Following the acquisition of Cambridge-based festivals Strawberries & Creem (pictured) and The Cambridge Club by Sony Music-backed promoter Senbla, Access talks to its founder Ollie Rosenblatt about his plans to increase them in size and enhance their production.
Am I right in saying this is Senbla’s first step into the festival market?
It is our first move into festivals yes but we already do outdoor shows at a greenfield site; the Royal Crescent in Bath. We set up there last year with a show by Michael Bublé and have just gone on sale with Olly Murs. It’s an amazing, iconic site, with a 15,000 capacity, that lends itself beautifully to concerts.
What motivated you to get involved with festivals at a time when Covid-19 is causing such havoc?
I wanted to get into festivals, it was just a matter of looking for the right ones; events that hadn’t hit their peak and that could be grown in size and profile.
We saw these two festivals and thought it was an enormous opportunity to expand the two brands and offer something a bit different in the marketplace. They are run by a great team who have done fantastic things over the last few years.
Cambridge is a fantastic area, it’s a beautiful part of the world with a big student population and it’s easily commutable from London but also from the Midlands and from East of England. It’s a great spot.
Will the festivals continue to be run by the existing teams?
There’s still the same team in place and I’m very heavily involved as well now in booking.
How far do you intend to expand them in the first year?
We are looking to grow the events to 10,000 per day across the weekend but the site we’ve got can accommodate 20,000, so the longer term plan is to grow it to that level.
I understand the intention is to enhance the production of the festival, with that in mind are you looking to engage with new suppliers?
We’ve got a production house on board but in terms of new partners it’s a case of looking at activations around the site to enhance the events. Especially on the Cambridge Club, we think it can be much more well-rounded as a festival. We hope to be working much more closely with the likes of Cambridge University, among others, to deliver a really exciting cultural programme.
In what ways are you taking into account the possibility that Covid-19 could still be a major issue?
We will monitor the government advice, rules and regulations, as we prepare to grow and develop these events, and we will work around them accordingly. Obviously, hygiene is an enormously important consideration at festival now, we are taking that very seriously. We will have maximum hygiene safety protocols.
Do you agree with the call for Government-backed insurance for events to cover losses from Covid-related risks that are currently uninsurable in the commercial market?
It is something the industry really needs, it needs a solution, whether it’s free government insurance or grants to enable it to continue next year.
Longterm is the festival sector something you, as a company, plan to immerse yourself in further?
I think so yes but right now the focus is on the two events because they need the time and attention they deserve – they both have so much potential.
We will continue to look at the market to see if there are opportunities out there and we will take them very seriously, but we’ll see how the market develops.