In the first (of hopefully many) learning and teaching stories on the new site, Robert Gordon University lecturer Rachael Ironside shares the story of RGU's Student Festival which recently won Best Student Event at the 2016 Scottish Event Awards.
Over the weekend of the 22nd-24th April 2016 our third year students from Events Management at Robert Gordon University ran a new festival in our home city, Aberdeen Student Festival. The festival involved six groups of students working together to develop individual events, but under the umbrella of a wider festival remit which required each event to have an arts and cultural theme. All of the students were provided with a small start-up fund of £200 and given the task of making a small profit from this. We were also fortunate to work with some excellent sponsors including Mercury 92 and McKenzie print who provided the students with branding and festival programmes. Students were given 10 weeks to develop their concept, a venue to work with and a staff mentor to guide them through the project. In this time, the students developed a creative programme of events engaging with a range of cultural and art-related themes.
On Friday 22nd April the festival kicked off with The Hotsy Totsy Hideaway transporting attendees back in time to the 1920’s prohibition era. Entering through a red curtain, guests enjoyed live jazz performers, Charleston dancers, and the chance to win a range of prizes with a themed quiz and raffle. At the same time T in the Tunnels brought the “outside inside” with a themed venue based around the outdoor festival scene. Attendees enjoyed a range of entertainment including, Scottish dance, local musicians and a DJ.
The second day of the festival introduced an American themed event, Stars & Stripes, to the festival programme. Decorated to reflect the American frat culture attendees were invited to compete in a range of frat games including beer pong, pantyhose bowling and a balloon drop. Los Juegos: A Mexican Games Night also took place on the Saturday, and involved an evening full of Mexican themed games and challenges including Toss the Sombrero and the Chilli Challenge, before finishing with salsa dancing.
On the final day of the festival, Culturestory invited attendees to enjoy an afternoon of African and Caribbean culture. Steel drummers, African choir singers, a range of colourful stalls, and some delicious themed food resulted in a bright Sunday afternoon of entertainment and culture. Finally, the festival closed with the Twisted Carnival. Guests were invited to enter the ‘big top’ and take part in the creepy clown riddle game whilst watching live performances from acrobats, light performers and magicians.
The festival was a big success attracting over 473 attendees, generating substantial media coverage and engaging with a range of performers, suppliers and venues in the city. As a result of the students hard work they have been nominated as finalists in the Scottish Events Awards.
Aberdeen Student Festival is run as part of a new module, Live Festival Management (LFM), developed as a result of consultation with industry contacts and a review of the events course and the local context. During this process it became apparent that there was an appetite from our students and industry partners for a module that engaged further with the festival and culture scene in Aberdeen. In addition, we were keen for students to be able to see how some of the theory learnt in their Events Impacts and Legacy module, studied in conjunction with LFM, can be implemented in practice. As such, part of the assessment process of the LFM module is for the students to reflect on the impacts and legacy that their festival event. Through this process the students were able to reflect on the broader social, cultural, economic and environmental impacts of their work.
We are absolutely delighted with the outcome of the module, and students were very positive about their experience delivering the project:
“We are delighted to have been involved with the festival. Through our Twisted Carnival event we were able to showcase a range of creative local performances and activities to create a unique experience for attendees. We learned so much from the process and have felt privileged to have closed the Aberdeen Student Festival with an event that would leave a lasting impression!" Mairi Read, 3rd year event management student
And our contacts in the local creative scene have been equally as excited by the prospect of a new festival, run by students, in the area. In response to the development of Aberdeen Student Festival, Angela Michael, Aberdeen Festivals Manager, said:
“It's exciting to see a student festival starting up in Aberdeen. The addition of a student festival in Aberdeen also helps to integrate the students even more into the cultural fabric of the city. The students will have worked really hard to put on this programme and I'd encourage everyone to support the festival by attending some of the events on offer.”
The module provided an excellent opportunity to engage our students with practical events management, but also assess their understanding of theory and the broader context of events. Needless to say, we are very much looking forward to Aberdeen Student Festival 2017!