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ALAKAZAM 06-22-10 10:15 PM

Dublin SPWC
Come on folks, i wanna hear how it went this year. Who was there??

Isabella 06-23-10 05:42 AM

And did the festival REALLY ask performers to donate a hat to the festival...and then they chose which hat it was?

jesus 06-23-10 06:42 AM

How SPWC jumped the shark
I didn’t want to be the first to go public, but Al is egging me on.
He's already read this as he asked me about it all one on one and this is a cut and paste of the email I sent to him.
I guess this should be aired publicly because only if we all know about it, can’t we help the organizers make the event we it can be. In fact what it’s ridiculous brand name implies it should be.

How SPWC jumped the shark.

It really wasn't one big thing that made just about everyone in the 2010 camp unhappy; it was a series of little things. Unfortunately it was just kind of a perfect shit storm.
Here are some of the things that added up. And please ask other Performers that were there, because the anger and disappointment were almost universal. (There were some exceptions, but those were mostly folks that haven't done many festivals so they admittedly had no comparison)

1) Well to start with, the boys went too big this year. They had 22 acts and added pitches in both cities, with most of the new ones in Dublin being outside the park. It thinned everything out.
There were still some monster crowds but others were small and slow to build on top of that. Some were so small people had to bail shows.
The street pitches were almost on top if each other so sound bleed was an issue.
Hats were also affected by the economy which is no fault of theirs.

2) Most people only had two shows in the Dublin park, however Quick Change had five in the park. That gets us to the prize/winner.
Quick Change were presented as the big deal of the festival but since their show is only about 10 minutes long and they needed an emcee and someone to fill the rest of the hour, Jack Wise shared their time slots.
So he would do some stuff to help draw their crowd (which was always big due to a PR push) and then they would do their thing. After which he would do his show for the massive crowd that had gathered to see the "big deal".
So he had an opening act and the best schedule of anyone.
Word also spread even before the end that AIB, the sponsor was hoping for an Irish "champion".
So some people felt the fix was in from the start, but I think that’s a little too conspiracy theory.
Sam came in second and Les Vitiamins third.
Let me be clear and say that no one is upset with Jack for any of this, it's just the overall way that it seems to have come together and even more that it was the perfect capper to the festival.

3) The bad mood in the camp started with the bus ride to cork from Dublin.
We all walked with all of our kit to a bus stop. The first bus came and was too full for us. Three more came and went with us all waiting on the street for all most an hour.
Finally it was decided that we would take a bus to the airport where we could then catch the Cork bus as its first passengers.
So we take a half hour ride to the airport. Once there we have to take a 10 minute walk with all of our crap to a different bus stop.
Then we wait 20 minutes for the cork bus.
Cork bus driver knows nothing about our supposed free ride. Phone calls are made and we are allowed on the bus.
We all sit mostly towards the back and try to spread out for what is announced as a 4 hour ride, we'd been told three. Oh well.
A half hour later we arrive back in Dublin to the same bus stop where we started.
Passengers start to come on the bus and we all have to move because the bus is going to be full, so much for stretching out and being comfortable.
I should also mention that the bathroom on the bus was out of service.
We get to cork about 9 and are told we are all going to dinner. Great.
Dinner is at an Indian place. Everyone thinks the Fest will buy but they don't.

4) Next day we have a meeting with Connor and Mark, they tell us how the festival has had funding cut so they will be taking one hat from each performer, so we each had 10 shows with one extra. (For the record this was mentioned in the contract but in such a way that we all thought it meant a group show)
This led Sharron to get us all to have a gathering in someone’s room to discuss a revolt, while everyone was upset, in the end we realized it was just the way it was going to be. But the next morning we did meet with the boys to find out exactly how they had picked the shows.
The show that they took was supposed to have been randomly picked but it ended up being the biggest shows at the biggest pitches.
For some it was in Cork for others it was Dublin. For instance, Sam and the USA Breakdancers had to give away middle of the afternoon shows in Dublin on the big pitch in the park. No one thought it seemed random.
The hat Sam had to fork over was one of only two shows that he had inside the park. (Sam was the only one to insist on counting the hat before he handed it over, 7something)

5) another event that made everyone shake their heads was on Saturday afternoon in Cork when Pedro asked if there was more water for the green room. The liaison said it was too late in the day to open another flat of water ("cause that shit will spoil in this Irish sun" I interjected to the conversation) and that he should go buy one from a vendor.
He said "but then I'm having to pay for it."
"Use your food coupons"
"But they are for food"
"Well" she replies "haven't you already eaten today?"
Pedro gives up and walks away and the liaison says to me "I just can't be bothered for Pedro"
In a discussion the next day I related this story to Mark and he defended the liaison, saying that Pedro had been rude to her earlier.
Sorry but I don't think you can justify not having water in the green room because Pedro was rude to someone.
As a side note a request for a mirror in the green room was also ignored until mid day Sunday and even then accompanied by a healthy bit of attitude.

6) Next up was Saturday’s dinner.
We were staying in uni accommodations and using the public Internet lounge as our common room. It wasn't a very big space and there were all of the performers and all of the volunteers hanging around waiting to be feed.
Dinner arrives; four big boxes full of little tins of Japanese carryout.
The boxes are set on a table in the room and the volunteers descend on them like people on a desert island. It's mad. I understand they'd done this dinner before so maybe the vols knew that they had to fight to be sure to get something.
By the time I got close to the food it was damn near gone and what was left and been opened and picked over.
Being really fuckin hungry I spun and headed out the door in an instantly foul mood.
Connor made the unfortunate mistake of making eye contact with me, which prompted me to say in a mighty angry way "this is the worst fucking food I've had at a festival ever!" Goofy and dramatic but true.
I went off on my own to Tesco and grabbed stuff to cook in my apt. As I was cooking, yet another cabal of other angry folks came by to commiserate and bitch about the opening day in Cork.
I may have thrown the tantrum, but I wasn't the only one angry.

7) on to Cork Sunday dinner.
Dinner was at club at we got to pick from a set menu. It's was very nice.
But here's the down side of it: we were told that in years past the Performers had all just kind of hung out to gather and ignored the vols. (Shocking I know) And that many of the vols were Mark and Conner’s friends and family and that they wanted us to interact with them. Fine.
But in a letter in our welcome packets it was spelled out that we needed to buy drinks for the volunteers. Further at the meeting with Mark and Conner we told that if we didn't buy them "trays of shots" we would never be asked back.
So we did, and I'll tell you a shout for 50 shots ain't cheep in a club.
As the clubs is closing they arrange to buy cases and cases of beer from the club. These are taken back to the common room to be drunk at a euro each donation on the honor system, fair enough.
The downside is that this is the only time this happens, once back in Dublin we are left to drink 5 euro pints in the hotel bar. With none of us ever having a single beer or drink purchased for us at any festival meals or gatherings.
(For full disclosure: Mark did buy me one beer the first night in Dublin when I did a show at the volunteer meeting)

8) Now here’s something positive, on the Tuesday back in Cork the festival sprang for us all to take a private coach tour out into the country.
It was absolutely lovely.
We went a famous Dublin jump off the rocks swimming place where we got experience Victor naked, and out to see some beautiful lakes. We were taken to a small towns hurling pitch, given a crash course in the game and then played two five minute sides. It's was great fun
we went to a pub and had lunch and then headed off to a sixth century monastery by an amazing lake.
It was a grand day only thing is that some people skipped it because they were already so angry and disgruntled.

9) Next came the Thursday and Friday shows. Now we all knew these were bonus shows and didn't expect them to be huge.
They were very very small which led some people to bail.

10) Finally we reach the mythical Dublin weekend from which legends would be born.
The weekend that Mark and Conner promised every time something had gone wrong.
"Don’t worry, next weekend you'll be in Dublin making shit loads of money and none of this will matter."
Well it was all hype. There were some big crowds, but as I said before: 22 acts on 12 pitches just watered down the Kool-Aid too much.

11) The after party.
Again this evening started of nice enough. We had dinner at a little Thai place.
This was followed by a "lock in" party at a club.
We go to the club, it's a dive. One tiny bar with four stools.
But then we learn we have to move to the basement because it's an afterhour’s thing. (This leads someone to say as we are herded down the stairs "don't worry it's only a shower")
The basement was small dark and smelled like teenagers.
They weren't selling drinks yet so we made our own fun by grabbing a roll of toilet paper from a store closet and unrolling it around the room. It had a tiny bar same as upstairs but we soon learned that it had a huge sound system.
So there we are in a tiny low basement that is painted all black with techno blasting.
Performers instantly started heading for the door
soon we were back at the hotel bar and each time another performer arrived they got a round of applause as they walked in.
Everyone was back at the hotel in under an hour.

11) Some overall things:
It's was always made very clear that we should walk to the pitches (10 minutes in Cork and 15 in Dublin). The use of cabs we very discouraged, even on the drizzly Sunday evening in Cork.

We never saw Mark or Connor socially once we left Cork until the last nights after Party.

There was no mention of flight reimbursement, people had to ask.
This just struck me as weird, seems the kind of thing that would be announced officially. At least "please make sure you give invoices to such and such"
(There are two good stories about this but I leave them to the people involved)

There plenty more little things but I'll leave go.

So show wise, I had some big shows. For my time slots and the pitches I was on, I would say it was fine enough.

Overall it was just an okay festival nothing special.
As the chinks in the armor began to show on the first weekend, someone said "one year it will rain both weekends and it will be clear that this festival doesn’t take care of the performers."
Well I think the combo of the economy and too many shows/pitches allowed that same thing to happen.
The hospitality was shit as was their attitude and ability to deal with Performers.
And when you take away the magic carrot of Dublin that they held over our heads, you're left with a festival that is very lacking in creature comforts or respect of the performers.

Now I want to be clear that I don't think that Mark and Conner are bad guys that are out to screw performers. They are just two guys that lucked out with this festival taking off so fast, and now they have a lot to learn about the basics to catch up to their festival.

Bottom line:
It just another okay busking festival that I'd recommend insisting on a retainer to anyone that asked me about the gig, because you could well end up spending two weeks in a very expensive city waiting waiting to do just okay.

Jim 06-23-10 08:41 AM

Was Kim Kelly running this festival???
All of the things you are describing have been pulled by the Halifax organization over and over again. As I was reading your post, I kept re-living my experiences in Halifax, Singapore, London, Toronto...

Sorry to de-rail, but it all sounded so familiar.

Thanks for your honest observations.

Lili_la_Scala 06-23-10 09:14 AM

In addition...
The encouragement to buy the volunteers shots was ridiculous. The fact that it was encouraged in the form of blackmail, ie, "If you want to come back, buy drinks for the volunteers as they tell us who does this".
Several of the performers bought shots for the volunteers...some spending around 80 euro, a conversation was overheard along the lines of...

"One of the performers bought us shots"
"Cool, which one"
"I dunno, one of them."

Now having spent Sam's hard earned money on these drunken teenagers, I found it a little offensive that many of them couldn't even remember the performers names. Now obviously this doesn't extend to all the volunteers, there were some who were just lovely and made Sam's job way easier."

I utterly concur with Geoff, I saw so many of my friends made miserable time and again over the two weeks, and that is not cool. Especially as the festival organisers did not seem to be bothered by the fact.

ALAKAZAM 06-23-10 09:35 AM

It's a real shame. Why does this happen to Busker festivals.

Wood 06-23-10 09:42 AM

They have the wrong idea, and I feel partially responsible.
Wow. Thanks Geoff. Sorry you all had to be there the year it went wrong.

I did it the first year, and then again last year (I think as the first performer to get invited back without winning first). My observation is that I feel Mark and Conor took away the wrong message from Year 1, and then extrapolated that error to the point of (apparent) tragedy in 2010.

The first year, everyone got paid (although it wasn't exactly smooth - but whatever, "first year festival" right?) and nobody knew what to expect. We were all put up in nice hotels (there were a number of hotel sponsors, so everyone was staying somewhere different). And the crowds were amazing. Responsive, lovely, behaved, and most of all well-paying. It was like they were already educated as to what happens at a street festival. WHICH, was the most remarkable thing about the whole experience.

So we mentioned it.

Everyone, to a person, said something about how great the hats were. Not just for a first year festival, but good hats period. (I personally broke my record, then almost tripled the new record the following day) At the end of the weekend, we all chipped in a hundred euros at the farewell dingdong because we knew that Mark and Conor were running the festival on fumes and goodwill.

So the idea they took away from the first year was not that we like to get a retainer and we like to stay in nice sleeping quarters and we like to be fed and shown a good time; it was that the only thing that makes us truly happy is when we're making lots of money.

Flash forward to last year.

First of all, they wouldn't move on not paying a fee. Then I get off a plane, and having provided my flight details to the guys, I expected a pickup. There was none. So I called the office, and the response was, "Take a cab. You'll be making lots of money." Which was pretty much the theme the whole time. With zero organization, we all got from Cork to Dublin. Some in cabs, some on the train, some on a bus... everyone paying their own way. "What does it matter, you'll be making all kinds of money."

Then, they have a f!n bank as a sponsor, but we had a huge problem colouring up to bills on the day we all left (and I got a massive lecture from the chump behind the counter). At similar festivals elsewhere in the world, the banks will open a branch on an off-day, just to serve the performers (!) That would be basically free for the bank sponsor, but I'm sure nobody's even asked them to do it.

No fee, no hospitality, no transportation. All because Mark and Conor know that some people have made money at their festival.

Mark and Conor are really nice guys, but they're not performers. So they don't know what it's like, or why we do it, and they take the wrong things away from the festivals they see. They came to Edmonton, and they didn't see the hospitality for the important thing that it is. They went to Christchurch, and while we managed to talk them out of it being a "competition" for actual prize money, they couldn't be talked off the "world championship" thing.

Taking a hat is criminal. Period. I know that organizing street performers is like herding cats, and I wasn't there, but I'm surprised that the "revolt" idea didn't take hold. Do a group show and pass the hat for the fest, fine; but to take one hat from everyone? Wow.

My two cents.

I'm sorry everyone had a poor fest this year.

In closing, a haiku for producers:
Retainer, Transport
Hospitality, Crowds, Hats
In that order please.

Pedro Tochas 06-23-10 10:12 AM

The Pedro Rude Incident was: I spoke in Portuguese to my girlfriend in front of the liaison girl and she didn't liked the tone.
My tone is always “Rude” even when I say nice things in English.

The lesson here: If you want water always speak in English!

jesus 06-23-10 01:17 PM

Just to touch on something Mike said:
The audiences were lovely and I enjoyed doing my shows very much. They were smart and totaly responsive. I would love to do shows for the people of Dublin anytime, Cork as well.

ALAKAZAM 06-23-10 09:47 PM

I really liked performing there last year, and definitely had some of my biggest shows, awesome people.

I hear all mike said about last year. I hope it takes a turn for the better. All it takes is a little consideration for the performers. Who cares if we are making money, that's what we do everywhere. You don't have to go to ireland to make money, you can make money at home.

Why do you think festivals like Edmonton have such good reputations. You do make good money, but first and foremost you get treated like a star when your there. " oh no your flight isn't till wednesday. Not to worry, a car will be there to take you"

I know they wanna grow this to be a worldwide festival franchise. But without performer willingness to take part, you got nothing!

I just hope lessons were learned.

jesus 06-24-10 09:03 AM

Will the future be brighter?
I just recieved what seemed to be , and I belive to be a very heartfelt apology email from Mark and Connor. It looked as though they sent it to everyone that was there this year.
They took full responsibility in very blunt terms for everything that happens and the way the fest went this year.
Kind of touching in it's honesty.
As I said, the festival took off super fast and now they just have to catch up to it. Quite a learning curve.
I think they'll listen and turn it around.

Frisbee 06-28-10 02:25 PM

This is an interesting thread and I am sorry to all how it happened to turn out this year for the performers involved and Mark and Conor are good guys as was mentioned and I am sure that there was no ill will meant.

Along with Mike and Pedro, I was there the first year and I felt we were treated very, very well and it was magical. The whole event was indeed legendary and I am fortunate to have been there.

We did give money as Mike said, to Mark and Conor as they were running on fumes and were not paying themselves and had put in countless hours to make that fest a reality...and their hard work and dedicaiton paid off, but it should not be an expectation that performers give a hat each.

I hope that it can be made to be what it was meant to be and how it should have continued...perhaps this is just a minor flesh wound.

EmergentEvents 06-29-10 05:14 AM

Have you ever done a show where afterwards you thought…fuck it, I really fucked up there. I shouldn’t have done something or other… that was a mistake. Can you imagine what it feels like doing a really really big show and not just doing it in front of strangers but doing it in front of people that you not only care for their opinion but value and respect. Can you imagine doing a really big show and fucking up. Well, if you can imagine it…you are getting close to where both Conor and I are.

We struggled this year. We made mistakes. We are going to fix those mistakes. In the future, we are going to make more…we are going to learn from them and fix them. For the now all we can say is that we will listen to every piece of feedback that comes in we will do our very very best.

But for the moment, as we lick our wounds and before we start to even think about June 2011 I would like to say a huge thank you to every single performer who attended the SPWC this year and gave us the benefit of the doubt. Most of you guys were brilliant and could see that we were struggling. You bit your lips and in some cases literally rubbed our backs and told us to keep on going. For all of you… We promise you that we will make the SPWC better. We hope that in a few years that you will accept our invite back where we can show you what 2010 should have been like.

Have a good season

Mark and Conor

Frisbee 06-29-10 12:41 PM

Mark and Conor you have class and I am sure that most everyone here appreciates your honesty and sincere words that you have written.

-Greg Frisbee 06-23-11 11:15 AM

So how was the festival this year for performers? based on last years mess had no involvement with this years festival at all. We had our own huge area in 2009 and ran juggling/circus workshops in 2008/2009, and were only granted a very limited space in 2010. in both 2010 and 2011 members of the public were asking us why there were no workshops, our comunity members are equally qurious as to why we're no longer involved and we did have plans for this year and have plans for next year, but if the festival still treated performers badly this year then we will keep our attendance to the saturday for World Juggling Day celebrations which we've done for the last few years.

as with almost everyone who has been involved with the SPWC at any point i agree Mark and Conor and anyone else on the team i've delt with are all nice genuine people. i want to work with the SPWC each and every year, i mean is irelands largest community of street performers and jugglers, it should be actively head hunted each year for inclusion in the festival like it was in 2009... in the words of our members and those we meet at the festival, we belong there ;)

Also congrats to the Space Cowboy on his most impressive hat trick yet ;)

Ross Vegas 06-28-11 04:16 AM

Fun times in the emerald isle
I just worked this festival and it was a blast.

I didn’t know anything of the controversy about the last festival (or I might not have gone!), but I was well pleased with the communication, the accommodation, the scheduling, and the hospitality.

Loads of press calls to do (…sigh), but in truth I’m a bit of a media slut, and I don’t mind pretending to be a pop star for a few days if it means more fans come down to see the shows. The PR people clearly did the job of getting the word out, cos you couldn’t catch a train without seeing an SPWC billboard, go into a deli without seeing an SPWC headline, or turn on the tv without seeing space cowboy.

The rain was a bit painful, but we got most of the shows off, and even some in full drizzle (showbiz, it’s not all glamour). Save the rainy shows, attendance was excellent, I had no duds; I understand they scaled the performer numbers back this year, so that must have helped. I heard the new festival in port-a-whatsit was a bit quiet, but Dublin and Cork where I worked were heaving, and the public were generous enough, especially with the economic shit that the irish are in (its’ everywhere; I had people appologise to me for being jobless as they gave me 2 euro).

I’m not a fan of the competition format myself; I’m an artist, not an athlete, damn it…. but then, you don’t hear me complaining when I win one. The press and the public do respond to it. Fair play to the winners; well done and well deserved.

The whole where’s-wally-world-record thing, was a bit of a distraction from the public watching me, and giving me their money (which is what I’m mainly about), but it did bring the people and the press out, and it was an incredibly spectacular, cultish, fun thing to be a part of, and an imaginative and unique promo stunt; (see the facebook for it’s full technological effect; you can zoom in on an individual in a crowd of three thousand). And it’s for the kiddies in Africa, princess; so shut up for five minutes and put on a wally costume, it’s not all about you. (that comment is directed at myself, by the way, no disrespect to those who chose to go up against the wally record; that’s totally your right; we got mouths to feed, and we can’t pay the mortgage with children's smiles.)

The artist liaisons were professional and delightful to work with; I got a personal schedule on arrival, bubble-mix at an hours notice on a Sunday, and a hosted open-top-double-decker bus tour of Dublin (but I’m still waiting on my coke, if you’re reading this Clare). I had an army of cheerful volunteers to run my sound and carry my stuff; where are my chair bitches now?! (am I difficult?) The staff dragged friends, family and a bunch of randoms together to help out "just for the crack" (the irish will do anything for crack apparently, like my neighbours at home)

Mark and Conor seem to have taken past critisizms on board (as promised), learned from their mistakes, and restored the festival to it’s former glory. They are new-ish to the arts, but they do seem to be motivated by a genuine love of the craft and an appreciation of talent and community, bless ‘em. I felt totally supported by them and the team. I know that in this business, sadly, sometimes you have to chuck a hissy fit to get what you need to do your best work (is that just an Australianism?), but there was no need this year.

Hopefully SPWC is back….

… oh, and check out the vid; killer edit, whoever did this;

Shouts to all the performers who were there; an awesome bunch. I had lots of laughs, and I’m gonna miss you all; put your two cents in if you’re reading.

May your kit be light and your hats full of paper. 06-28-11 06:06 AM

Great news! :) and agreed that's an awsome video, very well put together and a great advert for next year which we'll hopefully be involved with again cause we have a lot of ideas and can have a lot of cool things for people to see and do while at the same time promoting the local juggling and street talent we have here.

Noel 06-28-11 10:03 AM

I'd never been to the SPWC before, but I had spoken to quite a few of the performers who were there in 2010. Their feedback was mixed, as you might expect, but I did generally get the impression that the organisers accepted that there were problems, and were genuinely open to the criticisms that were levelled at them.

I was there this year ('11), and would pretty much echo everything that Ross posted above. I felt well taken care of, right from receiving the itinerary before I left home, to the communications of thanks and so on that I've received since coming back. There was always someone on hand wanting to help in any way they could, and even when there were problems everyone involved seemed to go the extra mile in terms of sorting them out. The day in Portlaois was a case in point - despite the fact that the outdoor event was cancelled due to the weather, a venue was found and an ad hoc event quickly arranged, with the help of the liasons, volunteers, organisers and artists.

The audiences were fantastic and enthusiastic in spite of any rain, and I certainly enjoyed every show. I understand that some people had some problems with pitch location or scheduling, but I couldn't really comment on that - I didn't have any issues myself.

All in all, I had a great time. Any new event is bound to encounter some stumbling blocks as it grows and establishes itself, the real danger would be having organisers who were unwilling to speak or listen to those involved. To me, it seems that couldn't be further from the truth here. Hopefully they'll go from strength to strength.

martin ewen 06-28-11 08:15 PM

A bit of history, taking a hat or a percentage of group hats started with Jodi round 10 years ago. She's discontinued that. There's just something jarring about having people come from all over the world to work for you and then taking their earnings. Very 'pimp'. if they wore ostrich feathered hats and snake skin boots I'd be cool with it but they don't so I'm not.

What festivals need is guidance. The festival thing has been going long enough now to show what works and what doesn't and when people try and reinvent the wheel at each festival, well it's a little tiresome but we as performers need to step up and provide constructive blueprints of the festivals that make us proud.

There are enough of our number with that deconstructive gland that breaks down the elements of organisation that surround us to get together, with the directors of some of the more experienced festivals *cough-edmonton *cough christchurch who can from their perspective return the favor and tell us what their unnecessary headaches are concerning ways we could make things easier and perhaps we could produce a helpful guide.

Just a thought.

jesus 06-29-11 03:59 AM

Everything I have heard about the 2011 festival has been positive. And that's good to hear.
I am sure there are some if us from 2010 that will never be asked back, but if our honesty help Mark and Connor get things back on track, then I am happy to have fallen on my sword.
Congrats to Mark and Connor on a good year and best wishes for the future.

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