Last weekend’s heavy rain didn’t just cause problems for the Isle Of Wight Pop Festival. Outdoor events all over Britain had to grapple with the elements but in Somerset, one group of organisers found a novel way to rise to that challenge.
“This is the second time we’ve had to deal a deluge” said Katherine Ritchie, a team leader at the Sunrise Festival. “In 2008, it shut us down. We got the worst rain recorded in 50 years. But since then, we’ve learned a few lessons. Now, we’ve moved to a farm with better drainage and laid down trackway to keep our site accessible. We still had mud this year but we also had a great festival full of fun and music.”
The organisers of Sunrise claim that, despite the weather, their festival, this year was declared ‘the best ever’ by thousands of happy visitors. According to Katherine they are particularly proud that parts of the festival were still accessible to many attendees with mobility problems. But next year, she says ‘We want to do much better.” Katherine explains ‘It’s a real challenge to provide equal access in a muddy field but we’re determined to start working towards this. Eveyone, regardless of their physical health, should be able to come an event like ours, let their hair down and have fun.”
With this in mind, the organisers last year approached the Natural Communities Foundation, a registered charity set up to help people foster the friendly festival spirit in the wider world, and are now supporting the foundation in the launch of a new Grow Your Own Festival Initiative.
The charity are launching the campaign with the first of their creative fundraising ideas- The Sunrise Seed Campaign, where for a donation of £10 or more everyone will have the chance to bring home a little bit of the festival. A souvenir sample of the mud churned up by all those feet will be posted to each donor along with a sunflower seed to plant in it. Then all that has to be done is tend it, water it, place it in the sun and watch the seed turn into the flower that puts a smile on everyone’s face, the sunflower.
“We want to be able to make 2013 as accessible to everyone as possible, whatever the weather. For us it’s everyone that comes to the event that makes Sunrise what it is and this campaign is to let the community have a part in growing it from a seed into a beautiful flower”.
When small festivals are hit with rain like last weekend it forces large costs upon them in terms of all the extra facilities needed to cope with the mud. From hay and woodchip, to extra vehicles to help with towing. Unlike the large festivals who own a lot of their own infrastructure and services these costs really can cripple small events run on tight budgets.
Yet Sunrise 2012 has been hailed by many as the best Sunrise yet. Despite the mud and rain that great British spirit shone through, kept faces smiling and spirits high. The music venues were packed, while people danced the rainy nights away under canvas-covered havens of delight. The talks and workshop spaces were full to the brim as audiences listened and learned from some of the world’s leading authorities on alternative thought and culture.
“Festivals are an important part of our culture here in Britain and especially the small ones, which have chosen to be that size as they don’t want large amounts of sponsorship money backing them and turning them into clones of each other, the way many of the big ones have gone. These events, including Sunrise, are fiercely independent and have unique spirits that give people the opportunity to step out of their ordinary lives and into a magically world for four days, where anything can happen. It’s important to keep this part of our heritage alive as they keep our sense of community and free spirit alive”.
“The idea is to take the mud that we walked in during this year’s event and help turn it into infrastructure so that more people can enjoy next year’s festival, whatever the weather.” Says Katherine. “The idea to do this through growing that time honoured symbol of the sun, the sunflower, came to us when the rain finally stopped and the sun came out on the Sunday of the festival”
To take an active part in creating Sunrise 2013 and helping independent festivals stay independent visit the Natural Communities website and follow the link to the online donation button. Each donor will then be posted a gift of some Sunrise mud, a sunflower seed and hopefully into their lives will then come a little bit of sunshine.