Parties and festivals

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

Everyone enjoys a party! Whether or not you have anything in particular to celebrate, organising a party or festival can be a really positive and energising way to engage people.

Street parties. Streets are often a level at which people feel a sense of community, or feel there is scope for a sense of community. Neighbours within a street normally recognise and bump into each other more frequently and have more shared interests compared with those across a larger area. Newcomers may feel it is therefore less daunting and worth investing the time (as well as more convenient!) to get involved with a party at this scale. After all, everyone wants to get along with their neighbours.

A street party can be anything you want it to be, and it needn’t take a lot of time and money to organise. Inviting people in itself can provide a great opportunity to engage with people and to start building new connections and relationships. Try to engage the whole street and provide extra encouragement for those who may be harder to reach, such as the elderly – inviting people face-to-face and having activities for all ages can help with this.

If you are considering a big party, it is worth contacting your local council to find out if you need permission and to request a road closure. Permission may also be required if you are planning a party in a park – it is always worth checking. Smaller street parties in front or back gardens, driveways or parking areas (and sometimes at the end of cul-de-sacs) are not likely to require permission. Visit http://www.streetparty.org.uk/ for more ideas, guidance and tips.

Festivals and fetes. If you are feeling more ambitious, a festival can be a great way to reach a lot of people. A festival can provide an opportunity to appeal to a range of different interests, from music, art and crafts, to food and drink - the trick is to have a coherent theme or branding to bring it all together.

Festivals can take a lot of planning, starting a long way in advance. You will need to formulate a festival programme, invite speakers and acts, manage the logistics and develop a marketing strategy. Community contacts are likely to come in handy here, so ask around. Publicising the festival will be just as key as planning the programme – if few people know it is happening, few will attend. Securing a strong headline act or speaker, while not a necessity, can be a big boost for promotion of the event.

To reduce the burden on your group, it is well worth working in partnership with other community groups, universities or your local council. You may also be able to get sponsorship from local businesses, a venue in-kind or at a discounted rate, or grant funding.

House parties. House parties can be another great way to bring neighbours together.

Case Studies
Country: Netherlands

Loenen Energie Neutraal (Loenen Energy Neutral) organised an energy festival in order to inspire the community of the village of Loenen, with a particular emphasis on involving local children with saving energy. One of the activities at the festival was an award for the children with the best energy saving idea. The whole day was devoted to energy projects in the village and finished with a party in the cultural centre of Loenen. The involvement of the children and wider community in the energy projects resulted in more support and knowledge about the positive dynamic of the projects. Read more about Loenen Energie Neutraal here.

Country: UK

Sustainable Kirtlington held a Footprint Fair to raise money to install energy efficiency measures in the village hall. The event involved a dog show, pony rides, quizzes, games, a raffle, demonstrations of local crafts, an art exhibition, plant, produce and cake stalls, a swap shop and a fancy dress competition. The activities were designed to include traditional village fete attractions, but with a green twist to raise awareness about climate change. They successfully raised £500 to put towards improving the energy efficiency of the village hall.

Country: UK

Transition Leicester initiated the founding of Leicester’s Green Light Festival, an annual one-day celebration of sustainable living. The event features over 40 interactive stalls, 20 expert talks and practical workshops, in addition to an art exhibition, live music, local food and helpful tips on how to live more sustainably. The event showcases a full range of local environmental community projects, and aims to inspire action at home, in businesses and within communities. The inaugural Green Light Festival was planned by a core group of 6 people, supported by 25 volunteers. The planning took 4 months and the event cost approximately £3,000, with grant funding provided by a Climate Friendly Communities grant, Groundwork’s LIFE fund and Leicester City Council.

Country: UK

Transition Town Poole considers engaging with neighbours as vital for building community spirit and conviviality. In 2010, members of the group initiated 3 street parties as part of the Eden Project’s The Big Lunch event, which aims to bring neighbours together every year on the first Sunday of June. Over 60 people participated across the full age range, including lots of new faces who hadn't previously been involved with the project. The group have promoted these events to happen in gardens, parks, beaches and streets on any scale as often as possible. They see this as a key way of building trust, connections and friendships to enable more working together and sharing of resources.