Lifestyle & Culture

So you want to start a community event?

Have you ever wanted to start a community event like an open mic night? Shea Evans did just that and reflects on how he made it happen.

There’s a classic university trap which is very easy to fall into, it’s the whole mindset of: “I’m here to receive training, once I’ve finished my studies I can start to make things happen in the real world.”

It’s a convenient way to think, because it’s partly true, but it fails to take into account the fact that the real world is all around us and we live in it every day. If you have an idea you want to bring into being, what’s stopping you from making it happen?

A few months ago I began organising a community event, and this Saturday my plans will come to fruition. The event, Newcastle Flame, is all about getting Novocastrians to tell true stories from their lives in front of an audience. I wanted to attend a story night like this myself but found the scene was non-existent, so I decided to partner up with a friend and just start it.

The process has been challenging, but our efforts have come together. We’ve arranged for six storytellers to put on a two-hour show this Saturday at the Royal Exchange Theatre.

Here are some tips for those who are interested in making their own events, it’s all about planning.

Partner up

There’s a lot of responsibility involved with event management, and the load is much lighter if you have someone to share the burden with. Delegating roles gives everybody more time, and allows people to work to their strengths. Gather like-minded people who are willing to help you, one or two will do. As the old saying goes: ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’

Come up with a vision statement

Once you have your team, you all need to be on the same page. It is vital that everybody has the same goals and vision in relation to the project, so sit down for a couple of hours and hash out exactly what you DO and DON’T want to achieve. WHY you’re doing it is also critical, everyone should agree here. Don’t be afraid to edit and adjust these ideas as time goes on, you may need a couple of brainstorming sessions to really hone your vision.

Work out who you need

Once you have your plan locked in so far as WHAT and WHY go, it’s time to figure out WHO you need to make it happen. Identify the gatekeepers who are able to give your project life, and get in contact with them. For us at Newcastle Flame, this was the theatre manager at the Royal Exchange. We contacted him and explained our vision, and we got the green light because our idea was clear and made sense.

Get the word out

Now that your plan is beginning to take shape, you need to start advertising and marketing it. You can plan the best event in the world, but if nobody comes then what’s the point? Blast it in people’s faces until they’re sick of it. Be vibrant and exciting, make a Facebook page, print posters and fliers, call up your local radio station, you need to get people in the community thinking about your event. You’ve also got to work at it consistently, there’s no use doing a lot in the first two weeks and then being silent for months. Plan things in advance, and be prepared to hit the streets. When advertising for the Flame, my friend and I canvassed the Hunter St mall, Darby St, and Beaumont St, putting up posters in shopfronts and handing out fliers. Most shop owners will be fine with you sticking a poster up in their window, just keep an eye out for places that already have lots of advertisements on them. If you need to remove a poster to make room for yours, remember to only take down ones that are out of date. The uni is also a great place to stick things on walls, be sure to target areas that receive heavy foot traffic.

Find similar events or groups

If you’re planning a public music gig, or an open mic comedy night, get in contact with others who are involved with the same or similar scenes. For us, it was a case of contacting as many poetry, comedy, theatre, and music organisations as we could. There are a plethora of Facebook groups for every interest. Newcastle Creative is a solid online forum where local creatives plug their events or workshops, and there are websites like Newcastle Live and Culture Hunter which exist solely to be a promotion space for local gigs and events. Anyone can register and advertise for free on these sites, so make use of them!

It’s hard work but stay on track. As long as something happens, it’s better than nothing happening. You will feel stronger and more solid about your efforts if you put more effort in, you can’t half do something. To see what all of the above looks like when put into action, come along this Saturday to the Royal Exchange Theatre, 34 Bolton St, Newcastle. A magnificent night of storytelling awaits! There’s an open mic section at the end and a chance for you to tell a story or read some poetry of your own. Tickets are $10 at the doors, which open at 7pm. Planning and organising the Newcastle Flame has taught me that if you have an idea, you can make it happen. Just start trying.

Feature image: BRUNO CERVERA via Unsplash, no changes made.

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