfortable one, keeping queues down and leaving more time for spending money (more than a penny)!!!"
"With sponsorship from a number of high profile companies who not only believe in the aims of the charity but also believe in the community side of the family event, we were able to offset our expenses resulting in an impressive total of over £18,000 net, reflecting a year of hard work in the planning and implementation stage.
If we are in a position to offer advice to other JST support groups we would say let your event grow comfortably and within parameters that you are able to control the following year. Seasonal events are a winner (and there are four of those to get your teeth into!) Advertise it well on all the event websites, county magazines and food and gardening mags and get some good 'foodie’ names locally with good ethics then you’ll have a good chance of a winner. People just love food so give it to them, don’t just hire in a burger van but go for ethically produced food that they can trust and find at their local farmers market the following week. We make good use of organisations such as Hampshire Fare, and New Forest Marque who are local, well respected and have great websites that advertise our event. We also push right to the boundaries of the City Council and County Council with email shots and e- advertising under the umbrella of a community event attracting families from across the region. Get yourself a festival website, often organised free of charge by Council webmasters. Just ask. This goodwill often replaces grants that are few and far between yet can have great impact. Ours is www.jst.hampshire.org.uk
And finally as they say……… advertise legally and in a high profile way within the community where the event is held - put banners in significant places on business land, property developer’s heras fencing or Scout buildings in return for offering them a stall free of charge or a future visit to the ships as they are our potential sponsors, helpers or voyage crew. We have been fortunate in having national television coverage three years running and that helped enormously but local radio is a great way to bring out the interesting features and highlight special guests appearing at the festival.
School book bag’s and newsletters are another great way to reach lots of families if that is the target for your event. There is no real reason why a Spring, mid-Summer or Winter festival as successful as the Pumpkin Festival couldn’t evolve over the years by groups of JST Supporters around the country along similar lines but just don’t try to do it all at once, it’s a long process. Earmark a gap in the calendar that will never clash with other comparable events. It’s important to know your community. It has to be done on an absolute shoestring and never ever lose money, to be able to move forward to the next year. No money is held over til the next year as that is not what the JST is about so each year starts afresh with new sponsors and supporters and a launch tea party onboard one of the ships, to thank them and others who have supported us during past, present and future years.
Try it for a few years on your own until you really need help from other groups for specific tasks then you can control it more easily. By personally selecting the stallholders or the percentage of different types of stallholders (ie hot and cold food and drink, craft, facepainting, music, dance, storytelling etc) and free activity community stalls you will know before the event what you are offering to the public by way of entertainment and attractions. Remember if you involve local schoolchildren in song or dance displays you will get their families and neighbours along which is always beneficial to numbers.
Willingly accept local council guidelines regarding music licences, traffic management, fire safety and first aid and realise that a safe event is one that people will come to again and a again. There are lots of hurdles along the way but as JST volunteers we are used to challenges such as this.
Let’s make 2012 the year that the Cultural Olympiad 'reaches all parts’ to the benefit of the JST and the wider community, 'cos if the JST strives to be part of the local community then the local community grows to be part of the JST. A Win Win situation. Let’s go for it!
**The Four Seasons worked for Vivaldi so why not work for us. How about different JST support groups finding various fabulous church/historic venues anywhere in the country that are just asking to be used as a cultural venue, invite a Youth or School orchestra playing relevant Winter style music including Vivaldis Winter http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCLpqkIDlXs
(Avoid the run up to Christmas as it will be lost amongst Carol concerts and Father Christmas) raise the profile with winter food and crafts if a suitable venue next to church, invite school dancers, winter storytelling, floral art workshops, hire in a tiny ice rink, snow machine, (on a percentage), etc try and source a free big branch of mistletoe to sell in red ribboned pieces, and hot chestnuts are just some ideas but don’t hold it too near Christmas, suggest mid Nov which means it’s out for this year but use the seasons to get ideas for the following years festival. A venue with land means that you can offer car parking and expand if you need to the following year.
Sonja Davison, Autumn Pumpkin festival volunteer organiser/team leader.