Discussion Forum

From Jason Elliott
Friday, 19 June 2009

Dear Hebden Bridgers

For some time now I have been mulling over the possibility of there being a professionally-run, outdoor (with marquees) music festival somewhere in HX7.

I would like your views on this, and whether it would be a good or bad thing for the town.

It could be held over 3 or 4 days, to include a weekend, and attract professional bands that charged a fee. This of course means that the festival itself would not be free.

It could attract an audience of between 5 and 10 thousand people in the first year, potentially doubling in numbers in further years.

Clearly, as well as the advantage of having great musicians playing nearby, (and the increased cultural cache for the town) there would be significant economic benefit for local business.

On the downside, the town would be incredibly busy over those days, parking would be virtually impossible, and inevitably there would be a few incidents of petty crime.

I have no timeline, nor finely drafted plan for this. It is just something I have wondered about.

So, fellow forum-readers, please wonder with me, and let me know. Could it be done, or am I just barking at the moon?

From N Yorke
Monday, 22 June 2009

Interesting idea.

Four questions

What venue(s) did you think off? (There are not many flat open spaces, could be spread across more than one?)

Where would the audience/bands/crew stay?

Why so large a number of people, does it need to be this large to be financially viable?

How could you ensure the money involved in running it would be locally spent, most companies (PA, Marques's, Catering) for this sort of thing aren't likely to be local.

From Dave H
Monday, 22 June 2009

I think it's a terrific idea! There will be logistical hurdles for sure, but that shouldn't stop it from happening - merely just shape it. Where there's a will...

Crime in the form of drunkeness and violent disorder would be my biggest concern, as many of the residents of Calderdale / Burnley etc see HB as a soft touch, so come here and get obliterated at the slightest opportunity (Bonfire night, free gigs in the park etc). I know they see HB that way, because many of them have told me. There's no way they'd get away with it 'at home', but think in Hebden it's OK.

Maybe a grown up ticket price would calm that.

From Zilla Brown
Monday, 22 June 2009

I would suggest that Halifax would be a better venue. There is the Piece Hall, Peoples Park etc, ample parking and the town is more accessible in general and able to cope.

What Jason is proposing would potentialy overwhelm Hebden. Some people may not realise also that these events cause a lot of noise pollution over a much wider area than you might think - 2 or 3 miles radius in fact.

I can imagine that it is a problem for the more elderly and people with small children needing to sleep who live in the town centre,in fact friends that do live there have told me they get really fed up of all the summer noise in the park and feel they have to go out if something is planned.

Not everyone is enamoured with loud music and it can spoil a peaceful summer's afternoon.

There is really no need to mention the parking problem. Hebden is a small town.

From Tim N
Monday, 22 June 2009

Not everyone is enamoured with loud music and it can spoil a peaceful summer's afternoon."

Like the brass bands last Sunday afternoon - noisy lot ;-)

From H Gregg
Monday, 22 June 2009

Great idea! Suggest local farms for a venue, room to expand in future, diversification grants, less noise problems, out of town... worked for Mr Eavis!

From Jim M
Tuesday, 23 June 2009

I can't see how a festival could be too noisy for Hebden Bridge and OK in Halifax. A good number of people would likely be affected by events held at Peoples Park and the Piece Hall. If festivals are too noisy they should not be allowed anywhere within hearing distance of residents.

This does not seem like a reasonable proposition. Many people enjoyed Oasis recently at Heaton Park but many residents felt the concerts should have not have been allowed because of the nuisance and inconvenience.

Do people here feel the balance of advantage lies with having a festival that lasts maybe a few days and people have a great time locally, and business benefits, or with maintaining peace and quiet all day, everday? The later seems like a recipe for a boring life.

From Janice S
Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Yes, if it was out of town - I don't think you could close Calder Holmes to the public anyway. I'm sure there are locals with relevant expertise who could help. For instance, Lyn Gledhill (who runs BeerGas Express) does catering at Glastonbury.

Alternatively, what about a small scale Jazz Festival, as they have on Skye? You could have trad and youth jazz bands on Calder Holmes during the day (not too loud, ask for donations from the public rather than tickets) and ticket-only experimental/electronic bands at the Trades, Hole in T'Wall, etc in the evenings.

I'm one of the people who lives near Calder Holmes and am affected by any noise on the park. It's been fine recently but a few of the Riverside events made my windows shake (and I live the other side of the Burnley Road!) It must be something to do with the sound bouncing around the valley walls, as the volume of music can be fine in the park itself.

From Jason Elliott
Saturday, 27 June 2009

There are some good comments, questions and suggestions here which I will try and address, although I must reiterate that this is NOT something that I am PLANNING, merely WONDERING ABOUT.

The lack of flat open spaces in the immediate vicinity of Hebden Bridge means that the venue would need to be privately owned land, probably a farm, a few miles away. My understanding of the use of public space (based on conversations with Calderdale MBC last year) is that while parks can be closed for private events that are charged for, they, quite rightly in my view, must be open and free to all on Sundays. This rules out using them for a weekend event. In any case, Calder Homes Park would be far too small.

The audience/bands/crew would probably stay mainly onsite, either camping or in trailers. I am sure that all existing local guest accommodation (hotels, B&Bs etc) would be taken up very quickly as, of course, camping, whether in tents like the audience, or in trailers like the bands, is not to everyone's taste.

As to why so many people, (although some would say that these are not great numbers for a festival); if the level and calibre of the artists was quite high, there would need to be sufficient gate receipts to pay them.

As far as ensuring that the money setting up and running the event was spent locally, it is true that much of the specialist infrastructure for festivals is based elsewhere in the country but, as Janice S mentions, there are already locals with appropriate experience and technical knowledge. There would also be a large number of temporary jobs created, some running for a few days, some for a few months. We should not forget that this is a very innovative and entrepreneurial part of the world and I have total faith that local people would rise to the challenge, creating answers to the business questions that would arise from a project like this.

Dave H makes an interesting observation about people who come to Hebden from elsewhere to get drunk because they couldn't "get away with it at home". Regrettably, this will always be an issue, but the majority of the "overexuberance" would be confined to the festival site, surely?

Zilla's suggestion that something like this would be better held in Halifax is something I personally disagree with for a number of reasons. Primarily because of the point she makes about noise pollution, an event of this nature would HAVE to be held in a rural location, away from any CENTRES of population, whether Halifax or Hebden Bridge itself. This being the case, my feeling is that it would be better to associate the festival with a town that already punches far above its cultural and artistic weight, as evidenced by the fantastic Arts Festival and Fringe Festival currently underway.

Janice asks if a small scale Jazz festival wouldn't be more appropriate. My view is that this shouldn't be an either/or question. Small scale festivals are fantastic, and we do already have a number of them, but this is about something that would be altogether different, not least because it would be out of town. We are not restricted in Hebden Bridge by any byelaws (to my knowledge) preventing us putting on as many Arts Festivals/Handmade Parades/Open Studios/Brass Band Weekends as we're able to summon the energy to organise. As a community, this is something we are really rather brilliant at. Is there any need to limit the scope of our ambitions?

Thank you for you input so far, but please keep your thoughts coming! Feel free to vote on the poll I am running on my blog too.

I would like to finish this post by repeating the words of Jim M "Do people here feel the balance of advantage lies with having a festival that lasts maybe a few days and people have a great time locally, and business benefits, or with maintaining peace and quiet all day, everday?"

From Phil F
Monday, 20 July 2009

5 and 10 thousand people!

How on God's earth are you going to attract those sort of figures.

Take Kendal calling festival for instance. 4th year running now and there are only 6 thousand!!.

Plus, it's in Kendal! - The Lake District!! - Last time I looked it had a few more open spaces / parking / better links than Hebden Bridge.

From Lou R
Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Quote by Jim M: Do people here feel the balance of advantage lies with having a festival that lasts maybe a few days and people have a great time locally, and business benefits, or with maintaining peace and quiet all day, everday? The latter seems like a recipe for a boring life. Unquote

To be honest I really strongly disagree with this statement. I live in Mytholmroyd, and at this distance frequently hear noisy events which are being held on Calder Holmes. Peace and quiet is not maintained all day everyday!

Although I do not disagree with the point that the local shopkeepers/hotels etc would benefit, Hebstock would not be a one off event, it would be one of several throughout the year.

Please ... no!!

From Colin C
Wednesday, 22 July 2009

An interesting idea but a difficult trick to pull off.

The monetary investment that would be needed to attract the kind of bands that are going to pull in 5-10 thousand people would be considerable.

One way of doing this would be to find a Mr Big who stumps up a large amount of cash on an event of unproven potential and lets the festival do its worst and evaluates if it was a good idea afterwards.

However, the more usual way of promoting a biggish event like this would be to start small, make a loss for a few years and slowly build the event to this scale when its reputation and commercial potential has been established. Then you may find investors for a bigger event. Remember Glastonbury has been around 40 years and wasn’t always the cavalcade of stars it has become.

Realistically in the first few years you’re talking about local bands playing to a few hundred people (maybe a thousand on a good year). Of course the commercial allure of these early years to landowners and businesses supplying catering would also be limited.

The other thing to really get straight would be the disruption to the town, regardless of town/country venue, the festival goers would still need to travel through the town, buy stuff, etc . Whilst local shopkeepers would undoubtedly benefit, there would also be an attendant down side for other residents, congested roads, a inevitable degree of anti-social behaviour, and of course parking and public transport overload. Even with the initial small number we’d feel an effect, and see the letters in the Bridge Times.

So, I’m not against he idea, as an idea, but let’s be realists about it. It ain’t going to be Glastonbury and whilst the HB of 30 years ago would have embraced the idea, would the genteel HB of today be quite so tolerant?

From Jacob G
Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Frankly, the idea of a relatively large scale open air festival in Hebden Bridge is bonkers! There is already a small scale festival in the park (that is currently unsustainable). There is no further large scale, suitable level land close by. Surely there might be more exciting, innovative ways to organise an interesting music festival. Most of the pub venues in town host bands, so how about a 'south by southwest' type event, where all the venues, including the cinema, trades, theatre and possibly Calder Holmes, take part in cross town, mostly indoors event over 3-4 days?

From Justin P
Friday, 24 July 2009

Loving this....

As an example, we are running our first 50s weekender in a weeks time... feedback from people and businesses has been great, however, if I were to listen to Hebden's negative, fear of the new, standard reactions, rather than function to my gut reactions, it would neverhappen, just like the pub.

A music festival would work.

Hebden rides high on its belief it is quirky arty and funky, in general the town does little to differentiate itself.
Let's address this by embracing opportunities for a change.

We are 500 next year, and I'm definitely going to be doing things to celebrate it, even if no one else believes in pulling their finger out....

From Phil M
Thursday, 30 July 2009

What a great idea, I would love to see a festival happening nearby to Hebden and would embrace it and help out where needed (I am a part time festival organiser)..

I think what Colin says is bang on the nail, start small, its the only way to cover yourself financially and prove to the local residents that it is possible and won't bring hoards of undesirables into the town!

Well said Justin and good luck with your venture..

The other possible way of helping a festival get off the ground is to involve active local charities who will help out and give you a dependable core of volunteers..

Intrigued to know why Lou thinks this would be 'one of several'? Honestly, the admin and overheads means 1 is normally enough!!

Please ... Yes!!!

From Lou R
Thursday, 30 July 2009

Phil M - the answer to your query had already been stated. If you refer back to my previous post ... "and at this distance (we) frequently hear noisy events which are being held on Calder Holmes".

This would be yet another!

From Lauren B
Tuesday, 4 August 2009

This event will not be held on Calder Holmes park. It is not big enough. So I think you'll be OK. I live towards Mytholmroyd and have never heard any noise from the park and I don't even have double glazing!!!

I am in total agreement with having a music festival. What a brilliant idea. As mentioned in other posts, Hebden is supposed to be a vibrant, funky town so lets get on with it!

There are of course logisitical problems to overcome but I'm sure they can and will be. Finding the space for it would be the first hurdle but there are plenty of big open green spaces in the surrounding areas.

Most festival sites are self contained 'villages' so I think that the problem of 'drunkards' running amok in the town is slightly over the top. There may be some trouble but do we all live isolated in our little boxes with nothing exciting going on, just in case something bad happens, or do we get on with having some fun and enjoying things together.

Yes yes yes and I would love to help if I can in any capacity.

From N Yorke
Friday, 21 August 2009

Is this the sort of thing you had in mind?


From Jason Elliott
Saturday, 5 September 2009

To N Yorke. Yes, the Solfest is the sort of thing.

By the way, although I'm sure there is an element of bias in there, the poll I ran on my blog showed people 8 to 1 in favour of having a festival.