52 Things - Number 46: Organise a local festival

Overview and Background:

For the slightly more adventurous volunteers, you may wish to organise a whole festival. This could be based on food and drink, music, history, or the local landscape. Many communities now run beer and ale, Oktoberfest-style festivals, or put on walks around their local town and village that take in historical monuments or points of interest. Ingleton, on the border of the Pennines in Craven, is one such community running an annual festival called ‘Overground Underground.’

The approach: 

The premise of the festival is that it links together all of the features of the Ingleborough landscape – the waterfalls, the caving systems, the mountain and the flora and fauna – which were major tourist attractions for the area, but linking them had not previously been tried. The first festival ran in 2010 to much acclaim and this year’s will be over the weekend of 20th June.

Event organiser, Debby Kuhlmann, explains the concept in more detail: “Through local discussions it transpired that not enough was done to celebrate the area in a joined up, collaborative way. It was also recognised that young people were not being exposed to the range of opportunities available to them to explore the local landscape, or that in some way current efforts were not appealing. The festival would address all of this as well as hopefully bring in more tourists and therefore more business to the area.”

The premise of Overground Underground is that anyone can be involved. The holding theme is ‘Ingleborough’ and anything relating to this is considered by the steering group of volunteers. This means that an unrivalled range of information, activities and opportunities are included in the programme, and a vibrant and cultural event led entirely by local people is created.

Funding has been secured over the years from organisations such as Craven District Council, which has meant that more recently it has been possible to employ an Event Co-ordinator to oversee the logistics. Debby describes the funding process as highly competitive and time-consuming, but believes that it is worth it in the end.

“There are always going to be issues pulling off an event of this kind. In the past, we have encountered the usual problems such as resources, manpower, time and even the weather. There is always help on hand though, such as from the local council, and the volunteer-led steering group are committed enough to see things through.”

The outcome: 

Overground Underground has been a considerable success for Ingleton, and a recent community consultation has shown that residents wish for the festival to continue annually. From 2016 it will be expanding to incorporate the whole of the Ingleborough Dales and will run for longer than usual, from May to September. As such Debby is keen to hear from businesses, groups and individuals in the region who may be interested in taking part in events. She can be contacted via the website www.ogug.co.uk where you can also find out more about the festival.

What next: 

Ingleton is an active community and has a roster of other ideas in the works, such as Sheafstock (a 3-day live music event), a Folk Weekend, and several galas, fairs and showcases too.

Debby is enthusiastic about other communities running similar festivals, but honest about the work involved: “In the current economic climate, local people need to look at what is unique about their community and find ways of using their USP to market themselves to a wider audience. Any event involves a large amount of time and fundraising but with the right group of people anything is possible.”