The Greensand Country Festival
Written by: Nigel Carnell
We are incredibly lucky to have the wonderful Greensand Country landscape on our doorstep. It’s an amazing landscape which, as well as being an area of diverse natural beauty, provides prosperity, wellbeing, heritage and inspiration to the communities living in and around it.
To ensure this natural amenity is preserved, it must benefit the local community, both now and for future generations. Tourism needs to become part of a sustainable economy which takes full account for its impact by addressing the needs of visitors, tourism businesses, the environment and local communities. To support this we organise the annual Greensand Country Festival so that we all can go out and enjoy the landscape. The Greensand Country is there for us all year round however, during May we ask local businesses, councils, social groups, charities, etc. to organise a diverse range of inclusive and fun activities across the landscape.
Why a May Festival? Every season is special on the Landscape but when spring is in the air it’s great to be out and about with hopefully, some fine weather. May usually has two Bank Holidays plus at least one week of school holidays so there are a number of opportunities for families to join in the fun and explore together. When planning the Festival, we work closely with communities within the landscape taking great care to ensure that the environment is undamaged. All event organisers and participants are reminded to follow the countryside code.
The inaugural Festival in 2018 was a great success. In 2019 we more than doubled the number of events organised and had over 5000 participants throughout the Festival. We had hoped to further build on the success of this in 2020 but, with the pandemic bringing the country to a halt we had no choice but to cancel the Festival. However, this was just a temporary setback and the Festival returned in 2021 albeit in a slightly different format. Taking into account the restrictions due to the on-going pandemic, the 2021 Festival included a number of on-line events which was a first for the organising team. The concept worked and will be carried on in future Festivals.
In addition, in 2021 we were able to secure the commitment of a commercial sponsor Mulberry Homes to help fund the Festival and with this additional support we were able to produce a 32 page booklet titled ‘Revealing Greensand Country’, of which we printed 32,000 copies. The booklets were distributed to residential addresses across Greensand Country in the month prior to the Festival commencing to both raise awareness of the Festival and the wider opportunities available to residents throughout the year within the Greensand Country area.
In addition an electronic and downloadable version was made available on our website which can still be found at: Revealing_Greensands_Booklet_Spreads.pdf (fra1.cdn.digitaloceanspaces.com) or by scanning the QR code at the bottom.
In addition to the booklet an extensive social media campaign was run across all popular platforms commencing two months prior to the opening event and running throughout the Festival. Alongside this, press releases were submitted to all local publications and all town and parish councils within the Greensand footprint were asked to display posters promoting the Festival on their community noticeboards.
Following the success of the three events that fell within the NHLF funding period the Festival will continue to be organised, on an annual basis, as part of the Greensand Country Landscape Partnership programme legacy.
2018 Festival: 70 events with over 750 participants
2019 Festival: over 200 events with up to 6000 participants
2021 Festival: 50 live events and 22 virtual events
We were immensely proud of the way everyone involved with the project kept their focus and “rallied round” to deliver the Festival under very trying circumstances in 2021.
Benefits to People
The project helped both the event participants and organisers by focusing a diverse range of activities, across the entire landscape, into a specific time frame. It introduced people to new, local activities whilst also promoting the local landscape.
Personally I learnt a lot about event planning, scheduling and challenges around obtaining event feedback. I also feel extremely privileged to have experienced the warmth and comradery that happens, within groups of strangers, when sharing a new experience. It was like being in a village fete, which was taking place over several days, across many different locations.
Benefits to Heritage & Landscape
During every Festival the team and the event organisers took every opportunity to publicise the Greensand Country landscape and its history, beauty, and importance as a unique environment and as a natural leisure resource. We also handed out Greensand Country literature whenever appropriate.
This project also results in the landscape being better known, better understood and hopefully more frequently visited.
Challenges & Lessons Learnt
The biggest challenge is always how to publicise and promote the Festival and the various events, to as many people as possible, with a very limited budget. In previous years we have relied on printed Festival programs which we have circulated across Greensand Country. This year (2022) we will be more reliant on our website, social media and advertising in relevant publications which are distributed across Greensand Country.
We have learnt there needs to be more active involvement from the programme partners. Long term development with local businesses needs to take place, to sponsor the Festival and organise events. The Festival events need to be organised under different themes such as:
- Food & Drink
- Outdoor Exercise