On the back of a successful crowdfunding campaign, the team behind independent festival Boomtown Fair (cap. 66,000) is set to launch an immersive ‘amazement park’ in the event operation’s Bristol HQ. Access investigates.
Having achieved an £800,000 crowdfunding target on the back of more than £1.5 million of seed investment, the Boomtown festival team is set to open the doors on immersive art experience Wake The Tiger at the end of July. It’s yet another example of the Boomtown team’s seemingly endless creative zeal.
Produced by a team including Boomtown Fair site and operations manager Graham MacVoy and the festival’s co-founders and directors Lak Mitchell and Chris Rutherford, Wake The Tiger has been a huge focus for the Bristol-based events team for the past couple of years.
MacVoy says the interactive show is expected to become a major tourist attraction, and with Bristol seeing 16 million tourism visits in 2018, the potential is clearly huge.
The ‘amazement park’ will involve a one-hour tour of 27 artistic environments. Designed to be an immersive alternative to a traditional art gallery, it is suitable for visitors of all ages. Around 1,000 people are expected to attend per day.
“We have a three-story, 6,000sqm, warehouse in central Bristol that Boomtown founders Chris [Rutherford] and Lak [Mitchell] bought seven years ago with the idea of using as an all year-round events space,” says MacVoy.
“Lak and I had been looking into permanent attractions, themed layouts or concepts, at how you link music with art. It went through a lot of iterations over the years, and then the Covid lockdown hit. After we recovered from the initial shock of that, we started to put aside more time to focus on creating a standalone immersive experience. We never had that chance before because Boomtown is such a complicated show and takes up a lot of time.”
The initial Wake The Tiger offering will consist of a 2,000sqm attraction space consisting of indoor and covered outdoor areas. Tickets go on sale on 1 July. Instead of a traditional ticket, purchasers will receive an invitation to visit a marketing suite called Meridia Luxury Homes. From there, visitors will be taken on an interactive journey from room to room, with the experience involving a maze of environments including hidden forests, temples, ice caves andsecret passageways.
MacVoy says he has enjoyed watching the wide-eyed expressions on the faces of the people who have previewed the project: “Most of them leave smiling and saying something along the lines of ‘what the hell just happened?’.
“We have let creativity really lead the design and creation process. It’s not a sterile attraction run by businessmen; it is a creative business run by creative people. We want it to be successful financially, but we also want to inspire positive change through the messaging. All the rooms and artworks come from deeper theories, there’s a narrative in the creative – a big part of the journey is about reconnection with community, with nature and with creativity.”
Much of the work to get the project up and running has been handled in-house and among the key members of the Boomtown team focusing on it has been Doug Francisco. As well as being the festival’s creative director, Francisco works as a creative consultant for numerous projects and production companies such as Arcadia Spectacular.
“Doug, who is behind a lot of the narrative at Boomtown, is heavily involved in this project including the development of the characters,” says MacVoy. “We have been able to do so much in-house because we have such a creative team including experienced designers, artistic designers and prop designers.”
The project is being handled by a standalone company, Wake The Tiger Ltd, which was set up by Boomtown’s founders in March last year. Among the external operators to work on Wake The Tiger is Crowd Dynamics, whose clients include Winter Wonderland. It was employed to create audience simulations to calculate the appropriate audience capacity limitations.
Among the other external companies bringing the project to life are local operators including independent design company Taxi Studios, which designed the Wake The Tiger logo, and Bristol-based PR operation Plaster.
MacVoy says the most difficult part of the process of bringing Wake The Tiger to life was coming up with a name for the project: “We went through this painful six weeks of trying to get a name. It was killing us. Eventually, Lak’s wife suggested the name and we all loved it. There’s a book called Waking The Tiger, which is all about finding your inner self, and that’s a big part of the idea behind the project. The name just seemed really appropriate, but there will be no tigers involved nor cuddly toys for sale.”
There will, though, be other merchandise on offer. It is expected that some 75% of the project’s revenue will come via tickets sales, while secondary revenue sources will include food and beverage sales and a merchandise range including sculptures, prints and NFTs.
Technology is expected to play a key role in the evolution of the project in the coming years, with virtual Wake The Tiger worlds created.
“We are going to be developing a crossover between the real world and a digital universe, so we are flipping the usual process on its head – companies such as Disney will make the film first and theme park attraction later, whereas we have gone for the real-world attraction first and will build out other digital IP such as games from it later,” says MacVoy.
Another focus is corporate hires. “It is a really unique space,” he says. “It would be an amazing location for Christmas parties or wedding receptions. We have not started working on that yet but it is in the pipeline.”
The priority for the moment is building awareness. Aside from raising funds, MacVoy says the Crowdcube campaign was created largely to build word-of-mouth ahead of the Wake The Tiger launch.
“It is a great way of building brand awareness and engaging brand ambassadors,” he says. “It is a big marketing piece. We could have raised the money privately, but the Crowdcube campaign has been a great way of helping to get awareness out. Now we can’t wait to get it open.”