Green Man generates £8m for the Welsh economy, the owner of the company behind the music festival told an audience in Cardiff today.
Fiona Stewart said the four-day event was an opportunity to promote Wales with three quarters of people who attend coming from outside the country, some from as far afield as the United States and Australia.
“It’s a wealth creator, there’s a wealth that Green Man creates as a festival, but more than that there’s a wealth it creates with the legacy it leaves of the positive images of the area… It’s part of the narrative about modern, contemporary, welcoming Wales, which I think is very important,” she said.
Ms Stewart was speaking at a meeting of Cardiff Breakfast Club at the Swalec Stadium.
Music festivals have become big business in recent years and some of them seem to have come a long way from their roots in the hippy counterculture of the 1960s. Thirty million people attend the more than 1,000 festivals that take place in the UK each year, and the festival industry generates around £4bn for the economy.
But while some festivals might seem to have acquired a corporate feel, Green Man retains the charm of an event that does not seek corporate sponsorship.
Ms Stewart said this was a deliberate choice on the part of Plant Pot, the company which runs the festival and of which she is a 75% shareholder, even though it means turning down some opportunities to make more money, for example in the festival’s Courtyard bar.
She said: “We don’t sell pouring rights. Quite reasonably, if we sold our pouring rights to Heineken (for example), they would give us a great deal of money but it would mean we would have to have their booze and we would not be able to work with the 42 independent Welsh brewers who have their beer festival at Green Man. It’s a choice we make, you can’t have it both ways.”
Green Man is unusual among music festivals in being run by an independent company with no key sponsor. It gives Plant Pot a freedom to develop the festival in its own unique way.
The company holds a lot of the skills required to run a festival in-house, rather than outsourcing them from contractors. It means it can save some of the costs of running the festival by using its own expertise, Ms Stewart said,
“The variance in costs of purchasing the aspects that make a festival run are enormous, and unless you have the skills and knowledge of how to put these on and what they do, it can mean hundreds of thousands of pounds of difference in what a festival costs to run.
“Very unusually, we have all those skills in Plant Pot, that’s because all of us came from the beginning of this boutique industry and we had to learn those skills ourselves because there weren’t companies who had those skills in-house,” she added,
Ms Stewart described all the brands that exist within the scope of Green Man, including the Courtyard real ale and cider bar, the science-themed Einstein’s Garden, and Green Man Rising, an event that promotes up and coming musicians.
The Courtyard has proved so popular that Plant Pot was invited to take it to London King’s Cross where it provides a weekend of Welsh beer and music over the May Bank Holiday weekend.
And Einstein’s Garden has also expanded out of its festival setting to provide science engagement in the wider community. Part of its success is down to its partnerships with universities such as Cardiff, Bristol, Aberystwyth, Cambridge, Oxford and Exeter, and scientific research bodies such as the Crick Institute, Cancer Research Institute, the Met Office, Wellcome Trust, Tenovus and the Medical Research Council.
Plant Pot’s success in creating Green Man as a experience to be remembered is measured by the fact that people go to Green Man largely to experience the event itself, rather than because they want to see any specific act.
“We sell 6,000 tickets before we advertise the line-up,” said Ms Stewart,
And she makes sure she gets the full flavour of the event as well.
“People say to me, are you always behind the stage with people, and actually no, I like to be in front [of the stage], I like to see people enjoying themselves. If I see people upset or worried, which I don’t often see at Green Man, I get upset,” she said.
Cardiff Breakfast Club is sponsored by Lloyds Bank, Blake Morgan, Stills Design, Media Wales and Effective Communications.