interview with Summer Sundae Weekender festival organiser (part 2)

Richard Haswell discuses next year's Summer Sundae, and Big Session

published: Tue 4th Nov 2008

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Friday 14th to Sunday 16th August 2009
De Montfort Hall, Granville Road, Leicester, Leicestershire, LE1 7RU, England MAP
£102 w/e, camping £7 per tent extra
last updated: Fri 7th Aug 2009

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Summer Sundae, and The Big Session also both won a Greener Festival award, what green initiatives do you utilise?
Yes, both of them two year's on the trot actually, which we're very pleased about. Everybody is talking about greening their festival now, but we've been trying to minimise the impact of what we do, right from the first time we started. We work with a great voluntary organisation called Complete Wasters who are a recycling charity, and they put whole teams in the festival, not just litter pickers but also sorters for the recycling. What we've found is that if you engage the audience with that process they actually do half the work for you. We separate our waste at the point it's disposed of. It's not just cans here and everything else there, we do it with everything cans, paper, and cardboard. We also composted all our food waste for the first time this year, so all that went to compost rather than going to landfill, and so on and so on. We used biodegradable materials everywhere we can, that includes all the plastic glasses that we use over the bar, we very strongly encourage all our traders to be as green as possible, to use Fairtrade supplies, and so on.

We're fortunate that the site is only ten minutes from a mainline railway station so we encourage people not to bring the car, as much as we can. There's quite a lot of research out now which says that the biggest single contributor to the festival's carbon footprint is people's travel to and from it, by quite a long way. We managed 45% of our audience this year who didn't come by car, which is a very high figure compared to other festivals.

We have a building on site, which obviously helps enormously, so we upgraded the electricity supply in the building, so that we could use as much mains electricity as possible, we got our generators on site down to two. The main supply is on an eco-tariff and sourced from renewable sources.

We run a bike park which we did in association with Ride Leicester Sustrans this year which was enormously successful. It was jam packed all weekend, and it's going to have to be a bit bigger again next year.

What's important about all of this, is if you get greenery into your thinking and into the DNA of your event and allow it to inform virtually everything that you do, it actually starts to become second nature. People, expect it now, people are more and more concerned about issues around the environment. Given that the greenest event is the one that doesn't happen, where the only completely green thing to do is nothing, what you can do to minimise the effect you are having on the environment is very important, and it's very central to all our thinking.

The other thing is, that it also makes for a much better environment, clean, tidy sites are very pleasant places to be. One of the bits of feedback we always get is that people are always amazed how clean, and green, and tidy the site is, and that's part of the reason people come, because it's a pleasant place to be.

Is there always more you can do?
Yes, there is. We sit down every year and look at what we did last year and what we achieved. We increase our targets for recycling every year. We want to start to have another look at our traders and suppliers and see if we can improve it even further.

Tired Irie (Thursday at The Fringe)
The Fringe events at Summer Sundae seem to be really taking off, how did they come about originally?
There's a social networking site in Leicester called pineapster for musicians and people who are interested in music. We've always had quite a good relationship with them, and Andy Black who is one of the key people behind the pineapster site, came to see us two year's ago and said he'd like to organise a warm up party on the Thursday night. We agreed, not least because a lot of people arrive for the festival on the Thursday night and it gives them something to do. Two year's ago that went so incredibly well, it was done as a fund-raising event for LOROS which is the hospice charity in Leicestershire. It was completely sold out and the bar was drunk dry.

So, last year we thought, right this has got some legs to it really, so it became a fringe festival over four venues on the Thursday night, and with other gigs happening in the run up to it. It's rapidly becoming part of the event in many ways, there were six different shows on the Thursday this year, with three or four acts each, and it was enormously popular. We put on open top buses from the camp site which go in a continuous loop around all the fringe venues, so you can get on and off and go to as many as you like.

There's a limit to how many artists from this part of the world that we can put into the Summer Sundae bill, so it actually gives other acts a chance to be part of the festival. It also means that they can play to really big audiences at various venues of the fringe. It's an important part of the event now, and a lot of people that didn't used to arrive until the Friday are turning up on the Thursday night to be part of that. It adds an extra day to the festival.

Is the Fringe likely to remain at the size it is, or will it continue to grow?
It might well go up a little bit, we added venues to it this year, and to a certain extent it's about the venues itself wanting to get involved. But if people want to involve themselves in it then we're wide open to that. It's got the potential to absorb another couple of venues yet. Everywhere this year was packed, so there's potential there definitely.

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Your one of the 12 founder members of the AIF, are you finding being a member useful?
Yes, we are one of the founding members. It's like anything else I feel it's important to have a collective voice. Over time, issues will always emerge, whether that's simply about sharing good practice, or having a collective voice when there is legislation involved on things like licensing, PRS, and other issues. It's quite important that people work together, and there's no getting away from the fact that it's a very competitive market, and for the independent festivals it can be quite a lonely place in face of the corporate might of the very big events.

I'm quite excited about it, I find it's very positive, and it's a great opportunity where we can meet each other and talk to each other, and share our experiences, if nothing else.

You're also member of the Association of Festival Organisers?
I've been involved in that for quite a long time, that's interesting because most of the festivals there are on quite a small scale. Summer Sundae and Cambridge Folk Festival are probably the two biggest ones that attend that particular event. But, again, it's simply enjoyable to be in a room every year, with people who have similar challenges and questions. What I like about the AFO, quite apart from the network is that it's focused on things which are relentlessly practical, you never stop learning, and every year I go that and come away with a piece of knowledge that I didn't previously have.

I think it's important for people to share in the independent and smaller scale end of the market so that the scene is thriving and that people are doing things well,and that the market continues to grow because of that. When people do things badly it reflects badly on everybody really, there's no pleasure in seeing people get it wrong, quite the opposite. If through the AIF or the AFO we're there to give something back by that sharing process then that's great.

Have there been examples where members have been removed because their code of practice wasn't good enough?
Yes there are, it's as simple as that. And there's been a case of that recently.

So for festival goers wanting to select a festival is being a member of either organisation a good indicator of a good festival?
I wouldn't put it that strongly. Being a member of either organisation isn't a British Standard mark, but I think there is potential in that. Already, it indicates that the people organising that festival are taking it seriously and aspiring to best practise. The AFO, the very fact that people go and spend three days sitting in rooms sharing their experiences, and sharing their best practise, is because they want to come away from that with knowledge that helps them make their event better. The commitment in the first place is an important statement of intent.

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Early bird tickets for the ninth Summer Sundae Weekender held at De Montfort Hall, Leicester are on sale now for the festival which is confirmed as happening from Friday 14th to Sunday 16th August 2009.

'Early bird' tickets are on sale priced at £92 for an adult ticket or £99 for an adult ticket with camping. An adult and child with camping is priced at £129, an adult and child combination ticket is priced at £122, and an adult with 2 Kids is priced at £152, with an additional £7 for camping.

Summer Sundae Weekender uses a 'ticketless' system. Please ensure that you properly read all of the information on the page, so that you understand how it all works. To book tickets, click here.

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Friday 14th to Sunday 16th August 2009
De Montfort Hall, Granville Road, Leicester, Leicestershire, LE1 7RU, England MAP
£102 w/e, camping £7 per tent extra
last updated: Fri 7th Aug 2009

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