Building a sustainable future
Protecting the future of a growing festival of digital excellence
Now celebrating its sixth year, the Bath Digital Festival brings together a growing community of people from all walks of life, to discover and celebrate the West Country’s astonishing contribution to the UK’s digital economy. But building and running a virtually free-to-air event for thousands of people, across almost 100 individual events is not without its challenges and risks.
As the current director of the festival, now in my second year, I have had the privilege to shape the festival the way I see fit. We’ve expanded its reach to include business and individual audiences, alongside a growing audience tech-natives. We’ve streamed events too - into talks, workshops and tutorials. We’ve also streamlined its processes; for launching, communicating and running the festival’s ~85 annual events, for reaching out for new and interesting speakers and finally we have fundamentally increased its size and appeal which allows us to reach a broader array of sponsors.
None of this, however unfortunately, is actually enough to secure the future of the festival. As such we need to look to change the festival further - this time, with sustainability central to our choices.
Plan of Action
Moving from CIC to charity status
As we entered our second year - starting almost fresh with sponsors, events, venues and so forth - I started to investigate ways of ensuring the long-term future of the festival; seeking advice from local government, quangos and similar local organisations.
Bath Digital Festival is currently a community interest company; ostensibly a non-profit, set up to contain the running of the festival.
However, the reality is it’s never run successfully without a considerable amount of support from a sponsoring agency in the city and without an even more considerable out-of-hours contribution from its staff. Again, this is not sustainable and having invested a great amount of blood, sweat and tears to get the festival to where it is today neither my predecessors nor I believe that keeping this model serves the festival.
Therefore, over the course of the next twelve months - and more quickly than that we hope - we will be registering the festival as a bonafide charity.
What this means in practice
Charity status will open the festival to more sustainable funding streams
Making the change to a charity will require further dedication and work from the team that currently runs the CIC but crucially, it will open the festival up to a greater range of government and philanthropic funding sources, augmenting the commercial sponsorships every year.
The aim is to grow the festival - to broaden its technical appeal beyond the local region, to London and beyond, and to use ...
To this end, we have started to construct the correct documentation and compile a board of trusties from our current active board-members and members of the local community who we feel will be able to help steer the festival to a bright and sustainable future for the community as a whole.