Next one? What if there isn’t a next one…

I have been a part of the evening entertainment at Witchfest International for well over 10 years now. It’s always an amazing gig with one of the most supportive audiences I play for during the year. For many years it was at the Fairfield Halls in Croydon, but when that closed for renovation a couple of years ago the organisers, Children of Artemis, had to find a new home. They chose the Brighton Centre, literally 10 minutes along the seafront from my home. It’s always a risk when events change venues but last year was still a great success with nearly 3000 people through the doors during the weekend.

This year’s Witchfest was not only still finding its feet at the new venue, but they couldn’t get their traditional second weekend in November slot so it ended up being a month early. When I spoke to the organisers a month or so before the event they said they were up on tickets sales from the previous year for that same date, but as it was a month earlier it was hard to say how things would go.

Witchfest International was this weekend just past. It was obvious that numbers were down on the previous year, but there was still the most amazing buzz around the place. After my talk on Annwn, I went to the main auditorium to see the wonderful Ronald Hutton give a talk on Halloween. Just before the talk began Dave, one of the main organisers within Children of Artemis, gave some sad news. Yes, numbers were down. Brighton’s seafront was being dug up and was clogged with traffic, Southern Rail were being their usual unreliable self, the weather was dull and grey, and the date being a month early had thrown people. He said that Children of Artemis had made a loss of thousands of pounds. They had calculated that, during the coming year, they should be able to get back in the black, but sadly Witchfest International 2018 was being cancelled. The plan was to come back in 2019, but if ticket sales were down again, that would be it, no more Witchfest International. The auditorium was obviously in shock. Ronald did a great job reorientating the room, and gave a great talk as usual.

Witchfest is one of many Pagan conferences that happen throughout the year, but to me it felt like a flagship event. It was the only one that attracted thousands of visitors instead of hundreds. Of course it wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but obviously did cater for many people. There were still around 1500 people at this years event. Still pretty big. But not enough.

Most Pagan events are created and run by groups, couples, or individuals. They are a labour of love. None make much if any profit. They are a service for the community. They are important times for us to get together in reality, in person, away from Facebook. The conferences and camps are such a gift and a backbone for the community, and they need to be supported as such. Even our little conference in Sussex, AnderidaFest, is undertaken at a big personal financial risk. But it’s important to put on these events to bring a community together. However, if people don’t buy tickets in advance and wait for the day we have no idea if we will be ok, or if we will have to dig into our own pockets to pay for the hall, the speakers etc, after running around finding those speakers, and entertainment, and then working your arse off for the whole day. It’s a delicate balance, and takes a leap of faith that everything will work out. But, like Witchfest, if we haven’t covered our costs by about a month before, we’d seriously have to consider cutting our losses and cancelling the event. I think that is the same for most Pagan event organisers. We do it for the love of it, and of the community.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that the cancellation of Witchfest International 2018 might be a wake up call. It’s a reminder that we can’t take these events for granted. That if we wait for the next one, there might not be a next one.

I wish those at the Children of Artemis well. I hope they are ok financially, and I hope that in 2019 Witchfest International, wherever it ends up being held, is a resounding success, and continues for future generations to gather together, and meet others of like mind and spirit.

So may it be.

[PS. This has been brought to my attention. Any help I’m sure would be greatly welcomed]

12 Comments

  1. jo October 9, 2017 at 12:08 pm - Reply

    it’s not just pagan events, we earn our living from running classes or events and more and more often people think they will just leave it til the last minute. I don’t believe anyone is coming until I have their money any more the number of times people say they are and then don’t offer to even pay part when they don’t come. I’m currently running a 10 week long course with 3 people because I was told 2 others were coming which was enough to make it viable. I’m seriously looking at applying for office jobs I’m so tired of how unreliable people are. I don’t mind if people are honest and say they can’t come or don’t know, heck i do that myself often enough but making noises like they are coming then not putting their money where there mouth is is just plain messing people around and making life harder for others for no good reason.

  2. Margaret Coles October 9, 2017 at 12:32 pm - Reply

    Not really a comment about the events, really, just, interesting, that you live in Brighton. I lived there from 1952 for ten years or so. A teen decade really. Of course, so different then from now. I grew so much though, being brought up within the Anglican Church, then investigated other angles of Christianity, then onto Spiritualism; which aided my growth considerably. I do not own any particular denomination or religion now, it all played it’s part in helping my awareness. I am aware of my own spirit, live and serve accordingly. Blessings to all. Margaret.

  3. Adam Ranger October 9, 2017 at 12:40 pm - Reply

    It will be sad if it does not continue. However i think the reason for lower sales this year is more than Southern rail , weather and roadworks.
    Brighton is expensive. the hotel my partner booked into for the weekend was twice the price of the previous year. Parking costs in Brighton are ridiculously expensive. Add to tnat the cost of the event itself £35. now that’s ok if you are staying the whole weekend but prohibitive for the drop in visitors who wish to stay for a few hours. did they not used to do a day ticket?. Also I think it’s true that once upon a time witchfest was one of the Only events of its kind. We now live in a time where there are many such events up and down the country. people have more choice.
    I do hope Witchfest continues, but maybe a rethink on format and venue?

  4. Laurine Potter October 9, 2017 at 1:43 pm - Reply

    This was very sad news indeed I was there in the audience when it was announced and I think the whole room gasped in amazement, many of us could not believe our ears! I have enjoyed Witchfest for quite a few years now I can’t believe we may not have this lovely event any more sad times indeed! x

  5. Dawn Tiller October 9, 2017 at 1:49 pm - Reply

    We will try and go to the Rugeley one, perhaps if we rally round that one it will be helpful.
    (I remember the lunchtime orange shirt days Dave 🙂 )

  6. Elizabeth Fison October 9, 2017 at 2:29 pm - Reply

    Really sad news. to be fair, for us, the issue was the cost of accommodation and not the cost of the event. Having paid upwards of £50 to attend many a concert I think the cost for the event is really reasonable. Even though we had tickets we didn’t actually manage to go as our accommodation was cancelled and we were unable to find an affordable alternative. we did think about taking our caravan but then leaving after work on Friday and travelling all the way from S.Wales towing a caravan was not a viable alternative either.

  7. KeithC October 9, 2017 at 3:03 pm - Reply

    People are finding life difficult at the moment, loads of folks are indebted, prices are rising and incomes are flat or dropping. For years I’ve wanted to go, but financially – with the cost of accommodation and travel included it just has not been viable. When you’ve had to say “Sorry kids no holiday this year” – and it’s the fourth year in a row you’ve had to say it – things like this are a luxury. Personally I wish it could be different, but that’s how things are – I suspect that many others are in that predicament and it’s getting worse. However I consider myself fortunate, at a pagan gathering I think you know of Dave, one of its members died and they had to crowd-fund the funeral.
    Against a worsening economic climate, I’m not sure what they can do, other than maybe taking a hard look at its structure and see how costs can be cut, not just for them, but for the attendees too. Maybe they need to research places where mass accommodation can be provided at low prices etc.

  8. Sue October 10, 2017 at 12:14 am - Reply

    Sent my widows mite. If we all send a little…
    Blessed be.
    Sue in Phoenix.

  9. Michelle October 10, 2017 at 9:46 am - Reply

    This was my 2nd time at witchfest and I was devistated to hear it was not happening next year,I am rather new to this compared to some but still I am sad to think that could have been my last time,I think people maybe right when they speak of the prices in Brighton as our room was £218 for 2 nights so it was months of saving,I only live in Kent so travel wasn’t the problem for me but would be good to have something nearer to home .

  10. Melanie Jane Turner October 10, 2017 at 2:01 pm - Reply

    I agree with most of the comments above. I have attended Fairfield Halls and the Artemis Gathering for what would have been 7 years this year, but unfortunately like a lot of people, for the last 2 years I have been unable to attend Witchfest due to price. When I first looked into going to Brighton last year it became clear there was no chance I could afford it, travelling from Buckinghamshire, costs of parking and hotels were astronomical:-( I was very sad to have had to have missed it again this year as it’s one of the chances I get to be with very close friends and soul groups all over the country. The thought that there may be no more Witchfest saddens me deeply, but if it was to stay in Brighton I would not be able to attend anymore anyway. Thank you to Children of Artemis for all the fantastic years I have been able to enjoy. I’ll still see you all at Artemis Gathering. Blessed Be xx

  11. Nita October 11, 2017 at 9:39 pm - Reply

    This was such sad news as Witchfest is always such a fabulous event. My daughter and I come along each year and just love it. we were gutted at the news. I managed to make it this year by the skin of my teeth due to a very major family problem and was so glad I did as it felt like having a shower of peace, a duvet hug of love and wonderful soaky bath of magic.
    Indeed as was said above, I also organise events for community and charity benefit and people so often let you down and complain if things are not to their specific taste. So sad when most of us at Witchfest come along with a good heart and soul. We hope to make the Rugely one next year especially as there is no International, and are already booked for Enchanted market. Sad sad sad if Witchfest is no more. How on earth will I get my live FIX of Damh and ‘Robin Hood’………………and the Dolmen and ‘Pirate’
    Hey ho lets put our magic to good use and WISH it to be.
    Blessed be……..Nita

  12. Zaracon October 30, 2017 at 5:01 am - Reply

    This is so sad to see maybe
    They should look into crowd funding like a Kickstarter with different tiers paying for will call tickets . And higher tiers adding on tee shirts or what not . I’m gonna shoot this idea off to DAVE SMITH OR DAMH THE BARD .

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