A youth music festival that received £10,000 funding from Marlborough Area Board attracted just 21 paying punters.
But at a Board meeting last night (Tuesday) the councillors who rubber-stamped the grants were sanguine, saying they shared the disappointment of the young people who had organised the event.
The MY ME Music Festival (MY ME stood for Marlborough Youth Music Event) took place on a sports field at Marlborough College on Saturday, September 24.
Entry was restricted to young people aged between 13 and 19, or up to 24 for young people with disabilities.
Plans to put on a festival were implemented after consultation with young people in the town about their priorities.
“Develop a music festival… led by young people and local bands, outside event, in green space,” was identified as the fourth most important priority.
A report presented by community engagement manager Andrew Jack, said that based on the 1,700 young people living in the community area, 1,000 tickets were put on sale.
Tickets were priced at just £5 to ensure the event was accessible, which included £3 to redeem on food from on-site stalls.
The festival line-up featured seven bands or solo acts, including some performers still at St John’s, along with London-based blues rock band Dirty Thrills, and acclaimed young Avebury-based singer-songwriter George Wilding,
Marlborough Academy of Dance also performed, and workshops offering circus skills, drumming, and baking were bought in.
Mr Jack reminded councillors that over two financial years – 2015/16 and 2016/17 – two grant applications from were made to the Positive Activities for Young People fund totalling £10,000. Wiltshire Music Connect offered a further £1,200.
The committee organising the festival spent £1,000 on venue hire and £2,200 on security guards – a stipulation made by Marlborough College. Marquee hire cost £1,136, the hire of toilets cost £780, and attendance by the Red Cross cost £220.
Organisers also spent £500 on staging and barriers, £480 on lighting and a smoke machine, £200 on a PA system, and £60 on diesel for generators.
Banners promoting the event cost £500, with £101 being spent on flyers, £80 on tickets, and £51 on wristbands.
All the musical artistes were paid at a rate of £50 each – a total of £1,700.
The report acknowledged that only 80 young people attended the event – with 21 paying.
“This was bitterly disappointing, felt by the entire planning group,” wrote Mr Jack.
A report of the debrief meeting considered that most young people spoken to knew about the event, and that St John’s School had been ‘inundated’ and ‘saturated’ with information about the event.
However, local performers did not bring groups of friends with them. Up to 25 performers from the Marlborough Academy of Dance brought parents, but many said they were “too embarrassed” to dance in front of their friends.
The report also suggested that “some young people did not know where Treacle Bolly was” and “publicity around the event did not describe the styles of music on stage or the other activities on offer well enough to let young people know what to expect.”
And it pointed out that young people are notoriously hard to engage with. “The event failed to ‘inspire’ young people to attend,” wrote Mr Jack.
“The young people spoken to by the local youth facilitator at Marlborough’s skate park preferred to keep on skating, something they can do all through the year, rather than attend an event especially for them.”
There was no suggestion that the festival would have made a profit, or even covered its own costs.
Board members were asked to consider that “Before starting out on this project, none of the members had any experience of organising a music festival,” and that “The planning group was able to attract a number of young people onto the group who fully participated in organising the event.
“They took responsibility for elements like designing the logo and promotion material and the social media of the event. Young people played a significant role in choosing the bands and activities that went into the event.”
Board member Jemima Milton said: “It’s very easy for us to complain now. The money has been spent. Let’s move on a say lessons have been learnt.
“We should say a huge thank you to the young people who actually got off their butts and helped run this event.”
And board chairman James Sheppard said: “You can’t always measure success by the number of people who attend.”
Not everyone was happy about the outcome, though. Town councillor Lisa Farrell who, as a volunteer, runs Marlborough Community Youth Project at the town’s former youth club at St Margaret’s Mead told the meeting: “£10,000 would have kept us going for a long time.”