Dan Hurring found local fame running the Sunrise Festival. Now a consultant, last year he combined running his own business with chairing the committee of the first Upton Noble Beer Festival. Proud of what that fixture achieved, he is already enthusiastically planning the next one…
How did you become chairman of the Beer Festival committee?
Rumour reached the ears of one or two people in the village that I had organised an event or two in the past. I was invited to the first meeting about the beer festival by Johnnie Baker and was pounced on and made chair there and then. I don’t think I had a choice.
What was it like organising the village’s inaugural festival?
Fun. I had a great time all in all. It was a great way to get into village life her, and get to know people a lot better. It was nice to be able to do the thing I love doing right here in the place in which I live and seeing all the fun that was being had by all. There were moments of challenge, but as a committee we worked through those really well and ended up putting on a fabulous local event which we hope can carry on long into the future.
Did you ever imagine it would be so popular?
I might have dreamt of it. Really, I don’t think any of us could have expected how well it would go. I knew there was great potential for the event; the village has a great community and there was nothing like it close by, but it really did exceeded all expectations.
What do you think worked well and what lessons were learned for next time?
I loved watching all the villagers of different generations dancing in the garden of the village hall on Friday night. That was great to see. Friday evening worked really well as a night for the villagers (and friends and family) in particular. Similarly, I loved the Sunday morning, when it felt like the whole village came together to clear up and there was an excellent church service conducted in the grounds of the hall by Rev Rosey Lunn.
There is so much to celebrate about the event, not least the fantastic support of so many sponsors which allowed us to create a significant fund which we are now using for village causes. Making it a family event was, I think, really important, and I enjoyed the amount of kids — as well as adults — having fun on the Saturday.
As to lessons — I think the main thing is learning what’s possible as a committee and what is a bridge too far. Everybody put so much time and energy into making it happen, perhaps more than was sustainable in the end. We need to make sure that the hard work of all the volunteers is properly acknowledged and their welfare properly looked after.
Any clues as to how 2016’s event will be different?
Not yet. There are a few ideas being bandied around to make the event work a little better in a few areas — music in the garden as well as on the parking area perhaps, more stalls, an improved aesthetic to the outside areas…
… oh, and more coffee.
Tell us about your business, Another World Productions
It’s an ‘ethical’ event production company that works across the South West. We’ve produced and provided services to many events, mostly festivals, carnivals, fairs and other outdoor events. We work on a few large projects a year, do a lot of rather dull licensing consultancy work and also provide creative services to private events such as weddings and parties. My wife, Sophie, is a fantastic event caterer and wedding planner, which means that our businesses gel well together.
I also work as a consultant in the areas of social and community enterprise. Most recently I have been working with a couple of community renewable energy companies, helping to raise finance and also doing marketing and community engagement work for them. It’s more interesting than it sounds, for me at least.
… and about running the Sunrise Festival
That was a journey. I co-founded the event in 2005/06 with a friend and business partner who had a travelling festival cafe and stage. It was really meant to be a fun celebration of the summer, a chance to be in a field having a good time with friends. It turns out that there are far less expensive and complex ways of doing that
The event went through many phases and was held at Gilcombe Farm (just along the A359 near Bruton) for four years. Some events were more successful, some less so and special moments of celebration combined with crazy bad luck, the worst of which was when we were flooded in 2008 at a site near the A303 at Tintinhull. We had just opened the gates and there were around 6,000 people already onsite when we were hit by a catastrophic storm. It was the most rain that had fallen in such a short period in Somerset on record and we were right at the epicentre, on a flood plain, next to a river. Needless to say, it all got quite difficult very quickly. And very, very expensive.
But that is balanced by the memories of all the wonderful days spent in a sunny field surrounded by happy, smiling people. Oh and of course meeting my lovely wife, who innocently came to work as our marketing manager back in 2007… but that’s another story.
What highs and lows are involved in running festivals?
My experience of running festivals is mostly sitting in a blue metal box (not the Tardis) in a fenced compound while other people dance, drink and have lots of fun. Sometimes they let me out to deal with a difficult issue, but that is rare. I’m essentially a nerd and have always viewed festivals as extensions of my habit for simulation computer games as a child. My own civilisation to play with, with real people. I also quite like traffic management and one-way systems.
Festivals are, though, essentially lots of fun, except when it rains. And, as it turns out, in England it does that rather a lot.
What made you move to Upton Noble?
We had a house near Glastonbury — I moved to the area in 2002 — but felt we needed a change. I had been working in Frome more and knew Bruton well from running Sunrise. We came to view a little farm near Brewham at one point and totally fell in love with the area, deciding that we really wanted to live around here. Mind you, it was a little odd to move here as my only other visits to Upton Noble had involved dealing with noise complaints from Sunrise.
What do you like about living in the village?
The community. A really diverse mix of people live here and I love the way the village comes together for special occasions over the year. I also love the views across the valley towards King Alfred’s Tower. It is stunning on a sunny day — one of the most beautiful parts of Somerset actually. I feel blessed to live here and feel very much a part of the community.
Upton Noble Beer Festival 2016 will take place on 2-3 September.