Brit Fests Drive Local Economies

Britain’s summer festivals are making a significant contribution to the U.K. and local economies, according to the Association of Independent Festivals.

An AIF survey of its members festivals, which includes Big Chill, WOMAD and Glade, shows they attracted 340,000 people. Those fans spent in excess of £139 million ($225.5 million) on tickets, travel, food and drink, with £16.3 million ($26.4 million) of it spent locally.

Ranging in size from Glasgowbury at just 1,000 people to Creamfields with more than 40,000, AIF’s 19 member festivals generate on average £1 million each for local towns and businesses.

Sixty percent of festival-goers stay in the area for three or four days and spend an average of £48 each.

Bestival alone generates about £600,000 ($973,452) in extra revenue for ferry companies shipping fans to the Isle Of Wight.

Evolution, a non-camping festival in the northeast, is estimated to boost the economy of the twin cities of Newcastle and Gateshead by £2.9 million ($ 4.7 million).

“Not only do we fill every B&B, pub and hotel within a 10-mile radius, lots of local shops stay open to benefit from the extra custom,” said Cornbury Festival founder Hugh Phillimore. “It not only makes a huge contribution to the local economy but also supports fundraising for local schools, Brownies and Scouts.”

Cornbury employs litter-picking volunteer teams of Scouts and Brownies, but avoids accusations of exploitation by paying contributions toward their organisations.

The survey also dealt with the environmental impact of festivals, and looked at how better use of public transport and greater car sharing should be encouraged to further reduce festivals’ carbon footprint.

With audience travel being the greatest source of festivals’ greenhouse gas emissions, attention was also paid to the modes of transport used by festival-goers. About 60 percent traveled by car, of which 44 percent were in a vehicle carrying three or more people.

London’s Field Day had by far the largest response for people traveling by public transport, with just less than 80 percent of the crowd taking the tube or bus to the city’s Victoria Park.

Apparently setting an example to all were the 250 people from five major cities who cycled to Shambala Festival in Northamptonshire and the dozen who swam across the Solent to get to Bestival.

“It is clear that independent festivals make a significant contribution not only culturally, but also to the local and U.K. economy,” said AIF general manager Claire O’Neill, one of the co-founders of the A Greener Festival organisation. “It is also good to see the positive steps being taken by events to minimise their environmental impact.”

The AIF survey questioned 3,300 U.K. festival-goers; a little more than half of were female and 43 percent were aged 25-35.
It’s emerged that some of he more unusual happenings of the U.K.’s 2009 summer festivals included 4,026 Big Chill fans dressing as zombies and making the Guinness Book of Records for the world’s largest such gathering.

The Association of Independent Festivals is a nonprofit body set up in 2008 to represent independent music festivals in the U.K. and Ireland.

The founding members also include Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, Creamfields, Evolution Festival, Loud Sound, Secret Garden Party and Summer Sundae Weekender.