Anatomy of a Beer Festival Part 8

Part 8: A Programme Of Our Own


In the first four years we had always used Matelot to create and print our festival programme.  We would write some content, supply them with the beer and cider lists, something on membership, a front cover image and they would take care of the rest.


They would procure the advertising, deal with the design and arrange the printing and delivery of it.  They worked on the basis that they would get enough advertising to cover their costs (including an element of profit) and we would get the programme printed free of charge with a minimal amount of effort on our part.


This worked well as we didn’t really have the manpower, the contacts, the design skills or the time to deal with all of it ourselves. None of the committee members, including those with many years of experience, had ever been involved in producing a programme before either.


We had all assumed we would continue with this arrangement until one of our newer committee members suggested we create a pub map of Belper town centre pubs.  He suggested that in return for a small charge we could design it, agree some text with each of them and then include it as a centre spread in the programme.  We all thought it was a good idea and I approached Matelot to see how feasible it was.


I was quite surprised by the prices they were charging for advertising and wasn’t sure we could get enough pubs involved.  Effectively they had a set price for a page or a double page and they were suggesting that the cost would be split between the pubs involved.  The problem was, how could we persuade someone to advertise without being able to quote them a specific cost?  I didn’t think this was feasible and so decided to investigate the costs of doing, not only the pub map, but the whole programme ourselves.


I put a plan together and circulated it at the penultimate meeting before the festival.  I proposed charging almost half of what Matelot were charging for advertising, on the basis that if we did we may get more people interested and I had checked the opinions on the pricing structure with two breweries to validate my reasoning.


At the meeting there was a unanimous agreement that we should do it ourselves even if we only managed to break even.  It was never intended to be a huge money spinner for us anyway.  The only issue was that we only had just over 3 weeks from making this decision to the programme going to print and that would prove to be an incredibly tight schedule.


Luckily, one of our longstanding members works in the printing industry and was quickly able to obtain quotes from a few different printing companies for us to consider.  We chose a cost-effective company who were also very helpful and amenable to fitting our job in at such short notice.


We were also fortunate when a very experienced Derby member offered his services to help with obtaining advertising and the same member that had proposed the pub map offered to liaise with the Belper pubs.  The guy who designed the posters, flyers and our website agreed to deal with the design elements which left me to design the structure and co-ordinate the information being passed between us.


At this point I hadn’t anticipated so many problems with the beer list (which I will go into in a separate post) but ultimately a lot had to be changed at the last minute which left me very short of time with the festival fast approaching.  The major difficulty we had with the programme was in assessing exactly how many pages we would need for the advertising, general festival information and beer /cider list, which affected the amount of additional content I needed to prepare.  We started with the 8 or 12 page versions we’d had in previous years but ended up with 24 which was a great surprise to us all.


I really enjoy writing but doing so under pressure was not quite as much fun!  Other committee members chipped in however, and we managed to write and compile enough content between us.  I was a little worried how the “Volunteer Story” page might come across in case people thought I was arrogant or self-centred by featuring myself in it. That was never my intention; the truth was I wanted to promote an image of a younger person being involved in CAMRA to try and appeal to other younger people to get involved and I was the only suitable candidate at the time whether I liked it or not!  Those that know me know how much I hate having my photo taken let alone featuring my ugly mug in 1200 programmes but sacrifices have to be made for the greater good!


Although the programme was very well received in the end (it was far better designed and on much better quality paper than in previous years) it was not without a struggle.  There was probably a seven day period just before the deadline when the designer and I were on the phone and exchanging e-mails with each other until gone 1 in the morning.  I know the other two weren’t having it easy either, one of them spending all day at it and the other spending most evenings walking round the pubs trying to finalise their content.  Stress levels were high, energy levels were running low but, due to the amazing effort put in by all those involved, we got it designed, compiled, proofread and to the printers on time.


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