New research reveals that the town’s prestigious Contemporary Music Festival is worth £1m to the Huddersfield economy – with young people playing a greater part in that success story. VAL JAVIN reports
IN THE arts world it is seen as an international player. A festival that attracts the best musicians working in contemporary music and audiences from around the world.
At home, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival is proving itself to be a big hitter on the economic front too.
Research carried out at last year’s festival, which ran for 10 days in November, found that HCMF generates an overall economic benefit to the area of more than £1m.
Of that, around £630,000 is made up of money spent directly on things such as public transport and taxis as well as in restaurants, pubs, bars, shops and of course, hotels. And that figure doesn’t even include the money generated by ticket sales.
The £1m figure was reached by adding to that public spend what the festival organisers themselves have to pay out to run the event.
“It is the first time that we have done an economic impact study,” said a festival spokeswoman.
The research was carried out by a Holmfirth-based company called Spirul. They surveyed 200 people at last year’s event quizzing them about how much they had spent on tickets, meals, drinks, travel, accommodation and shopping.
The company then looked at the festival’s own spending on travel and for accommodation and hospitality for those artists, performers and musicians who came to Huddersfield.
Ten local firms, including hotels, bars and restaurants, were also approached and asked what impact they found that the festival had on their businesses. The response was impressive.
Nine of them said the festival was either important or very important to the business and nine also said that their turnover and number of customers had increased by 10% thanks to the event.
There was positive feedback too from festival-goers. Seventy-one percent of those spoken to had been to the festival before but 29% new faces is a figure that any arts event organiser would be delighted by. Sixty-one percent of festival attenders had travelled at least 20 miles to get to the festival.
But one of the figures from the survey of festival-goers that excited organisers HCMF most was that 23% of last year’s festival audience was aged between 17 and 25.
That figure was the equal highest proportion of the audience, along with 45 to 54 year olds and bucks national trends. Who says that young people are not interested in classical music.
Festival organisers deserve much credit for the figures. After all, they work hard to encourage attendance by younger audiences.
There’s a special ticket discount scheme, sponsored for the last three years by the Royal Philharmonic Society, which offers tickets to young people at £3 for daytime concerts and £5 for the evening events.
The festival has brought in a number of less formal events too where audiences can “drop in and out” rather than stay for a whole performance.
And perhaps another key to the growing numbers of youngsters attending festival is the introduction of new, less traditional venues such as Bates Mill in Queen Street South which last year hosted some of the festival’s key events including the opening Night Of The Unexpected. The venue has proved a real success story and has now become a festival regular.
The ticket discount scheme will again be on offer and the festival is working hard to develop links with a number of other venues, publications, other events and websites to promote HCMF among young people who live or work in major cities across the north including Leeds, York, Sheffield, Manchester and Newcastle.
Much work then to encourage a new generation of festival-goers but perhaps one of the key events is a project called Revolutionaries.
This is the chance for young people aged between 16 and 25 to get involved in making electro-acoustic music on laptops. What they create will be heard at three concerts at Huddersfield’s Media Centre in the run-up to the festival and a call will be going out soon for people to get involved. So watch out.
And perhaps other event organisers and venue bosses should take a close look too at the festival and take inspiration from HCMF on how it is working to attract new audiences.