Anatomy of a Beer Festival Part 2

Part 2: The Aftermath & Time For A(nother) Change?


Once a festival has finished the next stage is the wash-up or follow-up meeting.  The festival committee and some of the workers gather for a formal meeting to dissect every piece of the festival and work out what went wrong, what went right and try to understand why.  It is the start of the planning process for the next year’s festival and is a very important part of it.


Unsurprisingly when it hasn’t gone well there are a lot of opinions voiced, all kinds of things for consideration and review.  In 2013 a lot of the comments were about the venue.  The thing that had drawn the crowds and resulted in so much positive feedback when we were at Midland Railway had now become the crux of everyone’s negativity.  The hall at Alfreton was too big, too expensive, too sterile, had no atmosphere, etc. etc.  All of these comments were arguably true, although personally I thought it was a lot better venue than people gave it credit for.


I think the main problem was that a lot of people drew conclusions without ever having been there which is quite disappointing.  They had decided that it was just another festival in a leisure centre and decided not to attend.  Admittedly it didn’t have the same appeal as Midland Railway but for me that shouldn’t matter as much as it obviously did to some.   I’ve been to some good festivals at the Assembly Rooms in Derby which shared some similarities and I didn’t think that venue was any better or worse than that one.


The most annoying thing for me was having no choice but to move from Midland Railway.  Whilst the three festivals there had been successful, dealing with an outdoor venue in adverse weather became more and more difficult each year.  Add to that their rapidly increasing prices and their growing reluctance to provide us with some of the facilities we needed, we felt we had little choice.  It also didn’t help that they had decided to add a booking fee to their advance ticket sales, even for people paying in cash, without ever obtaining our permission to do this. The final straw was that they took nearly four months to pass on the money for ticket sales even though we had to pay up front for the venue hire.  Clearly they wanted us out or for us to pay over the odds for the venue hire.  Rumour had it that they wanted to put on their own festival.  I don’t know if there was any truth to this but it didn’t happen either way.


The decision to move the festival to Alfreton had proved futile though.  Alfreton is not particularly known for its real ale pubs (only 5 of them in the town at the time, now 4) whereas by comparison both Ripley and Belper have considerably more.  The change of dates also hadn’t helped, picking the first week after the kids go back to school had meant a number of important staff members were unavailable to work and this would have also impacted on the number of attendees.  This wasn’t by choice, however, as the Leisure Centre’s bowls season was about to start and that was the main purpose of the hall.  In fact, to their credit, they delayed the start of the season to allow the festival to take place which they didn’t have to do.


It was decided that we should strongly consider other options although admittedly there were only a few suitable contenders, the main two being Belper Rugby Club and Strutts (the former school).


The only positives to come out of this festival were the increased number of new members (from a much smaller attendance) and a successful debut trade session on the Thursday afternoon.

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