All Blog posts by Christine Dent

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Sunglasses in one hand, umbrella in the other, the search for the next big thing

Scouting for talent isn’t a simple one-stop shop for us. Our ears can be pricked, our sixth sense stimulated, or our team tipped off in a variety of different ways, but undoubtedly you have to get out there. Follow your passion and trust your instinct, whether that be doing some digital digging, in conversation with enthusiasts, or maybe most importantly at a live show.

One such place where all of the above are mashed together in the hope of accelerating the process is at music expos. Industry places that often feel like a badly mixed cocktail of festival and conference. Hype factories for the next big thing, where many are more interested in talking about who is excited about who, rather than actually pounding the streets and really listening to bands.

This weekend we visited The Great Escape (TGE) in Brighton, one of the hybrids periodically on our calendar. Three days and nights by the sea, soaking up sounds, chatting to agents, artists, organisers and publicists a like. A dream life right? Well yes, we can’t deny we enjoy it, but it’s neither easy on the body, nor to find the nuggets of talent in amongst a mountain of mediocrity, image projection and future potential.

Forty-two hours of hit and miss gigs in three days is enough for anyone, with the weather on the trip quickly becoming a metaphor for the experience. Mostly inclement, with occasional rays of sunshine making the miles and miles trudged in the rain worth it.

So who made it worth it?

Westerman was one firm favourite for sure! Unusually he is an act we have booked for Shambala 2017 before seeing him live. When getting the chance to catch him live at TGE we were not disappointed. A humble singer songwriter with a spine tingling voice that’s something very special.

Another one that shows the benefits of stepping outside of your own echo chamber were the US black metal outfit Zeal and Ardor. Certainly a leftfield one for us, but there’s a mosh pit or two in our history. Metal combined with Delta blues harmonies and glitchy field recording interludes, made it one of the most innovative and individual things we’ve seen and heard recently.

The Turbans! A turbo charged international collective drawing on various aspects of musical heritage to deliver an immense stage show. Maybe you will get to catch them at Shambala this year…

You’ll have to check our various event line-ups for other discoveries, but further props to all the acts on TGE 2017 line up that have already played with us: Ibibio Sound Machine, Lakuta, Flamingods, Afriquoi and of course that dude headlining TGE 2017 in the Brighton Dome, Rag ‘n’ Bone Man (Shambala 2013)… 

Jon Walsh

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Shambala Festival at the 2017 Creative Green Awards

Last month Daria attended the 2017 Creative Green Awards, presented by Caroline Lucas, Co-Leader of the Green Party and MP for Brighton Pavilion. The Creative Green Award is the only pan arts award recognising the contribution of the creative industries to climate change, and celebrates over 50 arts organisations undertaking Creative Green certification in 2016/17.

70 plus guests and representatives of the cultural and creative community joined together at Somerset House for the Award ceremony, as well as to take part in an Environmental Communications Workshop, organised by Julie’s Bicycle. The aim of this workshop was to help organisations to maximise their opportunities for imaginatively and effectively engaging with staff, audience, suppliers and funders in environmental conversation and action.

Shambala Festival was amongst the winners this year, taking home 2 awards; ‘Best Festival’ and ‘Outstanding Achievement’. Both awards were for our contribution towards greener events; including our reusable cups scheme, the use of renewable power and compost toilets on site and our decision to go meat and fish free, as well as our achievements in starting conversations and engaging our audiences around the important topic of shaping a greener future.

“It was great to attend the event and see how different creative businesses are working towards a greener future and being recognised for their work. Being in the same room with so many like-minded people and sharing experience and knowledge with one another is truly inspiring.” – Daria Valueva, Kambe Events

Read more about the award ceremony here.

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Festival and Event Sustainability Work Experience Opportunity

Kambe Events has an opportunity for a creative, enthusiastic, resourceful and pro-active individual who is passionate about festivals and sustainability to be involved with the sustainability of two events this year, Swingamajig and Shambala. You will have a complete inside view of how a pioneering festival manages all aspects of its sustainable performance, from the data and systems behind the scenes to public campaign development and delivery. This is an opportunity to gain experience from some of the most experienced event sustainability professionals in the UK.

About Us
Shambala is a multi-award winning sustainable festival that is; powered by 100% renewable energy, plastic-free and meat and fish free. The festival’s tagline is Adventures in Utopia, shares the ethos of ‘partying like there’s no tomorrow whilst keeping a positive future firmly in focus’. The role of the sustainability team is to develop and deliver initiatives that meet environmental aims through being organised, well informed, innovative, bold, effective, engaging, fun and interactive. Good communication with all stakeholders is vital; i.e. contractors, audience, staff members, artists.
Check out www.kambe-events.co.uk / www.shambalafestival.org / www.swingamajig.co.uk

The Pre-event Opportunity:
To be immersed in all the pre-event preparations for the trader, campsite, recycling and artist engagement, undertaking research and support the creative and planning processes.

You will learn about behaviour change theories, sustainability monitoring and how to improve trader and contractor standards.

Onsite you will likely be able to get involved with;
• Liaising with teams on site to ensure sustainability standards are met
• Supporting the trader vetting process
• Monitoring and supporting campsite and recycling initiatives
• Supporting the capture of data for post-event reports

Essential personal attributes we are looking for:
• Creative
• Enthusiastic
• Resourceful
• Pro-active
• Passionate about environmental Sustainability
• Has some experience of working at festivals

Expenses:
This role is unpaid, with £250, travel and all food onsite covered.

Suitability:
This role would suit someone who already has some working history but is looking to gain experience within the sustainable festival and event sector to progress their career. There is a possibility of future paid work from this role.

Commitment
An average of 4 hours a week from Mid – April to End – September (flexible with actual dates). Most work days will be with the festival team at the Bristol Office, preferably on Tuesdays, but some of this work can be done remotely with support.
Onsite dates: Sunday 30th April, Monday 21st to Monday 28th August

How to apply:

Send a CV and a WORD document containing no more than 250 words about why you would like to join the team, what you would bring to the team and what you would like to gain from this opportunity.

Please send to livvy@kambe-events.co.uk before the deadline.

Closing Date: Tuesday, 11 April, 2017 – 17:00

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Launch of the Smart Energy Guide 2017

The revised Smart Energy For Festival and Events guide was launched yesterday at the Green Events and Innovations Conference, in London. Kambe’s Chris Johnson attended the event to speak about both Shambala Festival’s meat and fish free journey in 2016 and launch the Powerful Thinking guide.

The first edition of the guide (released in 2012) offered guidance to event organisers in managing temporary energy more efficiently, aiming to reduce environmental impacts and fuel costs. Since then there has been a significant shift towards more efficient energy management at events, with savings of between 10% and 50% in fuel consumption. Examples have been collated and updated in the new version, along with fact sheets and modular resources to make the guide informative, useful to organisers and up to date.

The new guide also has a European focus, reflecting progress being made across Europe and content contributed by the Guide’s European partners. The guide is available for free to anyone via the Powerful Thinking website.

Click here to access the Smart Energy For Festival and Events guide. 

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The role of cultural events in place making your city

Christine Dent

Recently I attended an event hosted by the Birmingham Festivals Group, whose focus was to discuss the importance of cultural events in place making a city or town.

Speakers from cities all around the country came together to share the ideas and practices that put their cities on the map and increase visitor numbers.

As an event organiser for Swingamajig Festival (a one day, inner city urban festival in Birmingham) some of the topics discussed really struck a chord with me, and got me thinking about what role Swingamajig can play when it comes to place making Birmingham as a must-visit city.

I decided to jot down and share a few of my ideas.

With dozens of new festivals and events popping up in the UK each year, I feel huge benefits can come from joining hands with other local events and collectively shouting about what our city has to offer. Each city has a very unique identity which isn’t crafted by soulless high street shopping centres, but by the cultural identity and offering of that particular place, made accessible to all through festivals and events.

One point which really hit home for me was the idea of promoting Birmingham as a city, just as much as we promote Swingamajig itself and the value in doing that. When targeting potential ticket buyers from outside Birmingham, we should not be focussing solely on our event but also selling visitors on the different, unique quirks of the host city, by suggesting other things they can do whilst they’re here – encouraging them to make a weekend or mini-break of it. Not only does this make them more likely to attend your event, it also gives a helping hand to other local businesses and events – e.g.: ‘Joining us for Swingamajig 2017? While you’re here, why not nip to Jekyll & Hyde gin parlour for a cocktail or two, or lose yourself in Birmingham’s industrial history with a Peaky Blinders Tour?’

This doesn’t just apply to non-residents – it is also important to share these messages with your local audience too. They may not be aware of all of the exciting cultural goings on in their local area; spreading the word can boost their sense of pride and identity in their home city. In time, these positive messages about Birmingham will spread further within local and national audiences.

When it comes to other local events, there’s much more to be gained by seeing them as partners and allies, rather than competition. Working together to raise the profile of your city and events is a win/win. One quick, easy tool to do this is to decide on a collective strap line about the city which you all agree to use across your marketing and communications. Repeating the same message across multiple sources reinforces positive connotations around your city and the collective consciousness of your local and national audiences.

We all understand the value in engaging with our online audience throughout the year and not only on the run up to an event. A great way to do this while also strengthening the profile of the city and its cultural offering is to cross promote with other events. Let your audience know what else is on offer locally throughout the year; chances are, these events will return the favour when it’s your turn to host an event. The benefits include increasing your audience reach and raising people’s opinions on the location of your event. Celebrating other cultural events shows that you are proud of where your event is and sharing that sense of pride with your audience, welcoming them to embrace it too.

There are huge benefits for both the city and event organisers in celebrating other local events and festivals. As an event organiser, benefits include sharing advice, expertise and support to one another, plus options to cross promote and reach new audiences across the board, not to mention strengthening the bonds with your audience and community as a whole. Opportunities may arise to develop partnerships and/or exciting new collaborations with other events or artists.

Benefits for the city include building a positive and unique reputation and boosting the pride that residents have in where they live. Visitors from further afield will wish to visit more often, driving trade and tourism to the area and boosting the cultural profile nationwide. Like I said, win/win!

The event gave me plenty to think about, and I’m excited to get stuck into implementing many of the initiatives discussed, championing not just Swingamajig but the incredible city of Birmingham that this event calls home.

(Speaking of championing Swingamajig, tickets for the event are available HERE – join us in April for what is truly show like no other!)

Suggested read: Government white paper on culture.

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Why Your Event Needs to Make A Difference

Can you combine hedonism with purpose? Well the way the world seems to be heading at the moment, event organiser’s in my mind, have a civic duty to do so! Festivals are the perfect microcosm to experiment with ideas that encourage better social and environmental interactions, people are more receptive to new ideas, experiences and are in essence totally immersed without the distractions of their everyday lives.

Event organiser’s are in essence the Kings and Queens of their newly created world. The decisions these ‘benevolent dictators’ make can have great impact, not only at their event but also in terms of behaviour change of their attendees. The results and outcomes can be pretty startling! There were some really daring initiatives launched at festivals this summer. From on-site drug testing that prevented serious harm and increased drug awareness, to a festival that banned the sale of meat and fish to highlight the environmental impact of the meat industry on the planet. Other festivals challenged the imbalance of female to male acts on line-ups, by actively booking more female talent.

We should also understand that ethics are also a very high priority when in comes to decision-making choices of ‘millenials’. This is marketing speak for the generation born after 1980 and before the 21st Century. Numerous studies have shown that this age group, dismissed by the mainstream media as lazy, narcissistic and entitled selfie-lovers; are actually highly civic minded. There are many traits and characteristics that unite this significant demographic of our population. They care about the planet; they are more liberal, open-minded and tolerant in attitude to minority groups of all persuasions……..So I would argue, when such a significant number of festival and event audiences see themselves as global citizens, who are outraged by social injustice, and are willing to act to make the world a more equitable and sustainable place, events that don’t lead by a strong sense of ethics may soon become irrelevant to the generation that is just about to inherit the earth.

Sidharth Sharma

Creative Director Kambe Events

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Behind the Scenes with ‘Meat and Fish Free Shambala’ in 2016 – The Story and The Facts.

 

At Shambala, we have always endeavoured to find ways to reduce the environmental impact of our festival. Over our 17 -year history, we’ve ditched disposable plastics, introduced sustainable travel initiatives and become 100% renewably powered, on our quest to combine the best party with an absolute commitment to the future. But in 2016, when it came to the next step, tackling the huge and emotive topic of food was a natural, if controversial, choice.

Consumption of meat is a significant cause of environmental damage; as well as causing land degradation, deforestation and ocean pollution, the meat industry is responsible for more greenhouse emissions than the combined exhaust fumes from all global transportation.  It’s also becoming more widely accepted that it is unhealthy to consume meat in the way we do in wealthy societies.

It would be easy to write a thousand words on the significant and wide- ranging impact of the global livestock industry in particular, with a staggering 70 billion farmed animals, but the information is already out there. Instead, this is an opportunity to share our experience of making a bold decision, and how it worked out.

We were partly inspired by both Fusion and Tollwood Festival in Germany. The former is a 60,000 capacity dance event that has been vegetarian from day one. The latter, with an attendance of 750,000 Bavarian meat-loving daytime visitors over ten days, introduced a vegan market accounting for 50% of their food offering completely on the sly. The audience feedback was positive and the revenue equal in the vegan and meat markets, and the profit margins were typically higher for the vegan market traders. They believe that if they’d have announced it, the vegan market would have been empty.

Shambala on the other hand, chose to go all out on the announcement – that was the point. But we were careful to adhere to the mantra of the ‘positive’ in how we presented the choice. People are coming for an adventure, a release from daily life, and a great deal of behavioural psychology and campaign experience suggests that people respond better to positive messages than climate change doom. So, we set ourselves a challenge: to provide the most eye-popping, mouth-watering, colourful, hearty array of cuisine at Shambala 2016 without a single bit of meat or fish on sale. Not a sausage.

Our audience were free to bring their own meat to site if they wished, but we sold none.

We were genuinely apprehensive about the reaction, and didn’t take the decision lightly. Is it wise to challenge your ticket buyers, 70% of whom are meat eaters?

The percentage of non-meat eaters at Shambala is above the national UK average, and it has been suggested by a few that we have receptive audience to work with on this, being an independent festival with a strong and renowned ethos. But food, as we know, is remarkably emotive, and our audience represent a diverse demographic. We considered it a risk.

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When we announced the decision on social media, the first Facebook post reached around 150,000 people without paid sponsorship, more than the line-up release. Media coverage included Radio 4, the Guardian (with 161,000 online reads), Metro and many other news channels. It was big for a festival of 15,000 capacity  (inc. staff) with a lean marketing budget.

The audience reaction was broadly positive. We’d taken the time to provide comprehensive FAQ’s on the website, partly because we made the decision to actively engage in this debate – this wasn’t a PR stunt – but also out of concern for how to manage a potential avalanche of queries and complaints.

Those who opposed plans were not quiet. Many comments centred on one’s right to choose and our illegitimacy to challenge it. This perhaps speaks to the heart of the issue – consumer society, capitalism, choice, and the fact we are increasingly defined by what and how we consume. We are largely unaware of the extent of the impacts our choices have, especially our diet, and we simply don’t want to think about it.

Some parents freaked out about not being able to keep their kids alive for four days without meat options, but most were reassured that there would be plenty of choice for them when we released the concessions menu’s online.

Vegetarians and vegans were unsurprisingly delighted that they would have more choice. Some meat eaters claimed discrimination. Other ‘lively’ exchanges online centred on myriad pseudo-facts and accusations of vegans eating imported soya and thus wrecking the planet as much as meat eaters – the science says different, but there may be a place for some meat in a sustainable future.

As well as the inevitable slanging matches, there were inspiring, well-informed conversations about the sheer complexity of the issue. We were well researched, but never claimed to have all the answers. And we’ve learnt a great deal ourselves this year.

Ultimately, only two people requested refunds, and we sold out earlier than any previous year in our seventeen-year history.

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Onsite, a few ‘provocations’ were introduced to help create talking points, including an insect café,  the Street Goat Project and the worlds only mobile kipper smoking house. The kippers were bait for an exhibition on sustainable fishing, if such a thing now exists. A new venue and area, the Garden O’ Feeden, was dedicated to talks, workshops and dining experiences with a difference.

Food provenance is increasingly in the public consciousness, and particularly a challenge in such temporary environments as festivals. We go to fairly extreme lengths compared to many festivals to manage what’s onsite, setting high standards for all sourcing, providing vetted wholesalers and auditing concessions.

National research suggests one in ten food products in the UK are fraudulently labelled, and we all remember the horse meat scandals. We feel it’s important to know what we are presenting to our audience, both in terms of ensuring quality and ethics of the supply chain.

In 2016, 99% of dairy onsite was organic, and we commissioned a dedicated batch of organic “Shalloumi” from a welsh producer. We have developed relationships with many local suppliers, and even inspired the set-up of an organic milk bottling plant.

There were other benefits too. Not selling meat made food safety a whole lot simpler, and was largely responsible for reducing food waste onsite by two thirds compared to 2015.

One thing we didn’t anticipate were fire safety concerns regarding the expected increase in the use of gas stoves by campers that couldn’t live without a bacon buttie, but this did not manifest in any incidents. Plenty of campers already cook food.

Drinks are often forgotten. Many ales and ciders contain a fish derivative called Isinglass, used as a refining agent to reduce cloudiness. 99% of beers and ciders at Shambala were vegan, and sourced as locally as possible. We partnered with Purity for our volume lager, winner of Made in the UK Sustainable Manufacturer of the Year 2015, and worked with many other quality local suppliers to minimize ‘drink miles’.

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So what was the feedback? Sixty percent of concessions onsite reported similar or increased takings compared to 2015. A few who already offer vegetarian menu’s suffered from the sudden increase in choices available. Others were new to us. Most understood and supported what we are doing, and although they already adhere to our strict sourcing policies such as fair trade teas and coffee’s, there was concern over the cost of organic dairy in particular. Working with a higher number of smaller wholesalers can challenge the simplicity of supply, but the feedback has been positive, and concessions adapted by tweaking their menu’s and recipe’s in some cases.

It’s fair to say there was just as much skepticism amongst the staff and crew, as among our audience. Some were worried that security staff and site crew would walk offsite in protest or even not sign up to work in advance.

There were a few clandestine trips offsite, and there were occasional choice cuts on the BBQ in the site crew camp. But overall, it was met positively as an opportunity to experiment, albeit with concerns about calories and energy for those with very physical jobs.

We worked to ensure the food was balanced and adequate in protein and carbs, and no-one looked like they were about to collapse at any point. With the money saved on the crew catering budget that would usually be spent on meat (an expensive ingredient in any menu, especially as it had been organic in our crew catering), we were able to jazz up the offering significantly, with green smoothies in the morning, more diverse options, and puddings. This exemplifies the whole approach – strongly present the advantages and not what is perceived to be lost. But of course it must be delivered well, or you lose the argument pretty easily.

The majority of crew have since admitted that it provided an opportunity to try new things, break habits, consider the issues, and some have chosen to be vegetarian or changed their diet. A festival is a perfect place to do this of course, both in terms of having a prolonged captive audience engaged in an experience different from every day life, and the ability to control what food people are provided with.

Another expectation was the likelihood of an informal economy, especially DIY bacon bap operations in campsites. No doubt there was the odd entrepreneur, but it was not a significant issue.

In the audience survey, satisfaction with food quality and choice was overwhelmingly ‘good’ or ‘excellent’, and 77% want us to stay meat and fish free in 2017. That’s great for gauging how we delivered onsite, and for a general sense of how it was received, but the real test is this: Have we actually made a positive difference in the world? The answer is yes – over 50% of meat eaters who took the survey responded that they have ‘changed their diet and reduced their meat intake’ as a result of the festival. We’re very happy with this, but there’s plenty more we can explore on this topic in 2017.

It’s important to note that ‘success’ for us is not persuading people to be vegan per se. Our own staff team is a mixed bag of a vegans, life-long vegetarians and meat eaters who like to think of themselves as ‘responsivores’ (i.e. responsible meat eaters). Success, we all agree, is having this important conversation, and moving us toward the ability to make positive, informed choices about how we impact other people globally today, and in the future.

Why actually go meat and fish free rather than simply ensure ethical procurement and promote the issues, many have asked. We felt that without a bold stance, this kind of conversation can easily disappear into the background. That’s not to say that all the great work festivals are doing on ethical sourcing isn’t valuable enough, rather that if you’re in the business of positive behaviour change, you need to engage people effectively, rather than slightly alter the choices available.

Tickets for Shambala launched in October and in the first 48 hours we were 50% up on 2016 two-week sales figures, shifting 30% of tickets. So at the very least going meat and fish free has not negatively affected sales. Perhaps it has contributed to increased sales, but we cannot say this with confidence – whilst ethics is at the core of what we do, it’s the party with the ethics that sells the show.

What’s new in 2017? We will continue to provoke and delight on the food front. There’s talk of road kill cuisine, butchery workshops and behind the scenes we are looking particularly at food miles, and strengthening local supply chains. Beyond food, we’re working with festival campaign and charity Energy Revolution to balance travel miles with audience and suppliers, and creatively, it’s all under wraps for a little while yet.

In the words of our friend Ed Gillespie, “We are all environmental activists, three times a day, every mouthful we take shapes the world. We either eat for a future, or we eat the future.”

Read the Shambala FAQ’s http://www.shambalafestival.org/meat-and-fish-free-for-2016/

Check out Energy Revolution at http://www.energy-revolution.org.uk

Read the Guardian article at https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2016/aug/04/shambala-festival-goes-meat–and-fish-free-in-bid-to-provoke-environment-debate

Ed Gillespie TEDx talk – https://youtu.be/ZJeI2VIEDY8


Article by Chris Johnson

 

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Roaring Response to Reggae City 2015

One of Kambe’s newest and most exciting projects based in the city of our roots – Birmingham.

The event has been running for several years and although we were involved from the start, we have only just take(n)-over the dance fully! For Kambe the core aim is to support and nurture the talented community of musicians in the West Midlands, involved in Reggae influenced music styles. For 2015, we were aiming to drive up audience numbers and enhance the profile of the event and Birmingham as the Reggae City.

It’s safe to say that we achieved these aims with this years Reggae City attracting nearly 1000 people, to absorb the amazing vibes and dance till dawn! The event took place on Saturday 10th October using the popular venue Alfie Birds and the Oobleck venues at the Custard Factory. As well as music, Kambe was looking for Reggae City to deliver a rich and diverse event experience with much more; a carnival atmosphere, festival inspired decor, ital food (with vegan options) and even dominoes!

The line-up was predomiantly made up of local artists with a smattering of special guests from around the UK. A true showcase of raw emerging talent and well-established artists from the worlds of  Reggae, Dub, Jungle, Dubstep, Dancehall and more. Local legend Macka B headlined the main stage with his Roots Ragga band, putting on an amazing high energy show packed with positive messages.  World renowned junglist DJ and producer Aries, alongside MC David Boomah, took the event to a fitting crescendo and close, with a killer final stage set.

RC 2015 poster

“Pluming smoke in the courtyard, red stripe, jerk chicken, dreadlocks, hundreds of people and good vibes between them all – the aesthetic is perfect. I begin exploring by following muffled bass-throbs into the Oobleck. I throw myself into the depths people skanking insync to the 2-tone ska Birmingham group The Equators.” Voo Doo Jukebox Review

The Attic Jungle space hosted by the Creative Hertz Sound System (local custom built system) saw DJ’s and sounds from Birmingham and further afield, such as Sticky Joe, Jam Jah Sound and more. This space really offered an alternative experience to the live stage, with the impact of the huge sound system and the jungle themed décor, meaning that this space was heavily populated throughout.

Christine (Project Co-ordinator) was passionate about including as much of the community as possible, “This year we invited all the previous artists who have performed at Reggae City from years past to attend for free, alongside Reggae promoters and industry members. This was in a bid to develop the reggae network within Birmingham to support each other and let the scene thrive. The Reggae scene is an important asset to Birmingham for so many people and it’s because of events like Reggae City that we can all get together and celebrate this”.

It certainly feels like Reggae City 2015 has lit the torch paper for future years, with many people attending and finally taking notice of this event. The tremendously positive feedback has left us motivated to improve and develop the event in 2016 and beyond“, said Jon Walsh (Kambe, Director).

Reggae City has now been accepted on the city’s Festival Calendar, which is a great sign of wider support, beneficial to the events creditability and shows the city council is behind an event that should be part of its cultural offering.

I’m always astounded at the unconditional acceptance given in reggae circles here in Brum. Events are culturally diverse and unifying and Reggae City 2015 is a strong example of this. I feel at home here and it’s not just a gig, it’s a celebration of reggae-influenced music across the board from local groups, household names and out-of-town artists. It’s an authentic glimpse into the scene and reminds me that Birmingham is, and always should be, a Reggae city“, Voo Doo Jukebox Review.

For photos, more info and upto date news see the website: www.reggaecity.co.uk

Sign up to the mail list … link us on Facebook… or twit us @Reggaecity!

 

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Dan Raffety: A Visit to Bhutan International Festival

Back in February, I was invited to Bhutan to attend and help out with the inaugural Bhutan International Festival (BHIF).  It was an amazing experience in one of the most incredible countries that I have ever visited.

Even on the airplane from Delhi, I knew that this was going to be a particularly special adventure. We gorged on the staggering views of the Himalaya from the airplane as the crystal clear dawn was rising. The decent into Paro airport was equally breath-taking.  Only a handful of pilots in the world are qualified to navigate through the steep valleys of Bhutan. With the plane banking severely one way and then suddenly another, our view of Bhutan before even landing was exciting to say the least! Upon landing, everyone disembarked and exploded with delight. The sight of a hundred people on the runway hugging and high-fiving with huge grins, surrounded by the beautiful backdrop of giant snow-capped peaks, is something that will stay with me forever.

Bhutan is a remote, landlocked, Buddhist country nestled between the giants of China and India.  For decades it took a path of isolation, preferring to preserve its traditional way of life untainted by the relentless march or globalisation and modernity.  The king and government realised that it was untenable to continue this way and Bhutan has slowly been opening itself up to the wider world, but it has been trying to do so in a manner that keeps its traditions intact and central to the culture of the country.

The internet and television was introduced to Bhutan in 1999.  Now, an entire generation has grown up with almost unfettered access to the wider world, including the world of music and the arts.  There are new and bold ambitions amongst the people of Bhutan, especially the youth, but very few outlets, places or events through which they can express themselves and develop their skills.  BHIF is an ambitious project to build a platform on which all of this can happen.

The Bhutan International Festival is a celebration of photography, film, visuals arts, music and dance.  It presents many Bhutanese artists as well as inviting world class international photographers, film makers and musicians to perform their work and to collaborate.  Over the course of 10 days, Thimphu, the capital city, was filled with events including an international film festival, two outdoor music stages, photography and visual arts exhibitions, workshops, seminars, a food festival, TEDx talks and dance classes.  Thimphu was abuzz with creativity and a hive of cultural exchange.

The event was a massive success!  All of the artists were welcomed by excellent audiences and everyone considers the event to have huge social and cultural value.  The event was produced on a complete shoe string budget and was a massive learning experience for all involved- looking back; it was a minor miracle that it happened at all!  I helped out where I could by offering advice and filling in gaps within the skeletal production team, but the main reason why I was invited was to look towards the future and the development of the festival. And what an exciting future it has!

Since the Festival took place, we have been discussing many things including ways to make it properly financially viable, ways to build a more permanent and year round relationship with the country and its artistic community, ways to bring the diverse Bhutanese arts to the wider world and ways to facilitate knowledge transfer in performance, arts and event production.  A central aim is perhaps emerging: to get to a stage where this kind of event could be created and delivered with no external assistance at all- a truly Bhutanese event from conception to production based on their profound values of humility, empathy and sustainability that we can, and should, all learn from.

I very much hope that myself and Kambe can be a part of the future of this incredible project!

A few highlights:

  • Kutle Khan– A mesmerising performer from Rajasthan
  • Lucky Ali– A Bollywood musical legend
  • Dizraeli, Bellatrix and MC Xander– three incredible artists who collaborated with everyone at any opportunity!
  • Jade Shaw and her incredible Dance workshops and performances
  • An inspiring TEDx series of talks on the theme of Happiness
  • The inspiring people of Bhutan!

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Swingamajig

Christine gets into the Swing-amajig of things…

Four months have now passed since beginning my internship with Kambe Events. Already I feel I have learnt so much and taken lots on board, aiding my development within the company.

I cannot believe how quickly the time has gone. While still trialing certain practices to see what works best, I am beginning to take the initiative and lead on certain tasks comfortably. It has been really helpful to work alongside people with years of experience, who I can watch at work and see how a multitude of situations are dealt with.

At the beginning of May, we produced the latest Swingamajig Festival at the Custard Factory, in Birmingham. A one day festival based on all things vintage and electro swing, but involving a lot more!

This was the first big event I have worked on with Kambe, since my internship began. Being heavily involved in many aspects of the organisation and development of Swingamajig has been so rewarding, as was seeing it all come together on the day! I worked on tasks as wide ranging as infrastructure procurement, trader election and processing and performance curation. It has shown me how many factors need to be thought about and ideas played around with when confirming bookings, to work best for the event.

I took on the role to organise and book all the non-musical entertainment across site. This included programming a cabaret show with entertainment such as burlesque, magicians, circus acts and more. I programmed podium performers to accompany DJ’s, aerial performances to happen between each act on the main stage, plus walkabout and outdoor entertainment such as fire dancers and angle grinder displays. On the day, in addition to overseeing all non-music entertainment across Swingamajig, my role included stage managing the cabaret show. This was the first time I have stage managed and feel proud of myself for the achievement, yet in reflection there is so much that I have learnt from this experience and would do some things differently next time.

I was also inspired by Livvy, Kambe’s sustainability officer, said “Being green is important to us and following our Green Action Plan, we really got into the swing (couldn’t resist the pun) of implementing a number of measures to reduce, reuse and then recycle our waste this year; we introduced a reusable cup scheme [after paying a £1 levy customers got a colourful fresh glass every time they got a drink, instead of using disposable plastic cups], a recycling system for all the venues and traders. We also planned our infrastructure and signage so it can be reused next year. The benefit for guests was a visibly cleaner festival site and dancefloor- after all who wants to swing or lindy-hop on a floor littered with rubbish!”

All in all the day was a huge success, with 3000+ dapper revellers enjoying a jam-packed line-up of live bands and DJ’s set across 6 stage’s plus a cabaret show, a food court with an array of delicious street food vendors and so much more. Lots of positive feedback is coming in from both attendees and event workers. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and felt a real sense of achievement following the event. This has just made me more excited for what is yet to come!