Festival Fun and Missed Opportunities
This weekend about 15,000 people paid to camp in a sea of mud in a field near Crickhowell. They were (mostly) ordinary people – families with young children, students, young couples and fair sprinkling of older people too – all of whom came to see music ranging from Van Morrison to H.Hawkline, literature from Linton Kwesi Johnson to Rachel Tresize and Leanne Wood, as well as films, science and even a wood-fired sauna.
Green Man is one of Wales’s rapidly growing new industries – festivals. This weekend’s festival is followed by several more late-season bashes such as Festival No. 6 at Portmeirion, Swn in Cardiff and Merthyr Rocks to name just a few. Before Green Man there was Wakestock, Steelhouse Festival, Folk on the Lawn at Tintern and other folk festivals at Fishguard, Gower, and St Donats, as well as Hay and the International Eisteddfod, Brecon Jazz and so on.
Between them, Wales’s festivals bring in hundreds of thousands of visitors. The crowd at Green Man included plenty from England, a fair number of Scottish, Irish and Manx people, and visitors from Germany, Australia, the US and several more with unidentifiable languages. These people are this summer’s rare breed – tourists. They are not any old tourists either, but tourists who have money to spend on tickets, food, clothes and more while they are here, and, if that wasn’t enough, they are people who appear not to mind Wales’s wet climate either. They are the dream visitor.
With the Welsh economy flat-lining, you might expect Visit Wales, local authorities and various tourism associations to be all over Wales’s festivals like a rash. But no. The Welsh Government supports a handful of festivals, but otherwise this burgeoning bit of the tourist market seems to be invisible. The festival section of the Visit Wales website, supposedly the essential portal, lists only a handful of Wales’s music weekends (and even these are listed under ‘arts’ and include food and festivals of ceramics alongside). There are very few smaller events listed, whilst those that are listed are killed by deathless prose and lack of information, e.g. Brecon Jazz – date tbc (funny, I thought it was the weekend of 12th August).
Is that all we can muster?
Where are the headlines saying that this year Wales has been host to Van Morrison, Dionne Warwick, Dizzee Rascal, Feeder, Spiritualized, Primal Scream and lots more? Musicians and bands have fans around the world – what a fantastic opportunity to showcase Wales this could be.
Equally, where is the Welsh Government backing for this industry? I’m not arguing for Government money to be spent on the festivals themselves (frankly if they don’t stack-up economically they shouldn’t run) but what is the Welsh Government doing to entice festival-goers to visit other parts of Wales? How is it helping festival organisers to buy Welsh produce, whether its beer and burgers or toilets and tents? How is it helping festival-goers who don’t want to camp to find accommodation nearby?
The economy in Wales cannot afford to let opportunities like this slip by. Time to wake up and get grooving.
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