The first of it’s kind, On Blackheath it has been met with both anticipation and excitement but of course opposers are to be expected with any large-scale event with a high residency/business occupancy, unfortunately for those that are unhappy, the festival will go ahead as planned on 13th and 14th September 2014 and I for one am ecstatic that it is!
Sizeable events take a huge amount of organization. Yes they can create traffic jams, generate mess, a bit of noise and disruption, but they most definitely contribute to tourism and must bring a bucket load of residual value for local tourism and the economy. I personally have worked on many a large festival and understand fully the amount of blood, sweat and tears it generates pre, during and post event! Yes its a money making venture, but you will find that the kind of commitment required to put on an event like this is backed up by love of music, hospitality and more importantly, the area.
Having sat on the Blackheath Society meetings I know that part of the planning permission for the festival was dependent upon the involvement of local business, something I personally and professionally champion. We don’t want a repeat of the failing business profit margins from the 2012 Olympics where Greenwich businesses were preparing for a footfall and got the opposite. We want local business to thrive. We want to put Blackheath and the surrounding areas on the map. We want it to be in the news (for the right reasons) we want to build the local business community and work on raising the hope and the ‘shop local’ ethos. We want to give people a reason to love where they live, work, shop, eat and drink and as far as I am concerned, On Blackheath will do all of the above.
I know there is a ‘local’ agenda running through the festival and as it will be offering, not only a robust line up; Massive Attack, Giles Peterson and more to be announced but it will also offer arts, theatre and something for the foodies, boosting local tourism revenues and enhancing the profile of the region.
Improving Blackheaths image is long overdue.
Festivals offer potential as vehicles for branding cities, towns and villages and they can enhance a destination’s image and identity, improving perceptions of the place and the people that live there [more info]. I have been working with local councillors and businesses in the area for years and we are currently at the helm of building a better business community, launching the self coined brand We Are Blackheath. It began on a small gathering for Small Business Saturday (#smallbizse3) in 2013 and grew with local council support and it was clear the local businesses needed to get their voices heard. The idea for We Are Blackheath is to create a brand that is a platform, a united voice, providing continuity and support to locals so that we can improve and develop the area and keep it unique. On Blackheath couldn’t have come along at a better time. The We Are Blackheath Twitter page is like a queue in the Lee postie this morning and if that is anything to go by, we are onwards and upwards thanks to this festival.
If you think back to when Glastonbury had its planning problems. Yes there were folk that put up a fight, didn’t want surplus rubbish in their garden or their grass to get trampled on. They didn’t want to hear the likes of Stevie Wonder live from their bedroom (idiots) and they weren’t too bothered about raising the profits of their local deli (where they love to buy their artisan loafs on a Saturday morning) – keeping it alive and stopping it from being replaced by a betting shop but it stayed strong and has gone on to be one of the biggest festivals in the world. I ask these folk, ‘who wouldn’t want to swap an evening of losing yourself to great music in the open air, feeling that trouble free and being part of positive change with a huge vacant public common with nothing on it!?’
People, let’s think about this seriously. When this festival is in its 5th year and folk are coming from further afield to experience it, generating huge PR and profits for the surrounding areas will you be grumbling then? If you still don’t like it, do what the Mendip folk do – rent out your house and go on holiday!
An economic impact assessment
The results of the assessments post festival are vital to our understanding of their true impact. They highlight the economic benefits, but almost as importantly, they show who’s spending the money based on age, sex, income and residence. The data, however basic, can be used to pacify disgruntled locals, encourage extra investment, business opportunities and pinpoint precisely what can be improved upon in future years. (more info: insights.org.co.uk)
I will conclude with that fantastical quote….’If you cant beat ‘em join ‘em’ again, to the folk that are worried about the excess rubbish, don’t see it as admitting defeat, adorn the wellies, buy yourself one of THESE and get involved.
I believe, as do countless others, that this festival is an important event for our district and the country and the best thing to happen in Blackheath since forever; and the way you can support this necessary growth is by championing it. Work with the organizers and local council leaders to promote more than just the music, be attached to no other outcome but a positive one, buy yourself a ticket, enjoy the no travel aspect, the joy of ‘I can sleep in my own bed and have a shower in the morning’ and ‘have a full English in my local before hearing some quality music and enjoying the unrivalled scenes of dusk on the heath (that we all tweet about daily). Yes, lap up the atmosphere of what is most definitely going to make Blackheath history.
On Blackheath In Partnership with John Lewis
Dates: 13th 14th September Blackheath Common Goffers Road, London SE3 OUA
Doors: Midday Performance Times: 13.00 – 22.30 (Sat 13th) 13.00 – 22.00 (Sun 14th) Buy Tickets Here