How do you know if a festival works?

It’s festival season.

And a good festival embodies so much of what we care about.

Combining well-run, imaginative places of action, driven by user experience.

A celebration of ideas, shared experiences and a chance to escape into/ lean into something extraordinary. To learn something, about yourself? About other people? Festivals stir the big picture dreams.

But tread lightly first. Many have tried and fallen at the first hurdle; its easy to think that a festival is a sure-fire solution to building audiences, promoting a place/craft/philosophy and earning money. It isn’t.

From concept to evaluation, festivals have to balance a range of expectations – as customers are exhibitors and contributors as well as punters, sponsors and other funders.

We are privileged to have worked with a vast range of events – from the legendary Wilderness Festival in Oxfordshire and the Manchester science/art celebration Sick! Festival to producing Starboard, the UK’s first open air children’s theatre festival in 2016. Each present challenges and opportunities that need co-designing and imaginative workarounds.

The success of any festival boils down to a programme that is logical and credible, delivered with exceptional physical/emotional experiences and clarity of action for its audiences and exhibitors. Many organisers know how they want it to look, but forget to set a benchmark for success beyond ticket sales. If you’ve been to a festival you’ll know that your experience is determined by anything but the price of a ticket – so how should an organiser measure your experience?

This autumn marks our third year as strategic partners with the main Brighton Digital Festival as well as The Old Market’s associated groundbreaking festival of virtual reality and performance, TOMTech. Each year we help them both explore fundamental questions about purpose, value, audiences and impact – considering the customer and contributor experiences throughout their whole festival journey.

What do you think makes an outstanding festival? Do you think there are too many? Not enough? What’s missing?

In 2019, we’re looking forward to new collaborations with the wonderful Oops Festival of movement among many others.


Have a festival idea? Already run one but want to tell the story better?

Where would you start?

Book a consultation call with us to discuss.

Listen to our interview with Andrew Comben on running one of the largest arts festivals in Europe, yet one that needs to work closely with its communities.

Listen to our interview with Greg Day on building FrightFest, now a global brand where horror film fans are in charge.

A bit about where Starboard came from

always possible

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