All of Buxton must starting singing from the same hymn-sheet if it is to capitalise on the international reputation generated by its annual festival of opera and music, one of the UK’s most respected events management experts has said.
Eddy Grant, pictured above, who literally wrote the book on safety used by the events industry across Europe, said the town won’t get the economic transformation it expects from the restoration of the historic Crescent when it opens in 2019 as a five-star hotel and spa unless the community builds on the foundations laid by Buxton International Festival.
He called on everyone in Buxton from civic leaders to volunteers in Scout groups to join the conversation about how a year-round programme of events could bring more visitors and boost the economy.
“You have a fantastic festival with an international reputation, so look at how you can build on that,” he told a packed lecture theatre at the University of Derby’s Buxton Campus, where he teaches.
But the town needed to get behind one plan: “There seems to be a number of voices talking across each other rather than a choir singing the same song.”
Buxton International Festival, which runs from July 7 to 23 this year with 120 events over 17 days, including three operas, was the template for creating a festival town: “What events do is spread the season around.”
Festival Executive Director Randall Shannon commented: “The Festival has been at the forefront of promoting the town for 38 years, and it’s good to see its work valued as a major economic force for the future.”
Eddy, who ran street spectacles for Liverpool’s City of Culture programme and was in charge of crowd control at the London Olympics, highlighted social media as vital in promoting and organising events for Buxton. He asked: “Where’s the Buxton app which you can download to tell you where to go and what to do?”
Volunteers who did nothing but welcome people had been a major talking point of the London Olympics and could achieve the same here in Buxton: “Once people see you having great fun, everyone wants to be a volunteer.”
He urged the community not to get fixated on problems such as parking and the lack of hotel rooms: “I don’t build anything – I work with what’s available,” he said, adding that every host community had the same issues, but with good organisation, they could be minimised.
Once demand for hotel rooms was spread across the season, then companies would invest in building more.
And funding was available for the right ideas: in Liverpool a shopping centre had just paid for giant tents in which each track on Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band will be played to celebrate 50 years of The Beatles’ seminal album.