Small Business Column: The business of art and festivals

Kehlan Kirwan turns his attention to the business of festivals and art as the summer season takes hold and an expectation of one of the brightest summers in a long time for SMEs.

Small Business Column: The business of art and festivals

Summertime is well and truly here and the air is filled with music, barbecues and a sense of optimism. With that comes a vast array of festivals and entertainment. One of the great things we do here in Ireland is host a festival.

What is more, we are seeing what great events, organised well, can bring to businesses. Towns and communities across the country have put their heads together and figured out how to put themselves on the map. From literature to craft beer and music, Ireland is becoming the land of a thousand festivals.

You could probably say that it’s in our nature to embrace festivals like we have. But what’s clear is that Ireland is quickly moving away from the pubs and the drink to bolster our celebrations.

The customer travelling from far afield has demanded something more from us in the past number of years, and asked ‘can you do something more other than give us booze?’ We’ve answered the call.

We have created festivals and events to cater for all people. I suspect it won’t be long before we have a gluten-free festival weekend to cater for the high numbers of coeliacs we have in the country.

Where the market is, we have followed. The Gathering in 2013 took a bashing from some unimpressed commentators, me being one of them. But in the end, I was proved wrong as it attracted people who wanted see Ireland in a different light. Visitors got to see business Ireland, adventure Ireland, literary Ireland and so much more. The ‘real’ Ireland was not the jiggery pokery people had come to expect, it was us showing off our talents.

At the heart of all of this beats businesses which have developed the products and the ideas to draw customers. Festivals shouldn’t just be for show; there has to be a financial benefit to the community. In the short-term for the business, and in the long-term for the people who keep coming back.

We’ve upped our game in recent years because we had to; now we’re reaping the dividends as traveller numbers visiting are growing.

SMEs looked hard at their area and asked what they have and don’t have. What we see now are communities playing to their strengths and businesses providing the good services needed for them to survive year-on-year.

Because of this, we are seeing communities developing their own personalities.

There are too many for this column to list but more and more small towns and villages are developing unique festivals to put themselves on the ‘things to do’ column in countless websites.

A good festival can be part of a good business strategy.

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