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Chapter 11 The Diggers’ Festival, Organising a community festival with political connotations

DOI: 10.23912/978-1-910158-15-9-2631

ISBN: 978-1-910158-15-9

Published: January 2015

Component type: chapter

Published in: Focus On Festivals

Parent DOI: 10.23912/978-1-910158-15-9-2599



This chapter examines the organisation of a community festival from an ethnographic perspective drawn from the festival organiser’s viewpoint. It will provide some context on the reasons for founding the Diggers’ Festival and examine key issues and difficulties surrounding the launch and development of a small festival that relates to historical political activities in the market town of Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, UK. As we shall see, most current political festivals in the UK tend to be events launched to commemorate historical milestones that have a political resonance. The chapter will make specific reference to the festival’s funding, audiences and branding, concluding with recommendations on how to move the festival forward. During 2010 the author was asked by the Independent Socialists of Wellingborough (ISW) to organise an evening event to commemorate the 17th century radicals known as the Diggers. As an individual with socialist leanings, the author agreed to promote the first event, which was held during March 2011, and was launched and branded as the Wellingborough Diggers’ Festival. Even though it was in its infancy arguably only an evening event with two professional performers, Ian Saville, a magician who promotes himself as ‘Magic for Socialism’ (Saville, n.d.), and well-established local folk and Americana band The Old Speckled Men, booked, it was felt necessary to launch the festival name and the branding, with the aim being to produce a steady growth into the fourth or fifth years. It was essential to raise awareness of the identity and purpose of the festival amongst like-minded individuals, the local community and people from surrounding areas. The fourth festival grew from being organised solely by the author to having a committee of an additional five volunteers who coordinated an afternoon fringe event based in a town centre public house with three live music artists/bands, including punk/poet Attila the Stockbroker. A writer who had written historical fiction for teenagers, including one that takes its inspiration from Gerrard Winstan- ley and the Diggers, was invited as a guest speaker to present her work in the local library. The local museum hosted a week long display on the Diggers including a copy of the declaration and a copy of a field map dated 1838 identifying the location of the Bareshanks field (the site of the Wellingborough digger community). The programme for the evening event commenced with a local author Alan Moore (V for Vendetta, Watchmen) as a key speaker, followed by performances by two professional live bands with ‘left’ tendencies. In addition to the general considerations of organising a festival, for instance audience, budget, funding, licensing, entertainment and promotion, coordinating a festival with such strong socialist values was going to be a challenge because of the political connotations.

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  • Jacqui Norton (Author)

For the source title:

  • Chris Newbold, De Montfort University (Editor)
  • Christopher Maughan, Freelance writer (Editor)
  • Jennie Jordan, De Montfort University (Editor)
  • Franco Bianchini, Leeds Beckett University (Editor)

Cite as

Norton, 2015

Norton, J. (2015) "Chapter 11 The Diggers’ Festival, Organising a community festival with political connotations" In: Newbold, C., Maughan, C., Jordan, J. & Bianchini, F. (ed) . Oxford: Goodfellow Publishers http://dx.doi.org/10.23912/978-1-910158-15-9-2631


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