Emerge Festival blog – No3 by Namiwa Jazz

Have you ever planned a festival?

At the point of me applying for this role I had little experience in planning festivals however I came with an abundance of experiences where I had led on event planning and organising in a verity of creative settings in the past. Producing Walsall Emerge 2019 has added to my portfolio of events but it has also given me a new sense of confidence when it comes to negotiating with local organisations, authorities and community members.

Over the last 12 months I have been attending training sessions with The Mighty Creatives, in each session we had, we looked at an area of the festival planning and had one to one’s about our current state of play and any pressing festival planning matters. I found these touch points so helpful as there were some areas of this type of planning I had not encountered before. I felt supported by Emerge thought the planning stages. I am currenlty on my Masters in Arts Events Festivals and Exhbibition managment from Birmingham City University. The theory I have been learning has been underpinned with my practice through this project.

As well as being in session with young people weekly, I was in talks with the venue and partners like Punch Records and Walsall Creative Factory about the hoped outcomes for the festival day. Walsall Creative Factory became a key addition to the project’s connection in the wider Walsall community. Some of the relationships were continued from last year as they were the lead on the community lab for this project; Newer creative partnerships formed with Punch Records/ Gallery 37, Squiiggles Entertainment and local freelance actors and actress who were a big part of the festival day.

Building relationships within the community:

Coming into this project I was already familiar with Walsall as I attended Walsall college shortly after leaving school. I felt as if I had a connection with the place the people and its ethics. Being from Birmingham, which isn’t that far away I assumed that I would be met with a similar openness in the local creative community. To my surprise I found it quite challenging to connect this project with other small local events and creative groups. From my observations of working across Walsall in schools and community settings with the aim to establish new creative grounds, I found that there is a closed off mentality. That’s being said there was a sense of openness mainly from schools to trying to engage.

Walsall is a vibrant place with local pride and traditions behind it, over the next 12 months I would like to see and be a part of some of the creative developments taking place.Post project planning Walsall Arboretum have said that they are keen to continue the relationship and keep a regular flow of work linked to schools and Emerge within their programming. As a group the young people came together to invite their friends and family to the event, they also shared this across the school by giving out flyers to other students across the wider school community. If they had social media, the group was encouraged to share the poster and flyer online. This project had 5 main social media campaigners including Namiwa Change Formation, Arts connect, Walsall Arboretum Park Walsall Creative Factory and Punch Records. In the week leading up to the festival and online strategy to engage the local community was implemented and lead by Namiwa Jazz.