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This presentation was given at the APM South Wales and West of England branch AGM on 21st May 2014, in Bristol.
The chairman introduced Ben Hardy of the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta. Ben explained that he has been involved with the fiesta since 2000, and the full time event director since 2010.
The Bristol International Balloon Fiesta was started in 1979 by Don Cameron. It is run as a not for profit company with a board of 8 trustees, Don being the Chairman. Its constitution requires it to be a credit to Bristol, promote employment in the area and be free from admission charges. It is known worldwide and attracts some 500,000 visitors each year.
Ben outlined the organisational structure and his team’s role in project managing the event each year. The fiesta costs £596K per year, with an income of £600K which is weather dependent, and so represents a considerable financial risk. The fiesta is good for the local economy, for every £1 in costs, it is estimated that £15 is spent in the local economy by visitors from outside the local area. The fiesta has huge media impact, with 1.891 billion circulation figures worth nearly £2M in marketing value.
Before the recession, the event was supported by key sponsors who underpinned the financial risk, but this is no longer the case. Some sponsorship is gained via the ‘100 Club’ of local Bristol firms, but the financial risk is clear and the event has needed ever tighter planning and management.
Ben explained some of the challenges he has had to deal with, including improving crowd safety, establishing a value for money focussed procurement strategy, getting the ballooning community re-engaged, and attracting visitors for the whole day to help increase foot-fall for the traders. Ben described his role as multidisciplinary.
A lot of time is spent on managing the stakeholders, the local councils and residents. The fiesta is seen as Bristol’s event, but Ashton Court is actually in North Somerset, and so the stakeholders have not always been easy to align. There is now an operations planning group with key stakeholders to coordinate and direct the planning.
For the future, a strategic risk register has been developed, which includes plans for alternative venues. This, and the creation of a financial reserve, will help manage the financial risk.
Ben has found the Podio collaborative tool ideal for project managing the fiesta.