Features index

Behind the scenes at Whatstandwell Festival

People enjoying an evening outdoors at Whatstandwell Festival

A Q&A with Mark Haslam from Whatstandwell Social Club.

What’s the idea behind the festival?

The festival is Whatstandwell Social Club’s main fundraising event and makes it possible for us to put on the rest of our events and donate to a couple of charities each year.The festival has been going about 15 years now and is well established; however, it’s grown from humble beginnings. Originally it was based in the barn at Hankin Farm with just a small bar at one end and a couple of live bands at the other. Over the years, we expanded from Saturday night into Saturday afternoon, and now we run on Friday night and all day Saturday. We have more and more live bands and acts every year and we’re now supplementing this with other activities, including a circus and a disco. Because the festival takes a fair amount of work and commitment in advance and over the weekend itself, it really helps if our volunteers enjoy organising events and working with others.

Band of stage at Whatstandwell Festival

What are the main areas to coordinate?

There are quite a few! Sorting out the venue, tables, chairs, stage, electrics, fridges, barbecue, car parking, toilets and decorations, making sure everything is in place and working, and also applying for the Temporary Events Notice. Ticket sales (now done online) and arranging wristbands, glasses and T-shirts. We have three main periods of entertainment to cover, too: the Friday night circus and disco, the Saturday afternoon outdoor acoustic stage, and then the Saturday night main stage. This involves booking 15-20 acts. We’re also now running a large bar to cater for up to 500 people over a couple of days. That’s a lot of beer, lager, cider, wine and soft drinks to order! Food is an important part of the event. This year we’ll be providing more choice available over a longer period. On top of this, there are a number of other activities to organise, such as the fun run, yoga, children’s activities, circus workshop and stalls.

People dancing at Whatstandwell Festival

How are funds raised for the event?

The festival is self-funding in terms of the general running costs, but every year we try to add something new and better for people to enjoy. Two years ago we bought a couple of marquees with a grant from Severn Trent. Foundation Derbyshire also helped us out last year with hiring the PA and insuring the event, and this year we have secured an action grant from Derbyshire County Council to buy our own PA. In the past, Crich Parish Council has given us small grants to buy tables, a generator, advertising banners, lights, gazebos and decorations, all of which get used at our other events.

Where’s the venue?

We still use the barn at Hankin Farm, which has the advantage of being a big, dry space should there be rain at festival time. There’s also onsite camping, toilets and showers. It provides a good set-up for us, which we’re now supplementing with our marquees. Where do you find the entertainment? We put on a variety of live bands from the local area, both on the main stage and the acoustic stage. Over the years we’ve had a great mix, from rock to folk, ska to punk and reggae to grunge. We’ve had some great solo singer-song writers, too. A new addition for this year is a circus in the barn on Friday night – it will bring even more variety to the festival.

Performer on stage at Whatstandwell Festival

Do you have stalls?

We keep the number of stalls to a minimum. It’s not that we don’t want them, but we do find it difficult to attract stalls from charities or local groups. In the past we’ve had clothing stalls and cake stalls, though, and pottery, willow weaving and even chainsaw-art demonstrations!

What food and drink does the festival offer?

We’ve always had a barbecue, but as numbers have grown we’ve introduced more food stalls. This year we’re planning to have snacks available throughout the weekend, as well as pizzas.

What about security and safety?

We sell tickets in advance through our website, so we know who and how many people to expect, and we issue everyone with a wristband on arrival. We have a large number of people on site helping us out, who can be identified by their festival T-shirts or hi-vis jackets.

Do you have contingency plans in place?

We have a couple of parking options depending on the weather, and we can also make greater use of the barn should it be wet. We have a number of first-aiders on site and our own generator in case we have any issues with the power.

Finally, tell us about this year’s festival!

We’ll be kicking off on Friday 21 June with a circus show and this will be followed by an 80s disco (fancy dress welcome!). On the Saturday we’re planning a gentle start with some yoga, followed by a fun run that will get back to the venue in time for the chainsaw-art demonstration and circus workshops. Then the afternoon acoustic stage will be open until we move to the main stage in the evening. We’ll have three different food outlets throughout the weekend and the bar will be serving local beers, lager, cider, wine and soft drinks.