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A Camden Crawler's Guide to Festival Management: Week 1

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Sometimes it seems like yesterday. Sometimes it seems way, way longer.

I'm approaching 20 years of involvement in the Camden Crawl, the metropolitan music and arts festival in London I helped set up in the mid-Nineties. We had a lengthy hiatus from the end of the 1990s until 2005, but since then I've been here year in, year out, trying to keep the ship on course and afloat. So when the Huffington Post asked me to write a weekly series for them about running one of the UK's biggest festivals, I felt like I probably had the material - if not necessarily the time!

All those years ago, we had a simple vision. It was a really difficult environment for indie labels to get win exposure for new acts, and for indie venues and promoters to fill their nights, and I suppose we took it upon ourselves to solve that problem. We tried to curate a festival which included the best bands and venues we knew about. We started in 1995 with five venues, 1,000 people, and an entrance fee of five quid.

The environment of live music has changed beyond recognition since those days. On the other hand, it's still ultimately about giving bands a bigger crowd than they might otherwise have, trying to offer an interesting and eclectic line-up to music fans who want to know what the next big thing is. The work involved in what might seem a pretty simple objective, however, can at times be overwhelming.

We are at it from the July before our traditional early summer slot. I started off by working on a new creative vision for 2012 - we had moved away from our corporate sponsorship with Gaymers cider, and I wanted artwork and a website which reflected that. At this stage - and until October - I was the only person working full-time on the festival, and to be honest that's a struggle: if we'd achieved more then, it might be slightly less hectic right now!

On the other hand, by December we had researched and booked our daytime programming, keeping up with what was happening both at other festivals and at the grassroots level which is still fundamental to the Crawl; we'd produced press releases and media packs, meeting media partners to explain and promote the event; and we'd put together the committee we use every year to nominate and then vote for our evening line-up.

Yesterday, we made our first announcement from the list that committee drew up: we've been deep into the hard slog of arranging bookings for six weeks. Following that announcement now comes the chaotic, exhilarating process of getting the word out there: liaising with the media and our PR company (new for this year), generating content for digital and mainstream promotion, managing our social networks and contracting venues... the list goes on.

I believe totally in the Camden Crawl - that's why I remember its first days so vividly. But, believe me, festival management can be a hard task-master - so in the midst of the middle of January, 4 May 2012 can seem as far away as 1995!

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