Founded to bring tourism back to Llandudno, this May Bank Holiday event now attracts over 500,000 people to the town.
Designed to celebrate the ‘lavish Victorian splendour’ of Llandudno, the Victorian Extravaganza is a huge undertaking, managed entirely by local volunteers. Open Air Business talks to the event’s committee chairman, Kevin Chin.
Describe your event and how many people it attracts?
The Llandudno Victorian Extravaganza (LVE) is a free street event attracting around 500,000 people over the May Bank Holiday. It provides entertainment, music and variety among about 20 vintage steam attractions and steam organs. A community music stage involves local talent and local charities, and organisations join us in the 1pm daily parade alongside multiple marching bands. This provides the core of our event supplemented with a mixture of traditional and modern funfair.
What is the event’s history and how was it conceived?
The 30th LVE this year was a great event and testament to years of hard work by all involved. Conceived by town councillors and local business people, Margaret Lyons, John Boyle and Ian Turner in particular, the event was devised as a solution to secure the long term future of the town’s ailing tourist industry.
To maximise the benefit to local commerce, the event was to be staged on the town centre streets, a format conceived at Fleetwood. To take full advantage of the opportunity, the May Day Bank Holiday was chosen as the date and a lavish display of traditional entertainment, to complement Llandudno’s outstanding Victorian splendour, was to be the method. It included street theatre, maypole dancing, carriage rides, teddy bears picnic in Happy Valley, a sandcastle competition, a visit from ‘Queen Victoria,’ a parade of Victorians, a window dressing competition and the Grand Victorian Ball.
Receiving substantial council grants for the time, and working closely with the voluntary sector, the Extravaganza was so successful that councillors decided that the event should not be run by the officers. Responsibility for the staging of the event passed to the Volunteer Committee that formed Llandudno Victorian Extravaganza Ltd, which has continued to organise the show.
As council backing diminished, the committee sought other ways of raising the finances to stage the free admission show. This took the form of a sister event on Bodafon Fields for which a gate fee could be charged to support the free show in the town. The scale of this overall event proved too much to organise by volunteers alone, and the field event was developed by local transport enthusiasts as the Llandudno Transport Festival.
This sister event now has more than 1,000 exhibits featuring buses, cars, commercial vehicles, motorcycles, tractors, tradestands, autojumble stalls and vehicle parades. A shuttle bus runs throughout the weekend, linking the two events in a circular route between the festival showground on Bodafon Fields to the Extravaganza in the town centre.
How did you apply for permission to run the event?
The event already had town council approval but had to follow the formalities of speaking to Highways, taking its advice and applying officially. This developed to require a traffic management plan and extra health and safety measures to ensure access for emergency services, which involved added costs.
How have you planned the layout of the event and what structures do you use?
As with any townscape, every year something has changed and short term obstacles exist as work and repairs take place, so each year the space and fit must be planned and adjusted sometimes up to the wire! We find that all the computer models you can use still need a man on the street with his tape measure!
How did you research and source your marquees, stage, bars etc?
We use a traditional stage powered by a vintage steam exhibit and no marquees. Any new items need to look the part and add value.
What entertainment do you offer?
We offer free entertainment provided by marching bands (and concerts), street entertainers, jugglers and variety acts. Added to this is a whole stage of community acts and musicians from modern compositions to local choirs and dance groups. We tease out the best from our locals alongside some longer standing acts such as the George Formby Society, which entertains on its own stage throughout the weekend.
What provisions do you make for power, lights and sound?
Our three main stages are self contained and amplification is suited to the acts with a more modern and powerful set up on our community stage. Sound monitoring is part of our daily routine to keep both entertainers and the funfair in safe hearing limits for everyone.
How do you manage admissions and visitor safety?
We manage the town centre with marshals and barriers but with a free to enter policy – we don’t have entry issues. A local security team assists with access for emergency vehicles and St. Johns provides a great team of first aider, ambulance and paramedic cover.
We attract over 500,000 people in the course of the 3-4 day weekend. Many come and stay at the large number of hotels and guest houses in the area and use their parking facilities. Others are day trippers and use the street parking, or attend the Llandudno Transport Festival, which runs concurrently and offers its own dedicated parking, before joining us for the main Mostyn Street event too.
How do you publicise the event?
We have a high number of regular attendees and hope to gain publicity in line with coach firms providing trips to our event from all over the country. We are pleased to have even featured on a weather forecast live TV slot.
What challenges have you faced?
Financial stress is the main one. Being run by volunteers and self funding we have struggled without a full time fund raiser to gain grants, and our small Town and County council support doesn’t even cover providing barriers or emptying the bins. The next stress is finding enough volunteers to keep the event running. Role up any new helpers please!
What are your plans for next year?
We are set to roll the sleeves up and get 2017 organised after the August summer break and are looking to add zing to the entertainment schedule and involve our local community as much as possible.
What advice could you give to someone coming into the outdoor event industry?
Strategies and planning don’t add up to real life experience or demonstrate what can go wrong; my best advice is to become a volunteer first and get inside the action and get a taste of different sorts of events. Location and the plot the event takes place on have the biggest influence, and the real unknown is the weather!
Mad Sound and Lighting 01407 831001 / www.mad-sl.co.uk
Maxplant Hire & Sales (Llandudno) 01492 585178
Sound and Stage
Mad Sound and Lighting 01407 831001 / www.mad-sl.co.uk
Dragon Events Sound & Lighting (Llandudno) 07775 371399
Conwy County Council Street Works www.conwy.gov.uk/streetworks
Kevin Chin Services 07401 010122
HTC Entertainment & Events 0845 838 1395 / www.htcevents.co.uk
Footman James 0333 207 6120 / www.footmanjames.co.uk
29 April – 1 May 2017
Llandudno, Conwy, LL30 1AB