‘Do you fancy going to a few festivals this summer?’ I asked her.
We were brainstorming about our plans for the summer. Cafe we were in was crowded. It was sometime in March. Edinburgh was packed with tourists who had come to watch the rugby. It was hard to hear our voices through high pitched whistling of the espresso machine. I was 33. I had never been to a festival in my life. ‘Festivals?! Not my cup of tea I am afraid….’ she told me and paused for a moment to reflect on what festivals meant to her.
‘Festivals …they are just about music, camping and mud. Not me really.’
That was the end of that.
I wasn’t too sure about the idea of camping so I kind of lost enthusiasm for the idea.
Fast forward to the present.
I am now 35. I still haven’t been to any festivals in my life.
I am now in a new relationship. My current girlfriend is 36 but has the heart and soul of a 21 year old. There is a burning curiosity and hunger about life and everything it has to offer.
We are discussing about plans for the summer one fine evening in October.
We are walking by the beach. It is a beautiful evening in Funchal. The sea is calm. We can hear nothing but our voices and the sound of the sea.
As we knock ideas back and forth of places we ‘d like to go …she makes the suggestion about us checking out a few festivals.
‘That’s about camping, mud and music right?’ was my immediate response.
A line in the sand that the water had not washed away.
She shook her head firmly.
‘Maybe in England and Scotland ….but in Portugal we don’t have rain and mud in the summer honey. You can go to festivals in Lisbon like Rock in Rio for example where you don’t have to camp. You can choose to stay in a city centre hotel or hostel.’
This conversation changed my negative mindset about festivals and got me thinking ….
The following week, I had a meeting with Kim Heinen from Rotterdam Marketing.
She had approached me a few weeks ago with a challenge:
‘We have some amazing but not so well known festivals like Rotterdam Unlimited and World Port Days that we would like to raise awareness of. Can you think of an idea working with you and a few trusted bloggers to help raise the profile of our festivals?’
Her email was timely. After my conversation with my girlfriend, I had started to think about whether I can turn our plans to visit a few festivals into a little blog project maybe.
Forget Glastonbury and Primavera sound. How about discovering Europe’s coolest, quirkiest festivals that you had never heard of….
After meeting Kim, the wheels in my head started turning further. I did my research into festivals. I quickly realised that there are so many types of festivals that take place in Europe. Not just music festivals. There was an amazing diversity of festivals out there that are not about music, mud and camping – from wife carrying festivals in Finland to Nextcomic in Linz, Austria to the Soca Valley Festival in Slovenia to the Museum Embankment festival in Germany… such a wide variety of interesting, cultural and quirky festivals that only a few people seemed to be aware of.
I realised that visiting and writing about all these quirky, unloved festivals presented a huge challenge in terms of logistics and cost.
In the midst of a brainstorming session with Dylan, aka The Travelling Editor, about ideas for cool blogging project ideas (as is always the case when travel bloggers meet), one cold morning in October in London I told him about the idea.
He loved it. To test the idea further and get more feedback we met Michael Turtle, blogger in chief at Time Travel Turtle . We met at Portobello Road on a Sunday afternoon. After a fun few hours exploring the market we sat down to talk about the idea over pints of Guinness. Micheal loved the idea too and thought it could work.
So the idea evolved quickly into a collaborative blogging project. The aim was to involve a mix of bloggers using different storytelling tools to share the tales of these unique festivals.
Words, pictures, videos, tweets, Instagrams, Vines….there is a variety of mediums through which we can share the story of these festivals. The most important criteria was to find bloggers who had the power and craft to tell a good story.
In the end, I am proud and honoured to get the involvement of a cracking bunch of gifted digital storytellers.
The next key part of the evolution of this idea was creating a media pack and getting the design right, for the media pack and website.
I am very lucky to have within the blogging team, the talented and creatively gifted Bethany Salvon from Beers and Beans. As our creative director she put together a visual, quirky and colourful media pack and also shaped the look and feel of our website.
This was key. From past experience of putting blogging or any media projects together, I have found good presentation and design to be one of the biggest factors that determines success.
The last and most crucial part of the evolution and success of this project was the small matter of finding a lead sponsor and tourism boards willing to partner with our idea.
The solution to this has been hours and days of countless pitching, meeting tourism boards and brands face to face. Via email, via Skype and also dedicating a huge amount of time to attending key travel conferences like World Travel Market in London, MATKA in Helsinki and ITB in Berlin.
Whilst email, Twitter, LinkedIn & Skype are great innovations that can help bridge the communication gap, there is no substitute to meeting people face to face.
I am excited and honoured that a respected and global travel brand Expedia came onboard early and supported the project. The idea of exploring a destination through quirky, offbeat festivals was something that would really appeal to their target audience. That was a huge boost of confidence early on.
So, after many months of planning, negotiating and pulling together the website (with the support of the amazing people at umi digital) the team of 16 bloggers are finally ready to share the stories of 40 of Europe’s coolest quirkiest festivals, with you and the rest of the world. It’s been an exciting journey already to reach this point but the best, we sense, is yet to come. I hope you follow our journey through these amazing, quirky festivals.
You can keep track of all the stories here on our website, and by following our individual blogs, and through social media – find us by following the hashtag #mustlovefestivals.