Organising Beeston Festival

Beeston Festival takes places for one day each year, but the organisers work all year to make it happen.

I’ve been involved in organising Beeston Festival for nearly ten years now. It started when I helped clear up Cross Flatts Park one year 2002(?) and was invited for a thank you pint in The Broadway. By the end of the evening I was told in no uncertain terms by Cllr Angela Gabriel that I was now “on the committee”.

Beeston Festival takes place on the second Saturday in June each year in Cross Flatts Park – one of the hidden gems of South Leeds. We have built it up over the years since 1997 and in 2011 – our 15th Festival – we will have four performance stages; about 100 stalls selling food, plants, clothing, tombolas and games or just giving out information; children’s activities; sports and a fun fair. Put the date in your diary now – Saturday 11th June, 12:00 – 5:00pm.

The Festival’s success lies in its volunteer base. Last year we calculated that 76 people put a total of over 400 hours! The committee work all year, but just as valuable are the volunteers to put a couple of hours on the day putting up signs, directing traffic or picking up litter.

The year starts a couple of weeks after the festival with a review meeting where we discuss what worked and what we could improve. September brings our Annual General Meeting where we publish our annual report and accounts, then through the autumn and spring we gradually start putting the details together, booking acts and equipment, raising funds, sorting out insurance and making sure we meet our license obligations. The committee is split into teams to work on each area of the Festival – publicity, stalls, entertainment, children and young people, finance, volunteers, logistics and sports. Gradually everything comes together and everyone gets a little bit more frantic until the big day arrives.

Festival day starts for me at 7:00am in Cross Flatts Park meeting various contractors – we hire in stages, marquees, toilets generators and PA systems. 9:00 am brings the first shift of volunteers to the park. After a safety briefing everyone is signed in and given a task to do. This is the busiest part of the day: letting stall holders in and marshalling their cars, setting up generators, putting up signs, setting up the barbecue, putting out chairs and tables, etc, etc.

By 12:00 noon the crowds are already pouring into the park. We estimate up to 5,000 people attend with 3,000 in the park at any one time. Most people are local and walk from their homes, but we are starting to get visitors from further afield across the city. Everywhere you look in the park during the afternoon there are crowds of people – perusing the stalls, playing sports, making art, listening to bands. They are all the people of Beeston: black, white, British, European, African, Asian, men women and children and all ages from toddlers to pensioners … and they all seem to be enjoying themselves. This is the payback for all those hours in committee meetings, on the phone and filling in forms – it’s all worth it!

Five o’clock comes and the last band on the family stage finish their encore. It’s time to go home – unless you’re part of the clear up team. It’s the morning in reverse: the contractors are back to pick up their kit, the chairs and tables have to be collected and put away, litter is picked up, stall holders’ rubbish taken to the park depot. By 7:00pm the park is clear and pristine again, back to how it was twelve hours ago. If you hadn’t seen it during the day you wouldn’t know there had ever been a festival. Finally it’s back to someone’s house for a glass or two and hopefully we can pick on someone new and tell them “you’re on the committee now”.

If you can’t wait until June get in touch and join the committee now – our next meeting is on Wednesday.

You can also follow us via the website, we have a Facebook page and we are just starting to Twitter: @BeestonFestival.