Summer fun and worthy causes

Music festivals all around the UK are attracting more and more music lovers and party-goers every year, and are an increasingly lucrative market for anyone with goods to sell, an idea to promote or a cause to support.

Charities in the UK have been amongst the first to discover and to exploit the great potential summer music festivals have, targeting the huge audiences they bring together over the span of a few days.

Larger charities now have their name associated with various festivals, taking the opportunity to reach out to new potential supporters amongst the younger generation and to vigorously promote their causes.

The benefits are many and diverse, ranging from a few pence – for example, in exchange for a small donation, people can borrow Virgin Media mobile phones to make calls during the V Festival - to the tents and other goods left behind by festival-goers. The discarded camping gear is collected after the festivals and donated to different community organisations and charities, which store them and use them in international disasters, such as the 2004 South-Asian Tsunami and the 2008 Pakistan earthquake.

Some well known arts and music festivals, such as Glastonbury, give most of their profits to charities whilst playing a large part in promoting and supporting social and environmental issues, such as poverty and climate change. Global Gathering, the annual dance and electronic music festival held on an airfield outside Stratford-Upon-Avon is also one of the festivals that has always supported local as well as national charities over the years, including Cancer Research, Cure Leukemia and The Joseph Foote Fundraising Trust.

Other festivals have just started to associate their name with that of some well known charities and this year has seen many new alliances being formed. ActionAid is bringing ‘Bollocks to Poverty’ experience to Relentless NASS, a festival of music and sport outside Bath. The global poverty charity will be giving all festival goers the opportunity to enjoy themselves whilst listening to good music, playing fun games and learning about the effects of climate change.This year, the Isle of Wight Festival presented between acts a series of video clips showing Ed Milliband, the minister for climate change, talking to the people and trying to win their support for a new government climate campaign.

As shown, the causes very often supported by the festivals tackle environmental issues, with almost all festivals urging their customers to be more aware and more responsible when it comes to the impact they’re having on the environment. Last year, the Glastonbury organisers tied a good part of their tickets to a special ‘travel-by-coach’ policy in order to reduce the amount of cars people use to travel to the festival. The Bestival is using a similar scheme for their tickets, using Big Green Coach Travel as the unique festival and coach tickets provider. Other festivals do what they can to minimise their carbon footprint and impact on the environment. Latitude festival is using compost toilets whilst the Wireless festival - taking place in the heart of London during the first weekend of July – will be offering customers the option to purchase a Carbon Offset for 50p when booking their ticket. The money obtained in this way will be used to invest in environmental projects in local schools. The Ben and Jerry’s Sundae festival, now in its 5th year, is doing a great job attracting crowds with big name bands and then talking to them about the devastating effects that global warming has melting ice caps as well as ice creams.

Charities are now progressing from merely gaining support from festivals to getting actively involved in organising the events. Oxfam is one of the charities which has developed a special relationship with various festival organisers over the years, through their stewardship programme. The volunteers get transport, food and the chance to see their favourite band for free, in return for stewarding throughout the festival and providing everyone on the site with support and information. In return for their work, Oxfam receives a donation from the festival organisers, depending on the number of stewards provided and the size of the festival. Considering that Oxfam is involved in providing stewards for 13 festivals in the UK, including big names like Glastonbury, Festival and Cream Fields, we can assume that this productive initiative will mean many promotional Oxfam t-shirts at festivals for years to come.

The number of festivals organised exclusively for the benefit of charities has also increased in the last few years.The Big Green Gathering is one of these - it grew out of the original Green Gatherings of the 1980's and the Green Fields of Glastonbury Music Festival.  It now brings together between 15,000 and 20,000 people who have a common passion to tackle green issues such as the climate change and the protection of the environment.

Oxfam has long been involved with the festival industry and now the charity has gained enough confidence and supporters to be able to start their own festival brand. OXJAM is a successful example of a festival with a difference. It’s more a series of music events taking place in different UK locations through October, with one clear objective - raising money for Oxfam to tackle poverty all over the world.

Twestival is another success story. With their capability of mobilising masses in a short space of time via their website, Twitter is now putting all its power to work for a greater good. The first edition of the Twestival took place in February this year, and it took under 2 weeks to organise. The idea behind it was to get cities across the world to collaborate on an international scale with the aim of bringing people together and supporting the efforts of Charity: water, a not for profit organisation based in New York. The next Twestival (local) is planned to take place in September 2009, with a global edition following in February 2010.

In conclusion, it’s safe to say that in the future, charities will be present wherever there’s a big gathering of people willing to respond to their campaigning and fundraising efforts, and the music festivals across the UK are here to provide that audience.

Last updated at 16:21 Fri 26/Jun/09.
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