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April 4, 2008

Sarah Farrugia: Innocent lost

Do you mean what you say when you hold an event? That is a question that I am asking myself after visiting the Innocent Village Fete in the summer.

Well I didn’t actually visit it because stupidly, I arrived at 2pm on Saturday with my family, without a booking. It was full and sold out. So instead I slunk off back around the outside with my family to go somewhere else that wasn’t full and sold out.

Sometimes in the events industry I think we get rather lost in ourselves, in the creative idea, in the excitement of the planning process, in the branding opportunities, etc, etc.

So I’d like to open this up as a debate. Should we in events be using terms like Village Fete if we aren’t really running a Village Fete?

Village Fetes belong to us all in our memories. They are simple, innocent affairs, where dads impress their children and possibly their wives by sizing up to the variety of tests of strength on display and showing their alpha male status. Village Fetes are an open house where everyone is welcome and life is uncomplicated for a few short hours. Village Fetes bring the local community together to share some light-hearted reverie. Village Fetes have historic and cultural relevance.

I don’t know if many people in this industry consider the strength of live activities beyond selling into a brand. Live activities, well done, strengthen more than a brand’s values or change our perceptions of a drink, they actually enrich people’s daily routines.

When delivering events, it is so important to think beyond the processes and the organisation and to ask what you are offering that is valuable in exchange for people’s time and attention.

Innocent’s idea of a Village Fete was genius, it was timely and I understand in many other places it was well done. But in Regent’s Park in central London, one of the oldest villages, it lost its way. It lost its spirit of conviviality. It became a parody of itself and took itself too seriously – something we should all be thoughtful about.

Sarah Farrugia is director of branding, events and research specialists Sarah Farrugia and Co.

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