Now in its fourth iteration, Access takes a look at Mighty Hoopla, the ever-popular queer festival in Brockwell Park that does things its own way
While there may be a relative smorgasbord of events this season, the number of ‘queer’ events still remains small in number. With June recently termed ‘Pride Month’, and London Pride taking place on the first week of July, the LGBTQ+ audience has never been a more noticeable demographic.
There are some events that cater for such an audience, such as Sink the Pink (London), Love Sensation (Dublin) and WHOLE festival (Berlin), but one event is standing out above the rest — Mighty Hoopla.
Organised by East Creative, the event has grown hugely since its early days, from its small 3,000 attendance to the 20,000 Brockwell Park-filling experience we see now. “We started out as a weekender at Butlin’s in Bognor Regis in 2016, with a capacity of just 3,000” says Jamie Tagg, managing director of East Creative. “That next year in Victoria was a big jump up for us. It hits home when people compare us to other major festivals, we feel like we’re running a party with all our friends.”
From acts such as All Saints, Will Young, Years & Years to Chaka Khan and Bananarama, the festival is offering up more than just your average live music event. It’s putting on a queer experience. While a lot of festivals and live music events strive for diversity, the representation of queer acts has always been lacking. Mighty Hoopla’s popularity is testament to the demand for decadent pop festivals that are nothing but fabulous. This year’s event took place on 8 June, kicking off Pride Month in London.
With such a large queer event taking place, location is key. The rise in London of one-day festivals and limited outdoor space means that organisers and events are looking for more space. Mighty Hoopla relocated from Victoria Park to Brockwell Park for this year’s event because of All Points East, and the space was certainly suited.
While Mighty Hoopla had many strong points, the immediate benefit was the overall feel of its new location. When asking about how the Park worked as a venue, Tagg responded: “We love it. The local council and residents have really taken us in. The park itself is beautiful, the trees in the middle of the site make it feel different to any other festival in London”. Mighty Hoopla, in its new location, delivered a space that was more akin to a village or town than a music festival.
> Bars: Peppermint bars
> Production: LoudSound
> Artist Liaison:
Our Kid Brother
> Security: Showsec
All good fun
But with such a location, security becomes an issue. This year’s iteration was kept safe by Showsec — and it’s not an easy job. “The fact that the event was incident free from the start of ingress until the end of egress was a huge success. The complexities surrounding egress were a big concern going into this event” says Michael Asimonye, London area manager of Showsec.
He went on to say “The relationship with the local police was fantastic. This relationship has been built upon from previous events, and they understand how we work.”
Of the series of London festivals Access has visited, Mighty Hoopla had possibly the easiest exit route, with local council, security, police and residents working very closely together. “After running Sink The Pink for so many years, we know being safe is number one on the list for both us and the community,” says Tagg. “Poorly chosen or trained security teams can ruin an event and I think a lot of promoters know this now. I think we are going to see a real shape up of the industry over the next few years.”
While safety is paramount, the pop-culture style of Mighty Hoopla is its signature style. The extravagant outfits, multitudes of glitter, and neon colours create a visual collage rivalling that of Henri Matisse. But with that come the consequences of sustainability. “As a glitter-soaked festival, we were expecting a few grumbles when we banned non-biodegradable glitter, but we didn’t get one. Everyone was fully on board with the idea,” says Tagg. From bio-degradable glitter, to the introduction of recycling points and water in recyclable tin cans as opposed to water bottles, Mighty Hoopla took a firm stance on sustainability. “We were really happy with what we achieved on that front, and it’s actually one of the first things on the agenda for 2020, to make sure we keep reducing and recycling,” added Tagg.
“The park was spotless for the following day’s festival, Cross the Tracks. We also opted for streamers instead of confetti on the Main Stage, which was obviously far easier to pick up, and still looked fabulous.”
On top of the new sustainable agenda, an app ran alongside the event, immersing the user into the experience ever more. “We worked with a great team at Second Screen to develop the app,” says Tagg. “The app itself was amazing, it allowed people to put themselves in our site map if they were lost, alerted them to when ‘favourited’ artists were about to come on stage, and it allowed us to communicate with them throughout the day”.
The use of apps at events isn’t anything new, but this app hit the ground running. In allowing the organiser to speak directly to attendees, any major announcements can be communicated instantly. Furthermore, the ability to favourite certain acts and stages means that visitors can enjoy the festival without having to keep an eye on the time.
What’s next for Mighty Hoopla? A lot of events react to popularity through expansion. But considering the spaces in London, the safety of the visitors, and the niche audience demographic, expansion may not be the correct answer. “As a team we would love to do some more shows, but size isn’t what we value,” says Tagg. Well, for Access that can only mean that there will be more events to come from the team at East Creative – so watch this space, because it’s going to be more fabulous than ever.
Showsec on form
Access sits down with Michael Asimonye of Showsec
> Do you find that security for city-based festivals is different to other festivals?
Yes, we do, there are a number of aspects to take into account when planning for an event that is based in a city. Typically, when hosting festivals in the city we would expect customers to come from home and not have to stay on site. That generally makes for a different atmosphere and certain considerations as a security provider.
> Were there difficulties considering the extravagant outfits?
For this year, no. Customers came to express themselves which was welcomed by all. At other events we have encountered hinderances where the extravagance of some outfits has caused offence with local residents or other park users on the arrival or egress from said events.
> Being a queer festival, how did that affect the brief you were given?
The brief that we received did not differ based on the demographic. However, we were made aware of the audience profile which we conveyed to the staff alongside with our usual brief promoting the highest customer service.
> How was your relationship with the local police?
The relationship with the local police was fantastic, this relation has been built upon from previous events and they understand how we work. We were willing to offer support where necessary and we felt that this was reciprocated without reservation.
> What do you think was your biggest achievement considering how well the event went?
This is a hard one; however, I felt that the fact that the event was incident-free from the start of ingress until the end of egress was a huge success. The complexities surrounding egress was a big concern going into this event however we were able to safely deliver customers out of the event site through a closed park and to their relevant points of onward travel.