The V Festival
Large-Scale Arena Experiences
In the 1990s (well before my stint in Essex), a partnership was formed to share the local council’s own Chelmsford Spectacular event infrastructure with a private sector music promoter (Metropolis Music, later Maztec and then finally, Festival Republic) over successive weekends in late August… and this became the V Festival.
This was a hugely successful partnership establishing a large-scale mainstream music festival at Hylands Park. Chelmsford benefitted significantly from this event and although the future direction of the event was not determined by the council, the income receipts generated were dependent on the success of each.
The way the infrastructure was shared between the Chelmsford Spectacular and the V Festival was valuable for me to experience. To see the pros and cons of such an arrangement and the shifting priorities of the many party’s involved.
I had done something similar at my first festival where we shared infrastructure on a green field festival with a classical concert stage set-up. It was useful but fraught with complications.
So the V Festival attracted internationally acclaimed artists and grew incrementally from a licensed capacity of 35,000 to 90,000 per day.
As well as helping promote Chelmsford both nationally and internationally, an economic impact assessment study based on the V Festival estimated that the local economy directly benefitted by around £8m per annum.
Following some initial opposition to the scale of the event, Chelmsford largely embraced the festival at Hylands and as years went on complaints became minimal. Which, considering the scale of the thing, was quite impressive in itself.
As a member of the local event management team, I helped closely monitor the event to protect the site and surrounding areas (including traffic management and trading standards issues), identify ways of safely increasing the festival’s capacity each year and also as a more approachable liasion between the public and the promoter.
The experience helped many of us involved to develop significant additional large-scale event management expertise and also improve relationships with external agencies. It was a vast annual operation with a large Event Safety Advisory Group but thanks to all everyone working well together, the event developed an excellent reputation as one of the best organised and safest festivals in the country.