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Knee deep in campaigns: charities and festivals

8 July 2011

Damien Clarkson offers his top tips for engaging supporters through the UK festival scene 

UK charities are increasingly using festivals as a vehicle to raise awareness for their latest campaigns.This year I trooped off to Glastonbury to have my authentic muddy festival experience, and in amongst the mud I discovered some really interesting charity campaigning. Festivals can offer a cheap and exciting way of engaging people in your latest initiative. The friendly vibe that flows through many a festival lends itself perfectly to festival goers signing pledges and participating in fun, small actions.

Festival organisers are eager to embrace charities that represent the ethos and values of their event – let’s call it brand enhancement. For example, Glastonbury has an extremely strong representation of charities campaigning about climate change and anti nuclear issues, as these are causes organiser Michael Eavis is passionate about.

When putting together a campaign it is worth considering festivals as part of your campaigning mix. With approximately 450 festivals a year in the UK this market isn’t just open to large national charities. The likelihood is there’s a festival near you, wherever your charity is based.

Tips for becoming a festival charity

  1. Examine synergies between your brand and those of different festivals. For example, if your charity has a climate change  awareness campaign, the chances are you would be great brand enhancement for a festival like Green Man.
  2. Think local. Not every charity will get a video and stage at Glastonbury – start small and scale up. With the smaller festivals you may be able to contact organisers directly; large festivals will have dedicated staff for people wishing to have a presence at the festival.
  3. Think small actions – and rewards. WaterAid gave away free glasses of water to people.
  4. Use free festival tickets. These will attract volunteers to help at the festival.
  5. Get people to participate. Many people like to prove they didn’t just spend their festival in a Hunter. S. Thompson stupor. A great example of this is Oxfam’s blue in the face campaign, which asked festival goers to paint their faces blue and have their photo added to a petition calling for the PM to take action on climate change. You could also create a small activity stand-visitors can do on the day. At Glastonbury this year, Climate Rush created a Plan your own Climate activism sheet. 

One particularly inspiring campaign from a previous Glastonbury, that may help you convince managers that festival campaigning could be great for your organisation, is Water Aid’s Loo Queue which you can find out more about here.

Damien Clarkson

co-founder, Social Chic Ltd

Damien is a social media strategist who has led social media at the NSPCC and worked with charities such as Oxfam and environmental campaign group Climate Rush.