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In between creating and curating themed areas at festivals including Camp Bestival, Lovebox, Boomtown, Shambala, Wilderness and Glastonbury, multi-service event production agency Continental Drifts is doing its bit to nurture the next generation of festival professionals. Chris ‘Tofu’ Macmeikan says the goal of its Festival Lab programme is to open the industry up to young people who may otherwise be excluded.

Continental Drifts’ London Remixed Festival at Rich Mix Arts Centre saw 12 young budding event professionals curate their own stage, as part of the company’s Festival Lab programme.

Overseen by Continental Drifts music director Chris ‘Tofu’ Macmeikan (pictured centre) and run by Swans Events, a female-led production company born out of the pandemic in 2020, the Festival Lab is designed to support the next generation of event producers by developing their ideas, skills, and knowledge via talks from industry specialists, workshops, and hands-on experience.

Over a 12-week period prior to the Remixed Festival, the young producers learned about production, programming, marketing, sponsorship and audience development, culminating in them overseeing their own programme of activity on the Friday evening of the event.

Called Vybe Engyneerz by Continental Drifts, the dozen young people were guided through the various aspects of event production by guest speakers including The O2 arena’s entertainment marketing manager Osho Frankland, Excel London health and safety manager Tim Byrne and Hootananny Brixton event promoter Max Golfar.

“The plan is to work with youths who have no other way to study this kind of thing.”

“The plan is to work with youths who have no other way to study this kind of thing, and over 12 weeks give them a taste of event production by giving them £2,000 to curate a room at London Remix Festival, which they have done a fantastic job of,” says Macmeikan.

The next step for the team at Continental Drifts is to take Vybe Engyneerz to six of the festivals it is working on this summer – two per event, where they will help run a stage.

Says Macmeikan, “I’m taking two to Glastonbury for Shangri-La, and two to each of the Camp Bestival events,  Wilderness and Boomtown. We’re just going to throw all the names in a hat because everybody wants to do Glastonbury. Most of them have never been to a festival, so you have to tread carefully and make sure that they are ready for that – Camp Bestival is a lot more mellow than bashing them into the middle of Boomtown.

“We are working with poor kids in east London who are from diverse communities; there’s two things holding them back from going into the events industry – one is a familial thing where they’re just not used to it, and the other is that they simply cannot afford to pay to study event management at university or college. Hopefully by the end of the summer they will have enough on their CVs to approach an event production company to get an entry-level job.”

Two of the Engyneerz have already been employed by Continental Drifts and another has been take on by Swans Events.

This article was published in the latest edition of Access All Areas magazine  – subscribe for free here