Every year the sleepy Oxfordshire village of Wallingford comes alive for one weekend, when over 1,000 people gather to enjoy live blues music and artisan beer at the Wallingford Blues and Beer festival.
Held in an old cinema complex,with over 60 volunteers from the community involved in its running, the festival not only brings live music to the town but also provides a showcase for local breweries and food producers.
John Curry, chairman of Blues and Beer CIC, is part of the original community group that took over the running of the festival 11 years ago. At first they kept it going through funding from the community, but as the festival grew it became fully financed through ticket sales and a small amount of sponsorship.
Curry explains that as the festival became more successful they saw the need to formalise the way in which they operated.
In 2006 the group decided to set up a Community Interest Company.
“While we were all dedicated to the running of the festival we were a loosely knit group of people, and we could see the benefit of having a more formal structure. We wanted to protect the festival funds so the asset lock of the CIC was a real benefit. It gave the group more financial security,” says Curry.
“The festival is now an established fixture on the blues circuit,” says Curry, “We’ve started to draw some big names, such as The Animals and Dave Berry. We also make a point of showcasing local bands. I think it’s been a real education for some people.
“And it’s become much more than just a blues festival. It’s a real opportunity to celebrate the local community. We have local people running the bars which sell local beer and local wine, and there’s a selection of great food available from local producers.”
The benefit to the community doesn’t stop there. Part of the profit from the festival is reinvested back into youth projects in Wallingford and the surrounding villages. Since becoming an independent festival in 2000 it has raised over £29,000 for local organisations and charities.
“Every year we pick two organisations to support. Over the years we’ve supported local school music groups, local pre-schools, the local choir and rugby team, as well as more established charities such as Riding for the Disabled and Home Start,” says Curry.
Asked about the future, Curry says he hopes that they’ve created something that will last for the community. “We’ve thought about expanding to other areas but at the end of the day this is a legacy that we’ve created for Wallingford. As long as there’s still demand we’ll keep running the festival here.”
||Blues and Beer
||CIC limited by guarantee
||18 May 2006
|Community interest statement
||Providing activities that benefit the Wallingford community – an annual Blues and Beer festival which provides locals with live blues and traditional draft beers; and raising money to support local youth development projects.
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