Back in March 2020 when the world got flipped on its axis, Towersey Festival was one of the very first events to cancel their live festival and move online for the year.
“We felt we had to be proactive and take our audience with us on a digital journey through the year. It was vital for us, for our audience and for the artists to have something to hold on to and to keep the unique Towersey spirit alive”, said Festival Director, Joe Heap
It wasn’t long before many others followed suit of course.
Without any income for the foreseeable future Towersey took the plunge and began a very active Crowdfunder campaign based around real rewards for exclusive festival goodies and access packages. Their audience embraced it and were rewarded with a year-round programme of online activity that featured two ‘at-home’ festival weekends including over 24 interactive workshops; 3 kitchen Ceilidhs (barn dances) and 15 gigs with over 40 artists taking part.
And all of this was achieved without the support of the Government’s Cultural Recovery Fund. Towersey, along with many festivals in the folk, acoustic and roots music sector applied for this unprecedented government support but while most of Towersey’s rivals were successful in their bids, Towersey Festival was overlooked.
“We still don’t really know why, but through lobbying and putting in a Freedom of Information request we have discovered that we met all of the criteria for the grant, so it’s devastating that we did not get the support when so many others did”, said Joe.
Towersey Festival’s online programme has now had over 10,000 streams and all the content is still available to enjoy for free from the Festival website. The Crowdfunder has had over 1000 supporters and through these donations from audiences and participants Towersey have raised enough money to just about keep the festival alive through the last 12 months, as well as being able to pay artists and freelancers for their work.
“I want to thank our incredible audience, amazing artists and contributors and our team who supported and led this huge effort. Towersey have always been ground-breaking in the way we approach our event, and this move to creative digital events has been no different.”
The festival is now focusing on what the future might look like. Unlike many of the bigger events, the Towersey approach is “cautiously optimistic” according to Joe.
“We are planning for a number of different scenarios for the 2021 festival depending on how the year pans out and we have some really robust socially distanced, reduced capacity plans in place if needed.”
The Festival have put out a video that explains their current position as they wait for the results of the second round of Government Cultural Recovery grants.
Joe says “We have everything crossed that our application will be accepted this time round. It really is make or break and for our 55 year old event to not receive the support it needs would be so unfair given what happened in the first round”
The results of applications in this second round are announced at the end of March and Towersey will be releasing its final 2021 plans shortly after that.
Festival website: www.towerseyfestival.com
The latest news from Towersey: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ygQwxgG6tg&t=61s
To donate: www.crowdfunder.co.uk/towersey-festival