Worcester Music Festival – A Brief History of Stress and Gratitude.

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When ‘The Big Book of Worcester Who’s Who’ is written (you never know, it might one day) I hope the authors will find it in their hearts to include the following as a lasting reminder of a small town boy who dared to dream. 

“In 2007 I had a dream. A dream that would bring musicians, venues, music lovers and the general public together in a festival of love, appreciation and enjoyment of live music whilst helping those less fortunate than ourselves. This dream was a dream I dreamt and foolishly tried to make it reality. And a reality it became, born with the co-operation of like-minded people my dream was fulfilled and I could live my life knowing that I had achieved something, and I saw that it was good.”

That is what I hope they’ll print.

In reality I probably won’t get a mention or possibly, if I’m lucky, they’ll write
“Chris Bennion, nice guy, put on a few gigs, called it Worcester Music Festival and then gave up.”

(Worcester Music festival is back for it’s 8th year. 16-18th September 2016 in the city of Worcester.)

The truth is I am the founder of Worcester Music Festival. I am proud of what I did and look back on it with fond memories. But In so many ways I am glad I walked away from it.

It all started in 2007. I had an idea of asking loads of venues and dozens of promoters to put on a gig on a certain night, make all the events free entry, list all the gigs in a guide, have buckets in the venues to collect money for local charity and call it a festival.

I had a great name for the festival too. Not Just Sauce Festival. I had been using the name Not Just Sauce for quite a few years for various gig guides, events and projects so I thought it would work. It didn’t. People I mentioned it to thought I was organizing a food festival or a Carry On / Seaside postcard Convention … So I opted for the name Worcester Music Festival. And it stuck.

The first year was hard. We had no idea what we were doing but with the help of a few friends and people of talent, namely Tony Gibbon, Lisa Ventura, Steve High and many more we did it. If was a bit of a mess, it was quite unorganised but it was a huge success. The entire music scene of the city seemed to get involved. It was amazing and I cannot thank the people involved enough. Without their support and hard work it would never have happened.

The years that followed saw the festival grow in size, not only the number of venues, but also the number of bands, free workshops, demonstrations, and also the number of volunteers, promoters, sound engineers, charity collectors etc. It was getting big and even more time consuming. I felt I was a little out of my depth. I would work 10 hours a day, come home and spend my evenings emailing, phoning, planning, and not, as I should have been, eating, sleeping and relaxing with friends and family. I was getting streesed, irritated and unhappy.  I had to walk away.

Luckily by that time there was a huge number of talented people working on the festival and I felt they could do a better job without me. And they have. I have nothing but respect for the people who took over and those who are currently organizing the festival (to name just s few Nikki Boraston, Helen Mole, Steve High, John Taylor snr (sadly missed), John Taylor jnr, Noor Ali, Jack Bates, Mark Wakefield, Jez Cole, Paul Mousley, Richard Merriman, Melanie Jane Hall, Gazza Tee, Mark Hogan, Andy Tyler, Susan Cawley, Brian Hoggard, John Walters, Danny Brothwell, Mick Smith, Chris Murphy, Andy O’Hare, and many many (many many) more, some I have foolishly missed off, some I have foolishly not actually met.  I couldn’t possibly mention everyone as there are simply too many people who are truly amazing. They have, and are, doing a fantastic job, much better and more organized than I could have ever done.

Current Chairman Ant Robbins (happy/insane looking guy on the left) is an awesome bloke and the people around him are truly remarkable, donating their time and effort absolutely free of charge in order to bring Worcester an amazing weekend of live original music every year, and everyone should really get behind him and the festival.

All this unadulterated praise on the organisational team behind WMF would not be needed if it wasn’t for hundreds, if not thousands, of other people who devote their weekend to the festival. The workshop coordinators, the sound engineers, the musicians, the venues, the charity collectors, the sponsors, the runners, gophers and fetchers, the list of people involved with a festival like this is seemingly endless, and so is the gratitude that I know that they richly deserve.
And of course, the public. You guys are the biggest stars for taking a chance on live original music, checking out new bands, venturing into new venues, supporting the scene and giving (hopefully) as much money as you can to the chosen charity.

WMF is a grassroots festival that is an honour to be associated with, even if all I do now is twiddle a few knobs behind a sound desk or two. But I said that I am glad that I walked away, and I am. Sure, I miss the people, the comradely, the thrill of seeing something I created blossom and take shape. Watching hundreds (thousands?) of people enjoy something I had done. But I am glad I left. I can now see from the outside what everyone else sees (the bands, the beer, the good times ) but I know from being on the inside what an incredibly hard job it is to organize. I am happy to help out but I’ll leave the organizing to people who seem to know what they are doing.

I won’t lie, when the ‘Big Book of Who’s Who in Worcester’ is printed (and I’m pretty sure it won’t be.) I hope I get a mention. It’s not a big headed thing. It’s not about taking the credit, basking in past glories or living the dream. I suppose it’s about a legacy. If I have done anything in my life to be proud of then being the Founder of The Worcester Music Festival is probably it.

Check out the outstanding lineup of this year’s festival, along with all the free workshops you can take part in at www.worcestermusicfestival.co.uk

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4 thoughts on “Worcester Music Festival – A Brief History of Stress and Gratitude.

    Cyber Geek Girl said:
    11/09/2016 at 14:32

    Chris, thank you for the mention in this blog. I haven’t seen you for a long time but I never forgot that magical time, or what you created and you rightly should be very, very proud of that. I feel exactly the same way about the Worcestershire Literary Festival – what you wrote about it not being about basking in past glories or living the dream is so true. When my unborn son was diagnosed with devastating problems when I was 5 months pregnant I left it all behind because life as I knew it would never be the same again for me as he would need 24 hour round the clock care his entire life. Little did I know that he would be stillborn, but now I just look on and think exactly the same as you. Today I do more with hacking and cyber security events than live music and spoken word events, although I did read at a poetry event recently for the first time in years. We both left great legacies in Worcester with the events we created, and we should rightly stand tall, look on and say to ourselves, “we did good”. Because we did.

    Liked by 1 person

    CJ said:
    09/09/2016 at 18:09

    I know I’ve said it a hundred (ok, maybe 4 or 5) times but you are a hugely talented man Mr Bennion! Your generosity, kindness, humility and selflessness also need mentioning. Maybe one day I’ll write that book and dedicate it to you 😁 Just because.

    Liked by 1 person

    M Cuadra said:
    08/09/2016 at 13:16

    It’s your legacy and as a music promoter setting up my first punk festival in Hereford with Rich Lovell on September 24th (Underground Revolution- A Crisis of Conscience) I am terrified. This brought me some comfort and I enjoyed the article very much. But I totally get the pressures that come along with putting a festival together…now you can enjoy it to your hearts content.

    Liked by 1 person

      notjustsauce responded:
      08/09/2016 at 13:37

      Thanks. It’s great to see my work continue but also a little sad that it’s now out of my hands. A little sad, not enough to want to go back and do it again though 🙂

      Like

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