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A Camden Crawler's Guide to Festival Management: Surviving Stress

Posted: 14/04/2012 00:00

"A long period of stress which has not been adequately dealt with": a decent working definition of the cause of a nervous breakdown. People living with the range of mental health problems associated with breakdowns might experience depression, disconnection from reality, and severe exhaustion. They might cry a lot, get confused a good deal, and feel generally hopeless.

Not coincidentally, perhaps, all this offers a decent sketch of the nine months I spend working on running a music festival every year. Not only is this period the same amount of time taken up by an average pregnancy; it also represents a prolonged period of intense crowding. Experts think that stress really started to trouble the human mind when we all decided it'd be a good idea to crowd into cities like London. Research money needs to be put into what then happened to stress levels when the music festival was invented.

We're entering the final furlong at Crawl HQ - the Crawl begins on 4 May. This means every job is now completed at a frenzied sprint, and this is without factoring in what's shaping up to be an equally exciting - and therefore equally demanding - festival over in Dublin. Artist contracts and invoices continue to dominate proceedings, but it's at this stage where the simple logistics of a festival of the size and scope of the Crawl are at their most taxing.

Chaos theory reputedly holds that the flap of a butterfly's wings on one side of the planet can cause a hurricane on the other. In a metropolitan music festival across so many venues, the peeling paint in one basement bar can throw out a whole bill on the biggest stage on Chalk Farm Road. I exaggerate, but only slightly.

The last few weeks of managing any festival require a Herculean effort to pull every diverging atom of an event together, endlessly nailing down one problem only for another to shake free. You're assailed from all sides: promoters, artists, staff, local authorities. While I'm misusing clinical terms, I may as well refer to the shell shock a festival manager needs to get used to feeling as they're bombarded in this fashion.

They're not playing the Crawl this year (or, indeed, ever), but the Rolling Stones famously sang about a 19th Nervous Breakdown. I've been running festivals since the high-water of Britpop. I might be giving Mick a run for his money ...

 

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