Anyone who was there will know how great Long Division felt this year. We said in the run up that this wouldn’t the perfect year. It was all about making the best of what we could. That wasn’t a cop out – it was a realistic appraisal of the state of the country / industry / all our heads. In the end, we did our best but it was the audiences and the artists that made it the special thing it was.
We always seek feedback on our festivals. It’s really useful and we don’t shy away from the fact that we can always improve what we do. It’s always interesting reading the feedback as some people clearly get that our sheer existence is a struggle, whilst some put the same expectations on us as they would a large corporate festival. It’s all relevant.
In an even further effort to be open about our approaches and our thinking, here are some of the findings from our survey and other bits of data we gathered up.
Who Was There?
We were really pleased that 31% of the people who attended were new to Long Division. This is almost double what we achieved in 2019. This is likely down to our Sunday event and a huge spike in U18 attendees (three times as many as 2019) which we see as big positives. Hopefully they’ll come back next year.
66% of the audience identified as Male, which is consistent with previous years, with approx 53% of all attendees coming from Wakefield. That’s a good chunk from outside the city – and 84% said they went to a new place in the city whilst at Long Division.
There was also a notable increase in families this year – and not just on the Sunday. Nearly 1000 young people took part in a creative workshop whilst at the festival.
Over 51% of the performers were either female led or had a majority of female members, which just edges over our goal of gender parity. Our lineup was actually more female heavy towards the top, with top of poster / headliner acts like The Lovely Eggs, Brix & The Extricated, She Drew The Gun, Lanterns On The Lake, Big Joanie being up there (+ late dropout The Anchoress).
At a really important time, Long Division was able to generate vital income for artists, those working in the industry in technical roles, and to the local economy. Despite Covid and our reduced capacity, we can still estimate Long DIvision created approx £120,000 income for the city – that’s secondary spend after tickets and travel to the city.
Why People Came & What To Improve
It’s a simple question, but not one we should take for granted. What is the major draw of Long Division?
By far the most popular answer was “Discover New Music” which 73% of respondees chose as a reason. Behind that were “Socialising with Friends and Family” and “The Atmosphere”. Audiences were also keen to support both Wakefield Culture and Local Artists. Only 49% of those responding to the survey chose “Headliners” as a draw to the event.
Of those that came, 94.7% felt the quality of the festival was very good or good.
Reoccurring areas for improvement included:
- Food Stalls & Involving Local Business. Clearly WX as a venue would have benefited from a food stall of some kind. We have experimented with this in the past but the food stalls we brought in were so under-used (despite an excellent central location) that we actually had to refund the retailers. So this is something we’ll continue to work on. Involving local businesses is key – this year we relied on Wakefield BID to do this but in the future we may well take this on ourselves to ensure our messaging reaches businesses and we can get them excited about Long Division. But, you’d probably be surprised how difficult this is.
- Wider variety of drinks at pop-up bars. Simply arranging those pop-up bars was a large and difficult task for us, but we note that not everyone wants to drink craft beer. We’ll look at this next year, though we felt when taken as a whole, all the bars offered a good selection.
- More signage and map in programme. 100% agree with this. The map was a major oversight and though we put them up in venues, this clearly didn’t work. For the programme this year (and we’ll get our programmes printed by a business that can actually deliver them on time too).
- Listing artists by genre in programme. We agree on this too. We feel part of the joy of Long Division is the discovery and chancing on new things. But, with the best will in the world, there are probably some genres or types of music that are never going to win you over. We’ll strive to make that decision making process a little easier next time.
- Comfort / Seating / Earplugs. Seating is difficult – we don’t have much say over venues (see below). But we always try and offer at least one venue with seating. It is a tiring day! We’ve never had any requests for earplugs prior to this year and then this year we had loads. It might have been the increase in family attendees. Noted for 2022.
Most other comments related to specific things at venues (both good and bad).
The single biggest challenge at every Long Division Festival is venues. Those who live locally, and are involved in music as a performer or punter, will have the inside track on this. But this year 31% of our audience were new. They take things on face value.
The bottom line is that Wakefield really, really struggles for venues. At the time of the festival in September 2021 there was one dedicated music venue in the whole district (350,000 people). We’ve always had to take our DIY approach but this year was especially difficult.
As an example, the cost of hiring venues this year was over £4500 – an increase of £3000 on 2019. Even more troubling was what it cost us to hire PA, backlines and Tech Staff; just over £20,000. This is because we operate in a city without the most basic infrastructure. Think what else we could be spending that money on.
Most audiences don’t care about those details, and they shouldn’t. The end product of the festival experience is what matters. But it is part of our story and it is the reason that we have to make unusual decisions for where the music happens. We always try and turn that into a positive but it is becoming increasingly difficult.
If your feedback was questioning our venue decisions, understand that we were making the best of what we had. And it’s part of what we hope is the charm of the festival that we do that. But this isn’t Leeds of Manchester. We’ll think more about explaining this context in a positive way, and explaining our venue choices and what we are aiming to achieve with them. There are interesting things on the horizon in terms of where we’ll be able to work.
Naturally, we’re excited about LD2022. We’ve started approaching artists and booking venues. The festival is no longer put together by one person working a couple of days a week. Our success in the face of adversity and commitment to grassroots culture has enabled us to get support to employ a much more complete team. This creates the hours we need to make Long Division even better!
But it will always need the support of amazing people like you. I’m chancing it that someone who has read this far through an article full of stats is a pretty committed person to our cause. So thank you!
Any additional thoughts, please send to email@example.com