Georgie Ward reflects on a career path that led her to the gates of the Black Deer Festival, where she is festival manager.
What led you to work in events, was it always the plan?
I found myself in the industry after landing my first job at the Hop Farm in Kent back in 2003 – this was my first experience of outdoor events and I loved it. I moved to London and started working in venues, ultimately becoming head of events for Battersea Evolution. Over the course of eight years with Smart Group, I worked across a broad range of high-profile sporting and music events.
How did you come to join the Black Deer team?
Black Deer co-founder Debs Shilling was a client of mine. Over the course of almost 10 years working together on different projects, we became good friends. Through Debs I met Gill Tee and years after our initial meeting, they decided to launch their own festival. Things fell into place from there and I’ve been lucky enough to be part of the Black Deer team since the journey began in 2018.
How has your role evolved since?
In the early days of the festival, I was the lead on a project for Entertee Events so I initially took on a co-ordinator role for Black Deer. The following year I jumped at the chance to become more involved in the production of the festival. As we entered 2020, I was about to embark on the role of festival manager, but we all know what happened next. After two years of planning the festival on paper and navigating a rocky road post-pandemic, I finally got to see it through this year.
What has been the biggest challenge you have overcome professionally?
On the Saturday night of Black Deer this year we had to carry out a full show stop due to an electrical storm. When you sit down as a team to discuss the protocols of a show stop prior to the festival, everyone in the room naturally hopes the scenarios in front of you will never occur during the live show. The challenge of a full arena evacuation in extreme weather conditions, and putting the emergency plan into action in such a short space of time, was an experience I shall never forget. Thankfully we were able to kick things off the following morning and enjoy a full and final day of Black Deer in glorious sunshine.
Who has influenced you the most professionally?
The key influencers for me have been Greg Lawson of Smart Group, who helped me thrive early in my career, and of course more recently Gill Tee and Debs Shilling who have given me the support I need to carry out this role with a young family in tow, and who I admire greatly for creating and sustaining, even in the most challenging circumstances of the past two years, something as special and unique as Black Deer.
If there was one thing about the events industry you could change today, what would it be?
At Black Deer we work alongside an organisation called SupaJam which provides education, with a focus on music, to young adults who have fallen through the education system. We work closely with them throughout the year and provide them with their own stage at the festival where students can audition to perform, and they can learn the inner workings of a festival over the weekend.
We hope to provide the students with the skills and experience to find work within the music industry. I would love to see more festivals embark on a project such as this and help talented, hardworking individuals get a foot in the door.
What’s your favourite way to relax?
Green fields, music, family, friends and food – even better when they all come together.