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Not Quite an Accident

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Miriam O'Keeffe | 13:36 UK time, Monday, 12 March 2012

Ben Weatherill, Director of Development for Central School of Speech and Drama's The Accidental Festival gives his thoughts and advice on the organisation and challenges that go into running a semi-professional festival.

"I think every single person on the team at The Accidental Festival is passionate about what we’re doing which is great. For me, it’s about providing that free platform for artists at all different kinds of stages in their career and allowing the exchange of varied experiences to happen. The festival particularly resonates with me as I see fellow artists reach the point in their career where they need that next step, and the festival can provide that.

Since its creation at The Central School of Speech and Drama in 2005, The Accidental Festival has welcomed over 200 international guests and artists. It was initially conceived as a project to give students practical experience in creative producing, teaching essential business skills that simply cannot be learnt from a textbook.

Each year a new student team take charge of their own team structure, budget, brand identity, artistic programming, presentation of the festival space, marketing, ethos and community, and education programme.


Madaleine Trigg in 'the moment I heard' by Daniel Somerville

The Accidental Festival has previously been hosted at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), the Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) and this year, the festival returns to the Roundhouse with the aim to be bigger, bolder, and to reach more people than ever before.

It’s a fantastic thing to be involved in, especially at 19! It’s a real world scenario and a project you have to sink your teeth into. You certainly can’t be passive about it.

So, based on my experience what’s the best advice I could give?

I think the following things are really important to think about when you’re involved in an event on any scale. I don’t think that this applies exclusively to work in festivals, but to everything you present. These questions are always good to come back to in times of a crisis, they give you focus!

When your event is complete, what would you like to be the thing that is most easily remembered about the event for those who attended?

The same question as above, but for yourself. What would you like to be the most memorable thing about the event?

Who would you like to attend and why?

Who are you making it for and why?

Thinking about other similar events, what do you think the aims of your event should be? A Unique Selling Point is vital - really get to know your audience’s wants and needs.

What would you most like to do within the project? Is there something special you would like to bring or contribute?

What, if anything, are you most worried about with the project and do you have any ideas about how to overcome those concerns? Identifying the potential risks and problems at the start prevents from any surprises later on!

What should the image of the event be? What should it look like, sound like, smell like?  Atmosphere is the most important thing! It’s the lasting impression your audiences are going to leave with.

In terms of my role in development, I guess the best piece of advice I’ve been given is fundraising isn’t just about getting money! We all know that there is very little money these days for funding the arts. However, getting things in kind and receiving good will gestures are what really have helped us to achieve the festival. Form relationships, get out there talking to people, and create positive relationships with companies that last.

Finally, be brave and bold! That way you’ll end up with an event that is fresh, exciting and far better than anything you could have imagined.”

To find out more the Accidental Festival visit their website or follow @accidentalnews


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