Raising the Bar

Put people and planet over profit in your bar offering, says Kambe Events’ Kate Burgess.

Freedom Friday at Shambala festival

Kambe Events’ flagship festival Shambala holds many accolades for its innovations around sustainability. Shambala was the first festival to be awarded a 5 star rating from the European Creative Green awards (and is currently the only festival to have ever achieved this). To get to the point where our experiments in producing genuinely sustainable events have been internationally recognised has required a systems thinking approach.

Looking at Shambala as its own ecosystem means considering how all aspects of event production have an impact. From energy, to waste management, artist transport, plastics and food, there is no aspect of event planning that shouldn’t come under scrutiny when aspiring for top quality and sustainable event delivery.

Food and drink is a huge area to think about when trying to reduce impact and strive for greener events. There’s a whole host of niggly, complicated things to unpack around how your audience and crew will sustain themselves over a show; supply chains, provenience, ethics and carbon impact all create a matrix of obstacles for a truly stand-out offering from food traders and at your bars.

Often, event to event, there is little to distinguish bar offerings. As we see with pubs around the country, which are increasingly coming under umbrella chains, there are brands that have a monopoly on the keg line. In event settings, how often do you get up to the bar and have to fork out upwards of a fiver for a tin of weak, mass produced lager? Choosing familiar brands, and opting for big drink sponsorship, is no doubt a seductive and more ‘common-sense’ approach to maximising bar turnover, but it also limits your control over the environmental impact of your drinks provision and also the creativity of this offering.

Shambala Festival bar maid

As Shambala is resolutely free of corporate influence (it’s one of our core principles), making a wholesale deal with big drink brands was off the cards. This got us thinking about how we could present a high quality, reasonably priced drinks menu that represented what we are about.

Our long lasting relationship with bar services provider Refresh West has been instrumental in curating and developing our bar offerings so they represent Shambala’s values. Refresh West has been responsible for all things booze at Shambala for 15 years now. The relationship has been mutually inspirational, where quality, sustainability and sourcing commitments on both sides have enabled us to do some pioneering stuff in partnership.

Bars… but without the plastic
Perhaps flying under the radar compared to our recycling exchange venue, heaps of waste sorting bins around site, a meat and fish free menu and compost loos, our bars nevertheless needed to proudly represent our commitment to the planet.

With Refresh West we pioneered the reusable bar cup scheme five years ago, which has now been adopted by hundreds of events and venues across the country. Through monitoring this scheme, we have been able to contribute findings to RAW Foundation’s Plastic Free guides. The Plastic-Free Festivals: Action Pack is an invaluable resource rolled out to Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) members as part of the Drastic on Plastic campaign in 2018. Using case studies, the resource empowers other events to take action against the plastic waste rife in bars.

More impressively, we have also had zero single use plastics across all our bars for several years now – no mean feat – but it isn’t just about plastic straws. This is achieved in part by using ‘Think Drinks’ soft dispense on all our in-house bars, and supplying canned soft drinks to venue bars to avoid single use plastic bottles.

Your menu matters
Sticking to your principles doesn’t come cheap, and choosing to use the products, suppliers and systems outlined below does mean putting our values before profit – but we feel it’s 100 per cent worth it to be able to serve up an amazing array of local, ethical and delicious independent drinks, and stick two fingers up to corporate flat lager.

Friends drinking together at Shambala festival 2019

By saying no to big brands, we have been able to support smaller, ethical companies who are doing things right. Brokering relationships with suppliers and breweries, like Freedom Brewery, Toast Ale and Borough Wines Imports, means that we can have more control and better understanding of the impact our tipple has way back in the supply chain, so we can ‘cheers’ in good conscience.

Considering the mileage it takes to get your chosen products to your event is an essential aspect to providing a planet friendly bar offering. Research breweries operating close to your event site or venue. The majority of beer stocked at Shambala comes from Purity Brewing. Purity is not only one the most sustainable breweries in the UK, it’s also based only 55 miles from Shambala’s site – meaning travel miles are significantly reduced.

Keeping your suppliers’ radius to 100 miles will have a marked impact on reducing the carbon emissions of your beer run. It’s worth studying a map and seeing where there’s overlap in your stockists. Can they travel to you together? At Shambala our main beer and lager suppliers Purity and Freedom are within 15 miles of each other. To save mileage and carbon emissions our Freedom lagers are delivered to site on the same wagons as our Purity stock (alongside our ciders).

Let the booze do the talking
By offering top quality drinks that proudly invest in sustainable practices at reasonable prices, you are telling your audience that you’re about people and planet over profit. For us at Kambe, it is essential that this commitment to our audience and to the Earth runs at every level.

Your choice in suppliers is another chance to tell this story. Providing all cider at Shambala, The Cider Box and Hogan’s Cider both do incredible charity work that we wanted to support. The Cider Box is Shambala’s main cider supplier and it offsets its transport by volunteering at The Orchard Projects that connects communities through planting apple trees and restoring ancient orchards. Hogan’s Cider does work supporting charities both in the UK and Nepal. Toast Ale makes its ales from waste bread, which has avoided 32.1 tonnes of CO2 emissions by not having to grow the barley and by diverting waste bread from landfill. It also donates 100 per cent of profits to charity. Through our bar offering, we keep good company.

So, your bars can say a lot. Thinking about what’s coming through the taps, how it’s got there and how you serve it, is another way to ensure you are presenting considered, conscious and creative events.

Crowd at the Guerrilla Circus at Shambala Festival

About the Author

Kate Burgess works as marketing assistant for Kambe Events, covering its events Shambala Festival and Starry Skies Camp. She joined the team in 2018 and runs Shambala’s Adventures In Utopia blog. Headed for a part-time Masters degree in cultural theory, Kate, like Kambe, is passionate about where culture, creativity and community can intersect to bring about more ecological, sustainable futures. www.kambe-events.co.uk

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