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A day-in-the-life of a Food/Drink/Music Festival Director

“It’s Friday, it’s nearly Gin O’ Clock and I am drowning in a sea of paperwork, invoices and emails. Most people’s perception of running events and festivals is that it is all fun and games but I can reassure you, it’s not! Welcome to my crazy non-stop world and an insight into how I ended up doing what I am doing now…


Having spent most of my teenage years working in hospitality I was pretty used to long (unsociable) hours, sore feet, smelling of stale beer, fried food and cigarette smoke (that shows how old I am...), a lot of which still resonates now, but the one big difference now is that I am running the show. I may still be working maximum hours for minimum wage, but it feels so much better at the end of the day when you have pulled off something awesome and can personally take the credit for it!


Following on from my years in hospitality, a brief University course on Hotel Management, and getting as much travelling in as I could possibly manage, I opted for a complete career change and joined my dad's garden and forestry business in Gairloch. Cutting grass and chopping firewood wasn’t exactly my dream job but it did let me see into the world of self-employment and made me realise that was the direction I ultimately wanted to go in. The ability to set your own schedule and take holidays when you wanted, the feeling of achievement when clients were happy and the opportunity to constantly develop and evolve was just where I wanted to be!


I worked alongside my dad in Gairloch for nearly three years before the bright lights of Inverness called on me (of all the lights to come calling eh!?). My first two years in Inverness were spent working bad temp jobs until a sheer chance opportunity came up with Jacobite Cruises to join the team as their Marketing Manager. My background didn’t exactly lie in marketing but there was obviously something in me that just clicked! That position led me to setting up my own marketing and events management business, Snow Marketing, to take on clients from all sectors.


After a few years of working with various clients and running events across the Highlands, I noticed more and more micro-breweries and distilleries popping up, a number of which approached me for assistance with their marketing. I was also noticing an increase in the level of new beer festivals across the country and words like ‘street food’, ‘artisan’, ‘small-batch gin’ and ‘craft beer’ being thrown into the mix. Who would have known that four years on I was going to be one of the ones throwing those words into marketing for my own events and festivals!

North Hop kicked off in February 2014, with the first festival taking place at Eden Court in Inverness in August 2014. At that early stage I only planned on it being one inaugural festival to run alongside my other client work...who was I kidding! As with most of these things it suddenly grew multiple arms and legs and before I knew it we were running our first Aberdeen festival by April 2015!


To say life as Festival Director for North Hop has been a whirlwind is a complete understatement! Although I have worked (do work) with some great people along the way (all freelancers) I am ultimately a one-woman-band, which isn’t always easy. When things go well I can pat myself on the back but when the you-know-what goes down it’s me that’s left to clean up too.


Most days are spent liaising with venues, chasing up exhibitors for paperwork (*cough*), writing content for marketing elements, working alongside key team members and working on the promotion stuff for a festival. In the weeks building up to any festival the questions turns out not many people like to read information packs or emails and festival goers prefer to email/message rather than check a website or read a ticket, and some people wonder why I drink so much gin!


The glamorous side of the job is seeing everything come together in the week building up to and during festival build, and chatting to like-minded people who are as passionate about North Hop as I am. The-not-so-glamorous side is the risk assessments, mountains of paperwork, ticket sales stresses and dealing with things when they go wrong.

 Last month saw a brand new festival hit Aberdeen, Spirit of North Hop and although the line-up and idea of “travelling” around Scottish distillers for a festival was awesome (if I say so myself) the ticket sales were super slow. A situation that was super-frustrating but something we just had to roll with. In the end, feedback from festival goers was brilliant, they still loved it and had a great time and the exhibitors embraced the idea and still turned out lots of great products.


Then a few weekends back we held the second Aviemore festival of the year (yes, some call me mad, and I agree!). The new dates were a result of another festival clashing back in February and Aviemore simply doesn’t have the infrastructure, or demand to handle two big festivals in one weekend so we took initiative and moved dates. Now, maybe it was the stresses of running a second festival in the one area in one year, or running two big festivals with only a few weeks between them, or perhaps it was just the overall stresses and strains of being a Festival Director but something simply cracked in me the day after the Aviemore festival resulting in a pretty big decision being made…North Hop Aberdeen 2018 will mark the final ‘big/main’ festival in the North Hop saga!  


Calling it quits with the main festivals wasn’t a decision I took lightly at all, in fact it has been playing on my mind for the last 6 months or so, but to retain my last piece of sanity it was an absolute necessity!


So what’s in the pipeline after North Hop Aberdeen 2018 you ask…well to be totally honest I don’t really know yet but I am pretty excited to play around with some ideas and get a bit creative! At this stage I am totally open to ideas/suggestions and also keen to get some new collabs on the go, so any thoughts, fire them my way! For now it’s back to working on a pretty epic line-up for #northhopabz 2018. Slainte!”



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