The lovely @rasga has got me thinking. He mentioned on twitter yesterday that he felt “Birmingham needed to shout more” about live events, great restaurants and bars. Here’s some stuff that’s tumbling about in my head because he said that.
It all started with comments on Artsfest, that sometimes wonderful, sometimes awful, free arts festival happening this weekend. Neil has wandered the city streets and not seen posters, not felt a buzz about it. I’ve seen a couple of posters on the route I walk from New Street Station to Lancaster Circus, but there could be other, more interesting, buzz generating ways to advertise it. For what it’s worth I’d stick a little round blob in the middle of the concourse at New Street station and pop a musician on it wearing a large The End Is Nigh sign saying “ArtsFest this weekend”. Do that for the rest of the week and a few thousand people would know it’s happening and they’d probably mention it to people they work with.
I’m also not sure “shouting” about stuff is a good solution. I don’t listen to the shouty Christians on New Street preaching about Jesus saving me/you. I was a shouty Christian, once when I was seven and didn’t know about effective communication, I thought I could change the world by shouting at my friends about Jesus. It didn’t work. Surprising that. I find human statues in the street annoying, I’m not a fan of the floral trail (spitfire aside) and I’m not sure how else I’d get my message out about ArtsFest. There’s the usual “become part of the conversation”, set up a blog, set up a twitter/facebook account as ways of providing spaces for those conversations to happen. I may not listen to a shouty Christian but I do listen to the wise Christian’s I’m friends with at Greenbelt, they drop me an email saying “You need to listen to this album, it’s you” and away I go. I guess I’m advocating something we all know, we trust friends opinion and are wary of shouty billboards.
Much is made by ArtsFest about being the Biggest Free Arts Festival blah blah. Which is great. But it’s confusing, flabby and patchy in quality. (I volunteered for artsfest for a couple of years and then vowed “Never Again”) I venue managed the custard factory stage- Hip Hop on day 1 (loud and not really my thing), ambient folky pop on day 2 (much more my thing and delightful). I think routes through the festival would be useful:
1) Never been to Artsfest before? Five mixed performances across the city centre showcasing the best of Birmingham locations and established groups.
2) Live or work in Brum? Five venues you might not have been to before showcasing bands/performers you may not know yet.
3) At ArtsFest with your family? Five events that the whole family can enjoy together without having to hurt your feet or drag your kids across the city.
4) Take a walk on the wild side! Four performances that will blow your mind, strip the paint on the walls and blow the doors off the venue. (How many people would go along to the stuff you’d pick for that? I know I’d give them a whirl but I’d want something REALLY wild. Plus I’d let Fierce curate that, I’d happily give part of my artsfest weekend to their control)
Give people a narrative to hang their experience on (there I go again, stories) and it helps sort the woods from the trees. There’s enough flexibility to allow for serendipity but structure to make sure that the stuff you want to see doesn’t get missed. Lay a few crumbs through the programme and see how people navigate it.
At Greenbelt each of the programme group were asked to pick their five top items they’d booked for the Church Times Guide to Greenbelt. Everything on the literature programme was something I loved. In the end I picked the headline act, two talks I was really looking forward to personally and two talks that I thought might not attract a huge crowd but deserved flagging up. I don’t know if anyone came to all five things based on my suggestions but there was always a lovely crowd for each of the talks I’d chosen.