In 2020, the 57 year old Towersey Festival raised over £46,000 to keep itself afloat while maintaining audience engagement and income for artists. Now it’s planning how best to tackle the unknowns of 2021.
Back in March 2020, when the world got flipped on its axis, Towersey Festival was one of the very first events to cancel its live festival and move online for the year.
“We felt we had to be proactive and take our audience with us on a digital journey through the year,” said festival director Joe Heap. “It was vital for us, for our audience and for the artists to have something to hold on to and to keep the unique Towersey spirit alive.”
It wasn’t long before many others followed suit of course. Without any income for the foreseeable future, Towersey took the plunge and began a very active Crowdfunder campaign based around real rewards for exclusive festival goodies and access packages.
Their audience embraced it and were rewarded with a year-round programme of online activity that featured ‘at-home’ festival weekends including over 24 interactive workshops, three kitchen Ceilidhs (barn dances) and 15 gigs, with over 40 artists taking part.
Towersey Festival’s online programme has now had over 10,000 streams and all the content is still available to enjoy for free from the festival website. The Crowdfunder has had over 1,000 supporters and raised £46,000, enough money to keep the festival alive and pay artists and freelancers for their work.
“I want to thank our incredible audience, amazing artists and contributors and our team who supported and led this huge effort,” says Joe. “Towersey has always been ground-breaking in the way we approach our event, and this move to creative digital events has been no different.”
A ‘pint sized’ Towersey
The festival is now focusing on what the future might look like. Unlike many bigger events, the Towersey approach is “cautiously optimistic” according to Joe. Plans are in place for a smaller scale “pint sized” Towersey which it is hoped can go ahead, although much will depend on the success of the government’s Covid roadmap.
“We are planning for a number of different scenarios for the 2021 festival depending on how the year pans out and we have some really robust socially distanced, reduced capacity plans in place if needed. Our smaller event is based on rules as they stand now with social distancing measures but hopefully this can be relaxed in the months to come. We also plan to stream from the mainstage so those at home can watch.”
Fallback plans include another completely digital event with some large scale streaming as well as lots of workshops and interactive content.
“There’s still so much up in the air for larger scale events but we feel like we have all bases covered.”
The festival has been lucky enough to have recently received funding via the government’s Culture Recovery Fund. “This vital support will mean we are here for our audiences, community and artists as soon as it is safe to return and be #HereForCulture,” says Joe.
“Thank you to Arts Council England and to the government for recognising the importance of our great festival and so many other vital cultural organisations who have been unable to operate for 13 months now. Thanks also to all of our wonderful customers and team for their continued support through 2020 and into 2021. We are not out of the woods yet, but we are certainly in a better place than we were.”
ABOUT TOWERSEY FESTIVAL
Towersey Festival is a 57 year old event celebrating everything a family festival should be. Now in the hands of third generation family member Joe Heap, Towersey has grown from a few music fans in his grandad’s back garden to an 8,000 attendee event now held at the Claydon Estate, Buckinghamshire, over the August bank holiday weekend.