The last 6-months has been such a strange and challenging time for everyone, and we wanted to say a heartfelt thanks for your ongoing support, it really does mean a lot to us.
It goes without saying that we have hugely missed seeing you all this summer. We had an unprecedented number of volunteers apply at the start of the year. This included lots of new people all of which we hoped to be welcoming for the first time this summer. Needless to say, the welcome party is currently on hold and will be resumed in due course.
Normally at this point in the season we’d be talking about our festivals in numbers, how many shows we did, how many volunteers there were, and the money we collectively raised. Despite the pandemic, there’s some really positive things that have happened over the last few months.
The boredom of lockdown was eased by #ThrowbackThursday, a place where we could share festival memories and stories from years gone by. Meanwhile, the community spirit in the Facebook Chat has remained stronger than ever. It has been truly inspirational to see the love and support from those sharing experiences, thoughts and ideas or giving a virtual hug at those times when it’s been needed most.
Back in late April our very own Natalie Heath smashed the Cycle for Change by riding her bike over 500k in support of Oxfam’s coronavirus response appeal. She raised an impressive £3,150 through her challenge, so a huge thanks to everyone who supported Nat.
Meanwhile, the transition from live to virtual events has brought with it lots of interesting ideas. It was good to celebrate the festival weekends from home, starting with Isle of Wight and Download. However, as the season wore on, screen fatigue set-in for some, whilst others fully embraced everything there was to offer with watch parties, erecting their own pyramid stage along with other festival-related DIY structures in their back gardens.
Hope Shines Brightest In The Dark
By the time we got to Glastonbury weekend, things got very interesting particularly with festival-related Lego construction, all of which brought a smile to our faces. Not to mention that infamous re-enactment of the 8am Wednesday morning gate opening tradition on a beautiful allotment somewhere in Weston.
The BBC Glastonbury Experience was a true broadcast bonanza of what would have been Glastonbury’s 50 anniversary weekend. It allowed viewers to dip into the archives with all kinds of highlights, documentary films and interview content, much of which had never before been seen on UK television.
Meanwhile, Oxfam joined in the anniversary celebrations by encouraging revellers to dress up at home with a collection of selected items inspired by the wonderful Shangri-la, The Glade and Park Stage. There was also a record shop featuring vinyl from headliners, not to mention our Unwrapped e-cards, all of which were available from Oxfam’s online shop in the lead-up to the weekend.
Another positive thing to come out of the pandemic was the ethically-sourced merchandise collaboration with Glastonbury Festival, and our Joint Charities partners Oxfam, Greenpeace and Wateraid.
Working with the artist Stanley Donwood, and Paul McCartney we produced a range of Glastonbury-inspired T-Shirts, posters, tote bags and tea-towels to help raise funds for our work and close the significant gap in funding as a result of COVID-19.
The entire range pretty much sold out within weeks providing vital funds that allowed our work to continue.
We are eternally grateful to Glastonbury Festival for giving us the opportunity to be involved in such a fantastic project despite the postponement of this year’s event. There are very limited numbers of several items left which can be bought at the Glastonbury Festival Shop.
Strength in numbers
It was most encouraging to see the various industry associations and festival partners unite together behind campaigns such as #LetTheMusicPlay and the #WeMakeEvents, which immediately worked to make the Government sit up and take notice.
The Association of Independent Festivals have been working tirelessly to lobby government, whilst advising on all manner of critical issues to help strengthen and empower its 80+ member festivals throughout the pandemic. It is these movements and organisations that speak out on behalf of our industry that is critical to its survival, not to mention the entire live event ecosystem.
The show must go on …
Our challenge events have also been impacted by the pandemic, with London Marathon being held virtually in October this year. Meanwhile, our very own annual trek across the South Downs with the Queens Gurkha Signals becomes Trailwalker Relay and will take place over a one-week period 21-27 September.
All participants have the opportunity to take part independently or in teams to tackle pre-selected distances and routes in their local area. In keeping with the theme of change, we have even decided to go eco with our medals for this year’s event.
I’m pleased to say that the Festival & Events team are getting involved with Beki, Hermione, Andreea and Zara clocking up a collective 100km by making their way through nine checkpoints in Oxfordshire.
One of the team has even broken a five-year Facebook silence with a post about Trailwalker Relay to help support her fundraising goals! There’s also lots of Oxfam festival volunteers that have signed-up to the challenge – best wishes and good luck to all those taking part.
Please do support the Oxfam Festivals & Events team by visiting their JustGiving page.
Last month we hosted our first ever (V)OXJAM Summer Festival, which used the latest virtual reality technology to provide an immersive digital experience for grassroots artists to raise money for Oxfam.
With over 40 artists and bands taking part, this musical extravaganza included local choirs and instrumental ensembles and acts from as far away as Hong Kong and Mexico.
Organised by volunteers at Oxjam Beeston the project was supported by experts from the University of Nottingham’s Mixed Reality Lab and Horizon Digital Economy Institute. We were even lucky enough to receive a message of support from a certain time-travelling doctor …
Please do hold the date for (V)OXJAM Autumn Festival, which will be held on Sat 28 Nov with all proceeds going towards Oxfam’s Christmas Appeal. More details on this to follow shortly.
Still challenging fast fashion
Second Hand September is back this year and Michaela Coel the BAFTA award-winning actor, director, screenwriter, producer, playwright and poet is joining us to champion this year’s campaign. Michaela Coel can be seen below sporting second hand clothes. You can shop the full collection at the Selfridges pop-up shop on Oxford Street, London. All items have been sourced from our Oxfam Festival Shop at Wastesaver, and was curated by Oxfam’s Senior Independent Fashion Advisor Bay Garnett.
The shop is open for four weeks until 4th October and includes a wide variety of items from high-end designer to vintage band t-shirts, with all the proceeds going towards Oxfam’s mission to beat poverty around the world.
Own very own Zara Canfield wrote a blog about how she went one year without buying new clothes. So if you haven’t seen this yet, make sure you read it and hopefully feel inspired to shop second hand too!
Looking to the future
With much uncertainty and challenges still to face it was comforting to hear about Festival Republic’s Full Capacity Plan. Meanwhile, Glastonbury and Festival Republic have been in conversation about collaborating on a scheme that would allow ticket-holders on site after they’ve proved that they are virus-free.
The concept for the scheme involves using an NHS-linked tracing app that ticket-holders would show at an additional security gate before entering the festival. More recent developments from Festival Republic on Reading and Leeds 2021 suggests that everyone will be tested for coronavirus at next year’s festival. What is becoming clear is that as our understanding of coronavirus develops, so too does the technology which will all help to overcome this pandemic.
As I write this Matt, Nat & Sam who deliver our on-site operations are currently furloughed, but are very much looking forward to returning in November when we start to plan for the season. Paul, Zara and myself with the events team (Beki, Hermione & Andreea) are still in the office and planning for next year.
Thanks once again for sticking with us! You are the essential bedrock of everything we do, and we are incredibly grateful for your ongoing support. Please stay safe and positive!
Mike Green – Head of Festivals & Events, OXFAM