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Bollington Festival History III

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Planning and preparation for the 1980 Festival

Preparation for the fourth Bollington Festival began about eighteen month before the Festival was due to take place, with an informal meeting of a group of the previous Festival Committee members. Possible themes for the 1980 Festival were discussed and the subject “Man and Nature” chosen.

Six months later, an Open Meeting was held in the Civic Hall. This, although better attended than a similar meeting held before the 1974 Festival, did not attract overwhelming support, but this did not cause concern among the convenors of the meeting. In Dr Coope’s experience, “We always find that people come to our assistance if we push ahead bravely.”

At this meeting the Festival Committee was formed, Dr Coope being re-elected Chairman and a professional accountant being appointed Treasurer. Other important positions included a Secretary, Grounds and Accommodation Officer (responsible for the hiring of marquees and the overall supervision of the Festival Centre at the Recreation Ground), Ticket Secretary, Design Consultant, Brochure Editor, Arts Liaison Officer, Publicity Officer and an officer in charge of fund raising. Previously fund raising had not been treated as a separate entity but for the 1980 Festival it was decided to give the Fund Raising Committee a target of £2,000 to be raised during the twelve months before the Festival began. Officers to preside over arrangements for the band contest and Festival Ball which it was hoped would take place during the Festival Fortnight were also appointed. The remaining places on the Committee were filled by representatives of the various Bollington societies and groups – Choir, Sports, Folk Group, Festival Players, Churches, Schools, Leisure Association (formed after the opening, in 1977, of the Bollington Leisure Centre), Country Dance Art Group, Light Opera Group and Horticultural Society.

The Open Meeting also provided an opportunity for those present who were not elected to the Committee to form themselves into groups according to the various ways in which they were willing to help – potential caterers and stewards, for example, are always in particular demand during a festival.

Finally the dates of the 1980 Festival were confirmed as being from Friday 23rd May to Wednesday 4th June.

The Open Meeting marked the starting point of a year’s intensive planning and preparation by the various societies and sub-committees, which reported back to the main Committee every two months at first, and then more frequently as the Festival date approached.

Co-ordination of events and finance formed the core of the Festival Committee’s work. Arranging over fifty events in such a way as to avoid conflicts between major attractions and, at the same time, accommodating the limitations of date imposed by certain items, particularly those involving professional artists, is a very difficult and time-consuming task. The production of Handel’s masque “Acis and Galatea”, though admittedly the most ambitious (and costly) event of the fortnight, posed many problems in this respect as it involved, among others, four professional soloists each with a crowded diary of engagements, the Legrand Ensemble and the use of the Great Hall in Adlington Hall, for which, of course, special permission from Mr Charles Legh, the owner, was required.

Finance must surely be one of the main areas of concern to any Festival organising committee. The hiring of marquees, props and costumes, the printing of publicity material and the payment of professional artists, to name only the most obvious areas of expenditure, involve considerable cost which clearly cannot be met through ticket sales alone! Twelve months before Bollington Festival began, the Festival Committee had £300 in the kitty which represented a proportion of profits from the previous Festival. To this amount, the Committee was hoping over the next year, to add £2,000 from the efforts of the specially appointed Fund Raising Committee. In fact, by the beginning of May, 1980, this target had been reached and surpassed, £2,200 having been raised through a fashion show, cheese and wine evening and other similar events. The Fund Raising Committee’s work culminated on the last Saturday of the Festival itself with a Festival Grand Draw in which the first prize was a football autographed by the members of the Manchester United Football Team. Raffle tickets for the football were sold as far afield as Glasgow, Belfast and Salt Lake City!

Finally, revenue came from the sale of publications, souvenirs, tickets and programmes. Publications included the Festival Brochure, the booklet “When Nancy was Young” – first published as mentioned above in 1974, a booklet by W. S. Broster entitled “Bollington and Kerridge 1830 – 1980” and a beautifully illustrated set of “Walks Around Bollington”, specially created for the 1980 Bollington Festival. Festival T-shirts, attractively designed, in a variety of colours, so as to incorporate the “Man and Nature” logo, glassware and dusters were among the souvenirs for sale, and the various programmes included a Bollington Festival Choir Souvenir programme.

Publicity for the 1980 Festival

Carefully planned publicity is essential for the success of any venture, be it a Parents’ Association Film Show at a local school or a performance of “Swan Lake” at Covent Garden. The basic task of the publicity officer is to convey accurate information to as many potential “consumers” as possible, using all the means at his disposal, which may range from simple word-of-mouth messages and home-made posters to coverage by the mass media.

Many organisations devise a “logo” which can be used in all publicity material to serve as an attractive “badge of identification” for their “product”. The Bollington Festival Committee was very fortunate in having access to a talented poster designer who also happens to be the Methodist Minister of Bollington! One of his posters contained a small feature depicting a man in silhouette, standing beneath a billowing tree. The Festival Committee thought that this would admirably represent the theme “Man and Nature” and asked if they might adopt it as their official logo. Permission was duly granted, and the motif subsequently appeared on all major publicity material, including the front cover of the Festival Brochure, promotional newspaper articles, Festival souvenirs and even at the top right hand corner of all the tickets – a most effective way of providing both publicity and continuity for the Festival.

In Dr Coope’s experience, effective publicity depends very much upon individual initiative and persistence, and contacts with people who can exert influence on your behalf (“It is often a case of ‘who you know’.”) you must make yourself and your cause known to the Press and local Radio, and this usually involves repeated representations and petitions, even to the point of “making a nuisance of yourself.” However, this approach must have worked for Bollington, as there was not only generous coverage of the Festival in the two local weekly newspapers – the Macclesfield Express and the Macclesfield Advertiser, together with an article in the “Community News” (delivered free of charge to homes in Macclesfield, Bollington, Prestbury and surrounding district), but also some reference in the Manchester Evening News and a feature on Radio Manchester, not to mention the interest shown by Granada Television! The Bollington Festival Committee have found that it is wise to cultivate good relations the Press and to help them as much as possible by, for example, composing one’s own press releases and submitting copy, legibly written on standard size paper, to the required source. This can then be transcribed as it stands, and often is so, thus saving the time of newspaper staff and ensuring accuracy of information! In return, one can expect to enjoy the co-operation and helpfulness of the Press and, in the case of Local Radio in particular, once contact with a producer has been established, any future approaches to the network can be made via this individual who will already have personal knowledge of your cause.

Establishing, and following up, contacts with Media is really a full-time job and one which would probably be eminently suitable, as Dr Coope observed, for a recently retired person with the necessary time, enthusiasm and energy – for much publicity work is unglamorous and consists of visiting a host of public places such as libraries, shops and pubs, armed with posters and a persuasive smile! This was done most conscientiously in Bollington, as I hope the accompanying photographs show [unfortunately we don’t have the photographs!]. about a month before the opening of the Festival, bright yellow posters with black lettering began to appear in shop windows, pubs and notice boards throughout the district and car stickers in vivid orange conveyed the news of the Festival to various parts of the North West and, no doubt, much further afield! At the same time, specially constructed signposts were erected. Two of these, sited at strategic points on the A6 Stockport – Macclesfield road, were large, free-standing, multi-coloured signs which could be seen clearly from a considerable distance. Another sign (white lettering on a red background) was affixed to the side of a house occupying a prominent position in Bollington itself. In addition, smaller signs, very clearly designed in white and yellow, with black lettering, directed visitors from neighbouring villages such as Pott Shrigley and Prestbury to the Festival, and similar signs were used within the Bollington boundaries to indicate key Festival areas such as the Civic Hall, St John’s Church and the Festival Centre.

The role of the Library

Bollington Library played an important part in the promotion of the Festival. In addition to selling Festival Brochures, the library staff exhibited the various designs of souvenir glassware which were to be on sale during the Festival and mounted a poster-display of some of the Festival attractions including the Art Exhibition, “Acis and Galatea”, folk concerts and the musical evening featuring celebrated harpist David Watkins and his sister, Helen. The library also provided enrolment forms for the series of four guided walks round Bollington organised by Mr Roger Bowling, a keen local historian, and entry forms for the “Best Window Box Competition” organised by the Horticultural Society.

During the Festival Fortnight, the library houses an impressive exhibition of craftwork and needlework by the Bollington Cross and Lowerhouse W.I. and acted as the headquarters for an Art Competition held on the Bank Holiday Monday.

Macclesfield Library, also, devoted a considerable amount of space to the display of Bollington Festival posters and provided leaflets advertising the Festival Cycle Race and the Late Film, presented at the Civic Hall, on the first evening of the Festival, by Macclesfield Film Club.

The Festival Brochure

The material for the Festival Brochure was written by representatives of the various societies and organisations involved in the Festival. The deadline for submission to the Editor was December 1979, by which date all details concerning the nature and timing of the fifty or more activities planned for Festival Fortnight, and the booking of professional artists, had to be finalised – an indication of the enormity of the task undertaken by the organisers. There were in the event, one or two late entries for the Brochure and slight problems were also encountered at the printing stage, leading to delays in publication and distribution to the various selling points.

On the whole, the Festival publicity was extremely well organised and while there is probably everything to be gained in the future by attempting to persuade newspapers with a wide regional readership, such as the Manchester Evening News, to provide greater coverage of events, the very large attendances during the Festival Fortnight are evidence of the overall success of the publicity campaign.

Continue Kathryn’s story …

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