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The Big Rethink: Ian Stockley

Chief Executive Bath Festivals

As we approach four months since lockdown, Bath Festivals is well underway in planning a ‘new normal’, even with the challenge of the unknown and uncertainty still very much with us. Lockdown came two weeks into our May 2020 Bath Festival sales period and ticket income, which now represents nearly 50 per cent of our total revenues, came to a grinding halt.

In recent years we have moved to bring the wider community together with the festival, promoting the impact that music, words, books and performance can have on people’s lives. Ticket sales have risen from 30 per cent of revenues prior to the Literature and Music festivals being combined in 2017. The continuing reduction in public funding – which now represents eight per cent of total revenues compared to 30 per cent in 2017 – together with the strategic direction of the board of trustees to programme a festival of the highest quality that appeals to a much wider part of our communities means that growing revenues through increasing ticket sales are essential to our survival.

The pandemic has hit the festivals very hard, at a critical point in our transition to a combined arts community festival with dramatically reduced public funding. However there are very definite positives that can, and we’re sure will, come out of this crisis. We have been hugely encouraged and immensely grateful for the generous financial support received from our audience and community.

The challenges remain great but we believe Bath Festivals can and will return stronger, changing challenge into opportunity, as we once again play our part in contributing to what the arts bring to our communities. Improved communication and the openness to share ideas locally and nationally have been very evident and rewarding. New and strengthening existing partnerships will be key to the new normal.

The challenges remain great but we believe Bath Festivals can and will return stronger, changing challenge into opportunity, as we once again play our part in contributing to what the arts bring to our communities

Nobody yet knows when social distancing guidelines will be sufficiently relaxed to allow the return of full houses in venue hosted events. Audiences’ attitude to risk will vary, with many preferring to continue to experience the events virtually.

It means we are looking to return with a ‘blended’ offer of physical and virtual events where we will dial up and down the virtual strand, as a certainty starts to return, as it surely will. Notifications of cancelling and closing down of events and venues will start to be replaced by the opening up and announcement of new creative thinking and innovation in artistic planning.

bathfestivals.org.uk

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