Involvement of the community and young people in Dumfries & Galloway has been the heartbeat of the Eden Festival. Originally founded by youth from the community, Eden has been created, organised, supported, built, performed and marketed by young people from the area. This has gone hand in hand with support from older generations within the area to give a very positive and vital collective community spirit to the festival – mixing optimism and energy with experience and guidance.
Eden was brought about as an area of the Wickerman Festival in 2002. The Chairman of the Youth Strategy Group (A council run music group with 3 members, all under 17, responsible for organising the first Wickerman Festival) is also responsible for starting Eden in the same year as a side project to the main event. It was an area of the festival comprising of dance and chill out tents with a large garden area in the middle. The Chairman of the Youth Strategy Group (YSG) involved friends and their parents in organising the area and helping build the creative, highly decorated spaces.
In 2009, after 7 years of hosting the Eden Zone and the building of relationships and skills between the 200 or so locals involved in the Eden Zone, the time came to step out of the Wickerman Festival and go it alone. Eden Festival was born. The objectives were to involve more young people and people from within the community, support creative talent at a grassroots level and exhibit it hand in hand with nationally acclaimed artists, keeping the event as green as possible whilst attracting people from all over the UK to the area to boost its economy. In essence, building a nationally acclaimed festival that takes its community on the journey with it and supports local businesses, artists and those with an interest in being involved in it. More locals came in and the local voluntary help swelled to around 300 people across many different aspects of the event to bring it all together.
In 2010 Eden Festival started a youth project to include and share skills with the under 18’s in the area. A night was put on in the local Castle Douglas Town Hall called Varanasi Nights and under 18s were invited to get involved with all the various aspects of the night. The event was programmed with local under 18s bands and djs as well as getting under 18s involved with sound engineering, lighting, projections, making decorations, marketing, production and over all management of the night. The event gained local recognition as one of the most successful youth projects in the country in terms of engaging young people and transferring skills, with over 320 children attending the night in rural Castle Douglas. The arts council were keen to back the event and funded it to be ran region wide in local towns Stranraer, Kirckcudbright, Dalbeattie, Castle Douglas and Dumfries. The outcome was a success and over 1000 under 18s from across the region were involved in either organising or attending the event in its 2 year span (1 in 9 of the total high school population of Dumfries & Galloway).
The final part of the project was to offer the under 18s involvement with Eden Festival. Over the past 4 years, on average the festival has hosted twelve under 18 acts from the area and sixteen over 18 acts from the area. Every year a battle of the bands competition was run to give the youngsters an opportunity to open the festivals Main Stage. These acts are hosted shoulder to shoulder with Mercury Music Award winning top ten selling artists such as Roots Manuva, Gomez, The Levellers and Badly Drawn Boy, giving them further exposure, experience and credentials for their CV.
Maybe more importantly the under 18s were given key roles at the festival with 3 working on the main stage doing sound and light and over 30 involved across the field in other areas of management and production. Two of the youths who got experience with sound engineering from professional sound engineers during the Varanasi Nights project are now studying Sound Engineering at University. The Varanasi Night youths also run their own stage at the festival – The Voltan Stage – and with support from Eden this is being taken to other festivals as far away as Wales and Ireland. One of the Under 18 ‘house bands’ (Saint Max and the Fanatics) has also gone on to perform at the BBC Introducing stage at T in the Park and are tipped by Scottish Music Broadcaster Jim Gellatly to be one of the hottest prospects on the Scottish Music Scene.
Although the under 18s youth club night project closed its doors in 2012, the youths are still heavily involved in the Eden Festival, now aged between 18 – 25. The youths that originally started the Eden Zone all those years ago age between 24 – 31 and the older hands who helped build and manage areas generally age between 40 – 65. As the festival has grown it has developed as a kind of layer cake, but operating together harmoniously as a community rather than groups of separate ages or genres.
Of the festivals 11 music stages at Eden Festival, 8 are run by locals, along with the kids tent, info tent, and circus skills tent.
Eden is classed as a ‘boutique’ festival, which means it has lots of small stages rather than a few big ones. The reason for this style of festival is to host an event that has enough big names on the bill that people will travel to see – but at the same time has enough small stages to include the wealth of unsigned talent across many different genres. These genres include Traditional, Reggae, Swing, Ska, Balkan, Hip Hop, Folk, Classical, Rock, Blues, Bluegrass, Rockabilly, Electro, Breaks, Dub Step, Chill Out, Psy Trance, House and Minimal. This talent is from across the UK. There is some priority given to Dumfries & Galloway acts but acts are sourced from all over Scotland and the UK. This helps to bring music lovers and musicians at a grass roots level north of the border to support their favourite acts or friends and share their music and audience with others. It benefits the Dumfries & Galloway musicians to play along side acts from all over the UK of a similar level who are open to collaboration, networking and skill sharing. It also benefits grass roots musicians who haven’t been able to establish north of the border. For both groups of musicians, they are getting a platform and an environment to perform their music and a potential outlet to collaborate and network in order to seek gigs further afield.
This has also been achieved over the last 7 years through a variety of different events put on in association with Eden. The Varanasi Nights youth project has been mentioned above with one band going on to play T in the Park. There have also been Taste of Eden club events held in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Ayr, Carlisle, Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester to collaborate artists from the various cities that have played at Eden with artists from within Dumfries & Galloway, normally representing a 50/50 split on the line up. Regular gigs have also been held in Dumfries & Galloway in local town halls and outdoor multi marquee events. The most popular of which was a monthly music event at Buittle Tower (a 12th century banquet hall), which was described in local press as Dumfries & Galloway’s answer to the Old Grey Whistle Test. This exchange of bands from D&G playing with bands from cities across the UK, both home and away, has helped build relations and aid bands in finding gigs out with their home county.
It is not just musicians that Eden Festival aims to support. Around 15 local artists and 5 national artists get involved in the festival every year to build, plant, carve, sculpt, grow and mould different areas or exhibitions on the site. The main stage was built by a team of wood carvers who strapped 30 sitka spruce trees (thinnings) together to form a beautiful tortoise shell stage. There is a thundering great Sonic Henge sitting in the middle of the site comprising of 8 elm standing stones (each one weighting over a tonne and a half) erected on 20ft telegraph pole ski’s buried 5 feet in the ground and with a flaming 10ft stone cairn in the centre. The Sonic Henge takes its name due to the fact that 8 speaker mounds send different sounds round the circular installation. There are glass snowdrop flowers, beautiful wooden carved mushrooms, willow tunnels, stone carvings, metal sculptures and a wide range of material, fabric and painted installations around site. The artists involved in putting these together have a platform though Eden Festival to promote their works to a much larger audience over the space of the festival and most have been successful in gaining extra paid work through their exhibits at Eden. This gives well received boost to the local and national artists involved.
A lot of festivals in Scotland enjoy a strong local footfall coming to their event. In Eden’s former incarnation, The Eden Zone, at the Wickerman Festival this was evident to see, backed up by festival goers from the central belt, Ayr and the borders and a small minority from the north of England.
There is quite a stark contrast between the more colourful festival scene of the south of England and the more hard edged festival scene of the Scotland. In our eyes the south of England had a wealth of musical talent, great visual feel and well decorated with lots of festival perennial performers in the shape of acrobats, walk about, vintage games and around site entertainers. Where as the Scottish festival scene had more down to earth, welcoming and mixed audience with some great humour thrown in.
The decision was made when Eden Festival started that if it were to be a success it would need to be hosted by people from Dumfries & Galloway, supporting businesses from Dumfries & Galloway, but with some of the wealth of musical talent and performance artists from the south of England and some known artists from the central belt. The site was carefully chosen to be 15 minutes from the motorway, with a locality of 50minutes drive from Glasgow and 2hours drive from Manchester, whilst also being 20 minutes from Dumfries, the most major town in Dumfries & Galloway. By combining these ingredients it was hoped to:
• Bring people from all over the UK to D&G by include some festival perennial talent from the UK festival scene.
• Help the D&G economy
• Increase experience and job skills for those working and learning at the festival
• Mix a notoriously friendly and welcoming Scottish crowd with a travelling English and Welsh crowd, thus not just supporting D&G’s economy but Scotland as a whole and promoting the Scottish festival scene across the UK.
Operating an event where people travel to it and it requires hired equipment has an impact on the environment. In order to monitor this, from the very first year we calculate its carbon footprint. This helps us to identify areas where we can reduce our carbon footprint for future years, as well as giving an indication of how many trees we need to plant to offset it. We then involve children in the planting of the trees and work to explain about carbon footprints as well as getting groups along as well to give a talk on different kinds of trees and the forest. The big fundamental aim though is carbon reduction rather than offsetting.
The main areas we identified as having a more substantial negative impact on the environment were:
The festival cannot function without having people travel to it, so instead of reducing the numbers of people travelling to Eden, we now encourage people to travel to it in a more sympathetic way to the environment. These now include:
• Lift Share – linking festival go-ers with empty seats in cars attending
• Eden Express (local bus) and Happy Bus (national) – running several routes to site
• En Mass Cycle supported by Dumfries Bicycle Club
• Up to date listings of handy public transport options for travel
• Increasing the cost of parking to reduce the amount of vehicles coming and use part of the parking fees for purchasing trees to offset the footprint
Most festivals rely heavily if not completely on equipment being brought in to the festival. In tackling the transportation costs we had to think of a clever way round this.
It was decided to use as much natural materials from the site, such as wood and stone, to make a lot of around site equipment. Flag ploes, festoon poles and wooden frame structures were erected our of Sitca Spruce thinnings from the surrounding woods, including the festivals impressive main stage. Stone and wood were used for around site decorations, installations, benches and tables. Some structures were also made using nearby willow.
With the permission of the land owner, recycled garden sheds were erected on site to serve as ticketing offices, info offices, cashiers offices, production sheds and back stage HQ’s and Artists Green Rooms. This saved on structures needing to be transported to the site every year for this purpose as well as saving money on the hire. For the essentials like marquees, lighting, cabling etc it was proposed to allow the owners of this equipment from nearby towns the opportunity to store it on site cost free all year round for a heavily discounted hire price.
We use local contractors where possible – from joiners to local beer and ale to skip hire etc to reduce the transportation miles of the equipment that cant just be built or stored. These are all family firms as well putting the money back in the economy.
All these things put together heavily reduced the amount of equipment transportation to put the event on and in turn reduced the carbon footprint.
To stop rubbish going to landfill we adopted a recycle at source response and installed 4 segment bins around site for paper, plastic, metal and general waste(glass is not allowed on site). The bins are then taken in tonne sacks to the sorting area where they are sorted out into separate piles and recycled. We collect cans to be send to, Moffat Can, which in turn helps their small local enterprise. Other local family firm Hallidays assist us with the rest.
Traders are also only allowed on site with recycled paper cups, plates and bowls and wooden cutlery.
In 2014 we introduced an deposit scheme with cups, where by the bars only used re-usable cups. Punters would pay £2 extra on their first drink but then keep their cup and use their cup throughout the festival, exchanging it at the end for £2. This cuts down on a huge amount of wasted plastic cups, and keeps the site looking clean and tidy!
Although the main energy usage on the field is still red diesel we power part of the festival through solar and wind power. This requires a different approach to energy usage which is being replicated over the rest of the site – reducing the actual amount of energy required, not just the source of energy. Things such as L.E.D lighting make a big difference to our energy usage and small, efficient, yet still powerful sound systems use a lot less energy than large old heavy ones.