Isle of Fire - a permanent fixture for the Barry calendar?

Barry Island witnessed one of its best-ever events with the ‘Isle of Fire’ event on the weekend of July 22nd 2013.

Top marks to the Vale of Glamorgan Tourism promotion team for organising a wonderful free show that used the magical inspiration of fire and talented performers to somehow create a primordial wonderland as night-time fell on Barry Island.

I really think this has potential to become an annual landmark event for Barry Island.

The questions are how can it be even better, and what lessons can be learnt from the first Isle of Fir events last weekend?

Before I start I need to declare why I am submitting this idea.

I regard myself as a constructive friend of the Vale of Glamorgan Council.

I am politically independent. I help run the Barry IdeasBank as citizen who passionately cares about the future well-being of his community.

I think the Council does a very good job of keeping Whitmore Bay beach clean all year-round. The Environmental Health guys we had to use once, do a brilliant job. The bin service by and large does what it’s supposed to do, and the Leisure Centre service seemed OK.

I have been critical of the Council however, when it comes to showing strategic leadership, particularly under previous administrations, displaying a lead in the regeneration of Barry Island.

I was told by a very high figure with the Council, in front of witnesses, that some officers regarded me as an ‘enemy’ as I had written - again in the role of a constructive friend - letters in the local papers highlighting what I saw as deficiencies in the Councils proposals for the redevelopment of the Nells Point site. They weren’t personal attacks, merely written as a genuine, committed citizen.

I believe, from previous experiences with the Vale of Glamorgan that it is weak in partnership working - failing to fully collaborate with others outside the Council. (I have previously offered to do free talks to the Council on my specialisms of Creativity, word of mouth communications and PR which weren’t taken up.)

Rather than listen, the Council has in the past seemingly identified voices that are not 100% in agreement as ‘opposition’.

Sorry for the long preamble, but feel it’s necessary in order to give my ideas a chance of being listened to by ‘The Council’.

1. Contextualising/Branding
The event is a spectacular free show. Somehow the spectacle of fire invokes a sense of both connectivity with our earth and yet equally a sense of danger, an other-worldliness.

It might have been use of the Viking boat in the display that brought to mind the York Viking Festival with its flaming longboat at the heart of its celebrations.

We need to establish deeper meaning about why the festival of flames is taking part in the first place.

Maybe Barry could have its own claims to Viking connections: it has been well documented about the local coastline being a haven for pirates, and how St. Patrick was abducted from the area.

A bit of research, creativity and applied imagination could make the concept of the event strong, more rooted, and ultimately more successful.

2. Timing
Would it be better served having it either as a curtain-raiser to the holiday season, or when days are shorter? The York Viking festival for example, links in with the February half-term. Barry Island does have an all-year round offering.

The Firework show has become a major event in November - perhaps this event could do similar earlier in the year?

3. Publicising an unfamiliar concept
Certainly, the event had blanket publicity in local media with full page adverts in the local papers and flyers.

Yet, there was a feeling at both showings that if more people had understood the quality and attractiveness of the show, it would have attracted larger audiences.

Even the fundamental of starting time was left vague as ‘at dusk’ - people don’t like uncertainty and risk.

Unlike other events, such a Street Dance, Seaside Sport and the Cinema by the Sea which are readily understood - the Isle of Fire event needed more explanation.

One suggestion would be to make more use of different media channels - so the newspaper could have encouraged readers for example to check out a YouTube link showing a film of the spectacular.

4. Work with local social media
Given the complexities one option could have been to work with the local network of bloggers to explain to them the event and get them to use their personal influences to recommend and advocate the event.

There are a number of local people doing a brilliant job promoting all things Barry on social media - do follow @_BarryIsland_ , @Barrybados and the guys at BarryTownFC – and apologies to anyone else I’ve not mentioned.

My @BarryKucha (now renamed @BarryIdeasBank) site is one of the most active and largest, with nearly 800 primarily local followers. Despite often retweeting the Vale of Glamorgan’s own Tweets, and being followed by other local authorities and public bodies, the Vale does not follow me, nor it seems other prominent local Tweeters. (The point is made again as a constructive friend, not to score points.)

There are people out there in social media only too pleased to help - please work with them to help you even more.

A Big Thank You
Clearly the Isle of Fire event was the result of much hard work and dedication - so ‘thank you’ to all who helped make it happen.

We witnessed in Barry an event which did the area proud and has the potential to grow and become even bigger.

Let’s hope by working together, listening to each other that we can make things even better.
edited on Jul 22, 2013 by Andy Green

Ade Pitman Sep 3, 2013

I attended the event, and it was nice to see many people at the Island enjoying a free family event.

With my 'PC' hat on, I am confused though, as to the carbon footprint of a council funded event that burns all this fossil fuel.

Still it`s nice to see tax money put into the Arts. I just wish they would match it `with some support for Heritage too.

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