A Brief History of the Heatons Summer Festival
2019 marks the 10th anniversary of the Four Heatons Traders Association, and in that time we’ve held 9 Summer Festival events. The events have always been a way for the traders to say Thank You to the local community for shopping local and making The Heatons the thriving place that it is.
Putting on these events, together with the Christmas festivals each year has been a roller coaster ride for the 4HTA members and organisers. To mark our 10th Year, we’ve put together this blog post of how the Summer Festival came about and our experiences along the way.
Don’t forget the next Summer Festival takes place on the 7th July 2019 – full details on the Summer Festival website.
2009: The Birth of the 4HTA
It was in April 2009 that Ben Poland from RBS and Hazel Kimmitt from the Chamber of Commerce went door to door talking to local businesses to see if there was an appetite to form a collective, with the goal of working together to improve the local trading environment, in the face of a nationwide recession.
These businesses quickly saw the benefits that working together could bring, and with the support of Stockport Council, they set about forming an association. Thus the Four Heatons Traders Association was born, with a mission to make the Heatons a better place to live, work and prosper.
In the early days of the 4HTA, there were lots of discussions about what the 4HTA should actually do – a conversation that still hasn’t finished to this day! But it was clear to all members that the key to encouraging the shop local message was to engage with the local community.
2010: “Let’s have a Food Festival…” they said
It was Zoran, owner of Pokusevski’s who proposed the idea of a ‘food festival’ as a way to thank the local community for supporting local businesses. The very first Heatons Summer Festival was organised entirely by volunteers from the 4HTA with some seed funding from the council. It was held in Heaton Moor Park with a small number of stalls, food and a kid’s funfair.
The first prize in the charity raffle was the latest must-have gadget – the brand new Apple Ipad! The raffle raised funds for Charnwood Nursery and Friends of Heaton Moor Park.
The 4HTA team pulled this together from scratch – no experience in planning events, no idea of what to expect – would the locals even come?! It was a massive learning curve for everyone involved and thankfully the event was a major success. Little did we know what we had started…
2011: The one where it rained
To say the second year of the festival was a bit of a muddy one would be an understatement (Glastonbury, eat your heart out!), but the show still went on and the turn-out was fantastic.
This was the year we added a live music stage for the first time, featuring the brilliant Jesse Rose, and, together with the local business stalls, hot food and a kids funfair, the festival began to evolve into a larger community event.
The charity raffle raised funds for the Heatons’ Scouts and Guides, with the top prizes being donated from Victoria Highfield and Bramley Carpets – local businesses were now giving the 4HTA unprecedented support!
However we still had much to learn – like how not to run a Win A Car competition! We’d priced it too high, and we’d assumed people wouldn’t mind spending money via text message – delusions of X-factor grandeur! Alas, we were ahead of our time. Lesson learned. Move on.
2012: The format was set…
The 2012 Summer Festival followed the same format as the previous year. Only bigger.
We had a larger entertainment schedule on the stage, including Zumba, kids ‘sports day’ races and a falconry display (which proved to be a major hit, and would feature in many future Summer Festivals). The larger stall area now included Heaton Moor Market. And this was the year of the first Heaton’s Bake-Off!
The charity raffle once again had the latest incarnation of the Apple iPad as the top prize, helping us raise funds for ABC, Charnwood and the Stockport Lamplighters.
By now, the core team of 4HTA volunteers were well versed in putting on the Summer Festival. And we were also well aware of the time commitment involved. We were still all volunteers, each trying to run their own business while putting on an event.
While public support for the Summer Festival continued to grow, internally, enthusiasm for the festival was being replaced by tiredness. As soon as a summer festival finished, work started on planning for Christmas. The effort required was relentless. Volunteer numbers began to dwindle.
2013: Call in the professionals!
The Heatons Summer Festival now included a packed full-day schedule of music, sports, and kid’s activities, along with a growing range of hot food & trade stalls. This meant that the festival had grown to a level that was beyond the scope of management & responsibility of just volunteers. Given the size of the event, we were under greater scrutiny of Stockport Council too.
The 4HTA took the decision to employ professional event Health & Safety Managers – LFX Events – to ensure all the boxes were ticked and that a festival of this size had all the necessary infrastructure and policies in place.
The 2013 Summer Festival took place on Fathers Day. The atmosphere was abuzz with families spending the day in the park, enjoying what the best of The Heatons had to offer.
The Heaton Summer Festival was now firmly established in the Heatons calendar.
What more could we do to improve we wondered?
The idea of a beer tent was put forward during the planning stages of the 2014 festival and, after much consideration, the festival committee decided to include alcohol as part of the festival offer for the first time. To enable this to happen, the serving & drinking area needed to be covered by an additional license to cover the consumption of alcohol in a set area of the park, additional infrastructure was required, and we relied on extra volunteers to ‘police’ the area covered by the license. The beer tent proved a popular addition to the Summer Festival, albeit with added responsibility on the organisers.
The charity raffle raised funds for local scouts groups. The first prize was a laptop donated by Heaton Computers (we needed an alternative to the iPad for a change!).
We believed we had a formula for success now. Falconry, hot food, stalls, tug-of-war, sports, entertainment and live music… We knew what to expect, and what we were doing.
2015: More Bars
Following the addition of a beer tent the previous year, there was interest from several of our members to operate a bar at the festival. Given the difficulties of policing a number of separate ‘drinking areas’, and the numbers the festival now attracted, we were required to license the entire park so that anyone wishing to buy a drink did not have to remain in a restricted alcohol area within the park. This required a different license and additional infrastructure and, given the conditions of the license, it was necessary to have security policing the gates.
The raffle raised funds for the Rotary Club of Stockport Lamplighter, demonstrating our increased collaboration on Heatons events with the organisation. Flowers, and iPad Air and a car service and MOT were the top prizes.
This was our 6th Summer Festival, and we no longer received council funding. The costs of the festival were covered by sponsorship from local businesses, stall holder fees and donations collected at the gates on the day. The increased requirements for the extra bars added a substantial amount to the cost of the event. Thankfully the weather was on our side again, and we managed to cover the costs meaning we were able to fund the Christmas festival later in the year.
2016: Happy Birthday Ma’am
The 2016 Festival once again landed on Father’s Day. We had stilt walkers, a visit from Elsa from Frozen, royal-themed entries in the Bake-off (in honour of Her Majesty’s 90th birthday), and Stevie Williams on the stage.
Local businesses were now fully supporting the raffle with the top three prizes coming from The Flower Emporium, Minimax and Heaton Computers. More local businesses than ever were now taking stalls at the festival and the bars were in full swing.
Despite a little bit of rain (not quite to the levels of the now infamous 2011 event!), the team of festival volunteers worked their socks off once again and the people of the Heatons turned out to enjoy another fantastic Heatons Summer Festival.
However, internally, fatigue was setting in. Following the age old adage, 80% of the work was being done by 20% of the people – and they were by-and-large volunteers trying to run their own businesses. Between Summer Festivals and Christmas events, key members of the team were feeling the strain. Something had to give.
2017: A Fallow Year
Ancient farmers did it. Glastonbury does it. And now we needed to do it. We needed a fallow year; a year off from the Summer Festival to allow the organisers to rest, rejuvenate, regroup and take stock of the direction we were going in, not just in terms of the Summer Festival, but as a Traders Association. We seemed to spend a lot of time on events, and not enough on other activities.
During the year we took a long hard look at the costs of the Summer Festival and the income generated. In the last few years the income from the Summer Festival was used to fund the Christmas events, which didn’t usually generate income. So we realised that if we didn’t hold a summer event, it impacted our ability to hold Christmas events. Christmas needed to become self sustaining!
Another revelation was that the cost of the Summer Festival had tripled over the years, while profit generated for Christmas was static. Basically the 4HTA was taking on much greater risk each year, for next to no increase in return. Add that to the dwindling volunteer numbers, and it was clear something had to change. We needed to become smarter if we were to keep the festival going.
2018: A comeback like no other!
Following our year of rest and contemplation, the Heatons Summer Festival came back in grand-style with a TWO DAY event!
The 4HTA was offered the opportunity to host the 2018 Summer Festival at the Heatons Sports Club. This provided a bigger venue which, with the help & event management provided by local business Fountain May, saw the traditional festival be combined with a music & beer event to run over an entire weekend.
The weather for the weekend couldn’t have been kinder, giving us a mini-heatwave for the whole event – until 4pm on Sunday when the heavens opened up like never before!
The 4HTA was going through internal restructuring during 2018 too. In all honesty, the comeback festival was an experiment for the 4HTA that could easily have gone wrong. While we made a profit, had the weather changed a day earlier, or even just a few hours earlier it could have been financially disastrous for us. Coupled with ever smaller volunteer numbers, we had to make some big decisions for next year.
If the Summer Festival is to be sustainable and continue each year, we had to cut costs, and go back to our roots.
2019: Back to our roots
And that brings us to 2019, the 10th Anniversary Year for the Four Heatons Traders Association. We’re going back to Heaton Moor Park for the festival this year. To manage our costs and risks better, we have taken away the alcohol licence. This means we can concentrate on bringing back the family event that the people of the Heatons know and love. It also means the event can continue to benefit from free entry.
There’s still plenty to enjoy – the Falconry Display, the markets, hot and cold food stalls, the entertainment stage, mass zumba, and a sports area – all the ingredients we know make for a memorable and fun family day out!
We’ll update this page after the event. In the meantime, if you’re looking for details of the 2019 Summer Festival check out the dedicate Heatons Summer Festival website. And if you’re able to volunteer some time on the day to help us make the event a success, please get in touch via https://www.heatonssummerfestival.co.uk/volunteers.
Four Heatons Traders Association
Making the Heatons a better place to live, work and prosper