Evening all and here we are again, thrilled to the bottom of my creepers that it is a three day weekend as I wouldn’t be ready for work tomorrow. Fortunately the bloggette is off work also so a beach day is planned, I just need to find a way to include a trip to the record shop to sneak in with that. I have rather bad news tonight and I know pieces of what I write below might annoy some people, that’s fine however as I’m annoyed about it too. We will have different opinions about it, I may have done it differently myself but I’m sad to report that Strummer of Love didn’t do very well in terms of attendance which hurts because the intention was so very good. So not a happy topic tonight but one I feel does need to be addressed in depth. What follows isn’t edited so apologies if you disagree and I know some will.
Let’s break this down into the facts first:
The following message was recently released by Strummerville:
Listen up folks, hope this update finds you all well. We’ve been offline a short while but will soon be getting back into the stride of things. We would like to thank everyone who has supported us during the build up and organisation of the Strummer of Love festival. We want to thank all those who attended, all the bands who played and everyone who worked at the festival you all contributed to what was an amazing experience. And although it was a huge success creatively, socially and musically it has been a drain financially and we are now having to scale back on the charitable activities of Strummerville.
We are at present taking some time to restructure and regroup but we are pleased to say we will still remain active and have some exciting projects coming up. We really do appreciate the support you have all shown us over the years and we look forward continuing our work.
I wish there were more I could do about tonight’s story but I feared I’d be reading such news and so it turns out. We rightly devoted a great portion of the summer anticipating and hopefully helping to promote the Strummer of Love festival that took place in August in Somerset. I know like many others of us outside the UK we ached that we couldn’t be there and wished it all the success possible. For Strummerville it was always a very ambitious undertaking and as I wrote many times both here, on the facebook page and on the Strummerville facebook page – it was absolutely critical to the sustained activities of the nonprofit. Strummer of Love was the largest single event that Strummerville had overseen and I/we did everything we could to champion it from the moment it was announced so it pains me to read that it had not been well attended. I know many of you made it down and had a brilliant experience.
Now for the opinion piece:
Hosting a new festival is a very risky business, trying to choose the right location, get the promotion and marketing fine tuned, putting together a bill that will appeal across different audience types, pricing it competitively and then hoping that the weather cooperates and that no acts cancel. Feedback from the festival itself was wonderful, those in attendance and performing had a marvelous time. The atmosphere was a unique celebration of the life and inspiration of Joe Strummer and everyone I spoke to really enjoyed the experience.
The location chosen was in an area of outstanding natural beauty in the hills of Somerset and a capacity of 5,000 was set. The site was chosen because it was near to where Joe spent the last years of his life. Would something closer to London or even the northwest have been more successful? I would guess yes.
My concern before and more so after the event was whether enough tickets could be sold to a location so far off the beaten track, I hoped above hope that it could be full but my worst fears were realised when I studied photo after photo of the three day event and then looked at videos. If you’re not in the UK I should explain that domestic travel is very expensive, prohibitively so. Trains aren’t cheap and petrol is about $2.25 per litre / $8.50 a gallon. I don’t have the specific facts but attendance was obviously much lower than expectations. My heart sank when I spent some time with a friend looking at different photos and video and tried to approximate how many had been able to make it down to Strummer of Love.
Since the weeks after the festival I’ve been trying to contact the friends I usually speak with at Strummerville to get the latest news and updates which I routinely share on the blog, at first no reply when normally it’s within 24 hours. Then a little while later I learned that my main contacts is no longer with Strummerville. It seems that the festival which should have secured the long term standing of Strummerville has had the opposite impact. A festival that was such a cultural and musical success sadly didn’t translate to the ticket sales anticipated. The recession, the economy, the location, the price, the lineup…you can apportion blame to each of these factors and perhaps others that I overlooked.
I was extremely saddened to read this, not shocked but decidedly upset. What should have been the most celebrated event undertaken by my friends at Strummerville was instead something that had not generated the (economic) results anticipated. Hindsight is always easy to use but it’s tough to see a festival that was such a cultural and musical success and important to me and all Clash fans sadly not translate to sufficient ticket sales.
The economy in the UK and elsewhere remains in a desperate state overall, but even if you can’t financially aid Strummerville you can help to promote the work they do via social media. You can share facebook updates, tweet about them, forward emails or just tell friends. Being positive about the work Strummerville do is a big plus for them, believe me. I don’t have much extra cash to help them either, but I hope that via the blog I give back to them and help the word of Joe continue as a result.
Here is my only real complaint, we might all have ideas about how things could have been done better but the following is what annoys me today. Before the festival I saw far too much negativity directed toward Strummerville about the festival in online forums. Really over the top criticism that entirely missed the fact that the event was crucial for Strummerville, Joe’s charity. I appreciate that there were hard feelings and some negative sentiments from not being able to attend but the cause was key and I think the negative comments overshadowed the event long before it even happened and probably even impacted ticket sales. People weren’t getting rich from this. I appreciate that it was a lot of money, people cited that they had seen The Clash for next to nothing and it wasn’t in the right spirit of the band. I used to go and stand stand at Arsenal for 70p in the 1970′s and now it costs 70 quid. People still attend, it’s a choice that people make. I’m not blaming the attendance issues primarily on the negative comments that I read but I don’t think it helped the ‘undecided’ attendees one small bit.
I even read Billy Bragg debating on facebook for hours that the event was ultimately all about the continued success of Strummerville and that it couldn’t operate at far lower prices. That it was in line with similar events. This from someone who performed for nothing, out of respect for Joe and he had to spend hours explaining how important it was to Strummerville and their secured future. I too found myself before the festival getting into a few debates online with people missing the fact that the festival was of course to remember Joe but ultimately it was to help the charity that holds his name. I understood that it was beyond the means of many people financially, I respect and appreciate that. I couldn’t make it there, I would have loved to but I don’t have the money and being self-employed couldn’t take the time off. I didn’t decide to then criticise the pricing.
Put it this way; I really like Audis, on the other hand driving a brand new Audi is simply beyond my means, I’d love to have one but I’m alright with my Toyota. I don’t campaign actively against all people who can afford an Audi. Audi don’t make a version of the A4 for those with lower incomes.
We choose what we spend our money on and for example far too many spend a small fortune every year on their mobile phone and then piss and moan about the cost of a concert ticket that helps a nonprofit continue the work being done for musicians around the world. I realise my opinion on this might not be too popular but this was a one time festival and priced in accordance with most 3 day festivals.
Strummerville now needs our help more than ever. I hope we, both you and me, can be a positive part of that. It doesn’t always equate to you spending money, spreading awareness has its own currency too. I’ll be trying to do more to get the timing right so that their news is shared here quickly and that we can all do a little extra via social media to get people tuned in. I’m sure lessons will be learned from this and I sincerely hope that they are able to continue the work they do, it does make a huge difference around the world for up and coming musicians. If you don’t check back on their site often just take a look at what Strummerville has achieved rather than focus on what I’m sad to say makes for gloomy reading tonight. I wish all the best to Trish who worked tirelessly at Strummerville to make it succeed and was a great friend to the blog.
Let’s pull together to make sure that the future of the foundation remains strong and the work done in the name of Joe Strummer can continue in earnest. I’ve said before on the blog that Strummerville has come to be symbolic of Joe for many of us, when we write and talk about Paul, Mick, Topper or Terry – that huge gap where we still want Joe is partially filled by the work done in his name. I’m pretty certain that Joe would approve of that work being done and seeing more bands get a foot in the door.
Opinions and thoughts are welcome, but let’s look forward eh?