Committee organisation

A University offers to host IVFDF two year's hence; with one year to go their plans are approved and they can go ahead. For example, last year (in 2000) Manchester offered to run IVFDF in 2002, however they then withdrew and St Andrews offered to take it over. This year (2001) St Andrews was confirmed as 2002 hosts and Sheffield have offered to run it in 2003; next year we expect Sheffield's plans to be confirmed and someone else to offer to run it in 2004.

In practice a particular group will decide they would like to run IVFDF. In Cambridge we have been careful to keep IVFDF separate from any particular existing club, but the group that wanted to run it included members of English, Scottish and Morris clubs. I imagine that Sheffield's group happens to be the current Ceilidh Soc committee, though I expect they spin off a separate IVFDF committee.

In many ways the size and organisation of the IVFDF committee is obvious, and depends on the particular group that wants to run it. It is worth bearing in mind that this committee will have to survive two years, and it is likely to change in that time; a general principle for committees is that you shouldn't have both halves of a couple - it simply doubles the vote for that point of view, and the other half will do the work even if they are not actually on the committee anyway. Student love life being what it is we had two break-ups in 1997 (one at the "never darken the door again" level, and one at the "let's be civilised, but can you ask my ex to do this because if I ask him he will refuse" level) and we had one member disappear to the south pole for six months (in fact he dropped out when he came back to Cambridge). In 2001 we had two individuals become a couple and one person drop out for lack of time and interest, though we recruited a very enthusiastic replacement. In both cases there were about ten people on the committee, and about four were on both; the rest of the 1997 committee no longer being around. The 2001 committee decided they were all still friends at the end and the treasurer allowed us to blow a hundred pounds of our profit on our Sunday evening collapse takeaway meal. In 1997 we were more exhausted and staggered off home individually.

You specifically need to appoint a chairman and treasurer. In the early stages detailed jobs for other people are less important (though a set secretary/minute taker is a good move). As IVFDF looms nearer you probably need specific people to take charge of workshops, co-ordinating stewards and producing the programme; other specific tasks can generally be allocated to whoever is best able to do them - for example we delegated one person to sort out food vans and the bar when we realised that our current arrangements were unravelling.

During the festival you may want to designate particular jobs to particular committee members (treasurer, running reception, food and drink liaison, workshops, stewards in our case). Other committee members seem to have no problems finding things to keep themselves occupied even if they have no specific areas of responsibility.

It is almost worth saying all committee members have to be on the internet. We used a private web site to store reference material like meeting minutes. I have 400 mails in my IVFDF folder, and there were a load more I deleted immediately.

Don't join an IVFDF committee thinking it would be wonderful to bring all these great bands to you rather than you having to travel to them. If you get to dance any dances during the weekend regard it as a bonus. At our post-festival collapse I asked "hands up anyone who has danced more than 10 dances all weekend" and nobody on the committee was prepared to admit to it.


This is where things get a bit serious, and nobody quite knows what the rules are. The basic principle is that IVFDF (Information Point) holds a pot of money for floating IVFDF, which gets passed from one IVFDF to another. The practice is that at the year before point (when your offer to run IVFDF is confirmed) you can ask for a float to pay for hall deposits, flyers and necessary early expenditure. in 1997 we didn't know we had to ask formally -- we assumed it would appear and got more and more irritated when it didn't. So far the practice has been that if your festival makes a loss then the IVFDF funds will cover that loss, but there was one dire year when the funds were a bit flush and the festival committee was told to run at a bit of a loss please, and actually (for reasons not entirely their fault) they made a thundering great loss. Since then there has been a strong emphasis on the fact that you are running an event and the fact that IVFDF kindly loans you some money as a float does not disguise the fact that it is a loan to be returned, and strictly speaking any loss the festival makes falls on the committee, and not on IVFDF. (On the other hand, any profit you make goes straight into your pocket, and though usual practice is to donate it to IVFDF funds you are at liberty to give it to the dogs home or any other good cause.)

We registered ourselves as a Cambridge University society, which got ourselves covered under the University public liability insurance and we applied for (and got) a guarantee against loss (of up to a thousand pounds) from the University Societies Syndicate. In point of fact we did not have to make any claims for money from the University for either festival, but it was comforting to have their support.

In recent years RSCDS has been willing to sponsor some of the Scottish dance side of the festival (thank you very much). We didn't try very hard to find sponsors for either festival, but one of our 2001 committee members was asked by his employer, ARM, for ideas on recruiting graduates, and being quick on the ball he suggested sponsoring IVFDF. Thank you ARM (actually by the time the festival came round they were no longer desparate to recruit graduates because of the technology stock market collapse, but we still like them).

As a poor student I might be willing to spend my time and effort looking for sponsorship, but as someone in full time employment I am probably paid more per hour for working than I would raise trying to find sponsorship. Hence my feelings are that scrambling for sponsorship is a waste of time. On the other hand I must admit that at the moment it looks as though IVFDF 2001 would have broken even if we had found no sponsorship, which is a rather worrying thought -- without sponsorship we could easily have made a small loss.

Traditionally we give (and get) a free advert for next year's festival in the programme. In 1997 we made a bit of an effort to get adverts from local take-aways in the programme; in 2001 we didn't bother, but Eastbourne festival asked if they could have an advert so we accepted it and charged them some trivial fee.

The definition of profit and loss is really rather flexible. We had several workshop leaders say that they were happy to do it for nothing but if the festival made a profit it would be nice to have something. If you then decide that 50 workshop leaders deserve £20 each that is a thousand pounds which can be a serious part of your budget.

Treasurer's Notes

Being a treasurer can be worrying if you're that kind of person. Even only a week before the event we'd only sold about 160 weekend tickets, which made us potentially severely in loss. On the Friday we'd sold 298, so we were still about 800 pounds under, but within our seed money from Info Point of 1000 pounds.

We'd assumed 250 waged weekend season tickets and 200 unwaged would be sold, but the actual figures came out under this, at about 230 waged + 166 unwaged. Some of this difference was absorbed by people buying more individual tickets than we'd allowed for, but our estimates were still too high.

Our approximate early budget was:
Income Expenditure
250 waged weekend tickets4500 Bands2000
200 unwaged weekend tickets2400 Halls4200
50 stewards tickets300 Workshops150
daytime workshop/dance100 Programmes250
Saturday evening tickets100 Flyers/advertising100
First aid cover200
Morris tour bus200
7400 7400
In the event we made a profit on T shirts and found substantial sponsorship, which offset our optimism over the number of season ticket holders - we had budgeted for 450 but only sold 400.

In 2001 out treasurer did several cash runs on the Friday night to avoid having too much cash at reception. Because a committee member lived just round the corner he cached the cash there, but in 1997 our treasurer hired an overnight safe deposit box from the bank for this purpose.

On the Friday we took about £1800, and a further 700ish on Saturday and Sunday. We had two money boxes available, so we used the larger of the two for reception, and the other for T-shirt sales on Friday night and the Scottish dance on Saturday, as this was in a different venue. The other useful item we borrowed was a receipt book for keeping track of money for bands/callers, as well as being able to give receipts to those people who asked so they could claim part of the cost of IVFDF back from their society.

We took out a float of 1000 pounds from the bank on Friday, but this was far too much. We forgot that people will occasionally pay the correct amount (thus actually increasing your chance of providing the correct change to a later person), as well as paying by cheque, which requires no float at all.

In retrospect we would have taken out about 300 pounds in fivers and coins as being more than enough, even when split between two money boxes.


In a sense publicity is probably not very important to your IVFDF. Most of the people attending come every year and merely have to know when it is and where to buy tickets. On the other hand there will be new dance clubs springing up with no IVFDF-going history and you have a duty to future IVFDFs to keep it in the minds of the folk dance world in general (we have just had a comment in an Internet mailing list from someone who had gone to IVFDF years ago and had thought it had died out until his son had gone to university and hence to IVFDF). We were a bit hesitant about advertising to the "non-IVFDF market" because we were worried we might be short of space.

We printed a flyer and took copies to most of the dance festivals, and blindly sent copies to student unions in most of the universities. We also (obviously) sent it to all the addresses we had, which was basically the addresses of the obvious university clubs plus a few IVFDF regulars.

We printed a batch of T shirts and sold them to committee and hangers-on and wore them around the festivals from IVFDF the year before.

We got a mention in a local folk magazine; we waved flyers around various local dance clubs, but didn't mail them out to the slightly further afield clubs. The problem here is that locals are likely to want to come in to particular workshops, but we don't have a finalised programme until very shortly before the festival. Obviously we can advertise the main dances a year in advance, but equally obviously, plugs for an evening dance a year ahead go in one ear and out the other.

We didn't try very hard to advertise to local song clubs, or local students (in our case a festival a mile and a half out of town was probably half way across the galaxy to most students). We plugged it to the student dance clubs of course, and at some student ceilidhs. I doubt we got many non-stewarding local students though.

We worked fairly hard on a Web site (someone made a point of thanking us for a link to local B&Bs that he had failed to find in a rummage through the local tourist Information site - obviously we are better rummagers than he was). All the flyers, early T shirts and so on had pointers to the site, which initially had copies of the flyers, and then as things firmed up grew to have most the programme notes for each act. We assumed that all students would have Internet access and this is an easy way of making information available to them. Web sites are also cheap. They do need quite a lot of time and effort to make them interesting to visit.

Our web site was accessed from 1500 distinct computers (350 in the final week), about 15 pages a week were served during 2000, rising to about 50-60 towards the end, a couple of hundred a week for 2001 culminating in 326 requests for pages on the Friday the festival started. The access rate on weekends was about half that for weekdays. About 200 accesses were referred via, 250 via Cambridge University dance societies and 100 via the central IVFDF web site.

There is little incentive for a one-off IVFDF festival committee to do any long-term marketing. Things we talked about doing, but never actually got round to doing anything about were:-

When you produce flyers check them! Sad to say we passed round some draft flyers at one committee meeting and then after mailing them out realised that we didn't actually give the date of the festival. Oops. Probably the best thing is to get it proof-read by someone outside the committee.

T shirts, badges

In 1997 we asked a previous festival "how many T shirts did you print" and they said 200, 50 for stewards. We interpreted this as 200 plus 50, and forgot that we had actually printed about 50 already in a short-run early advertising supply. Oops. We had quite a lot surplus at the end. In 2001 we did a bit better, and separately found ourselves a really good deal on getting them printed so we actually upped our intended order knowing that there was a risk of being left with a surplus, but not being too worried.

In 2001 we sold 185 black T shirts (plus another 15 from our early run) and gave away 90 green ones (10 went to the catering staff rather than stewards).

Since we decided to use wrist-bands for security in 2001 we sold badges separately. We had 100 made and when we got them back we were so pleased with them we nearly rushed off to order another batch. Sanity prevailed and we decided that if they ran out we would take orders and then get another batch made. In fact we sold 80 (and gave quite a few away, eg to the caretaker) so the festival goers were not quite as keen on the badges as we were.

In 1997 we decided that Cambridge should have light blue T shirts for stewards, and assorted nice colours for everyone else. This was not very popular. In 2001 we turned it round and said silver on black would be really cool for our 2001 themed festival, and we asked for the most lurid green available for our little green men stewards. this seems to have been much more popular.

In general the non-Cambridge people failed to understand the 1997 T shirt design. If you have a complicated T shirt logo (as we did in 1997) then you need a simplified version as well for badges, Web pages and such like. (This is just a comment, not a statement that it is good or bad to have a complicated T shirt logo. We were happy with what we did both times.) The punters appeared to prefer the 2001 design to the 1997 one.

Sorry St Andrews - we made a mistake in dropping the price of T shirts at the end of the festival. Someone suggested it as a move to shift the remaining stock and a committee member on reception approved it. He now realises this was a mistake because it imperils future T shirt sales at the next IVFDF. In fact someone proposed this in 1997, but we realised the problem it would create and didn't drop the price. (We ended up giving 50 T shirts to Bosnian refugees or whatever). For the record, having done the experiment, after dropping the price we sold a further 50 T shirts (though whether this was just procrastinators getting lucky or a reduced price getting extra sales is one of those imponderable questions).


This may be obvious. Lucky you. Cambridge doesn't have a big central Student Union building (and many are now run by non-University managers and are less sympathetic to students than they might be). In 1997 we used a sports hall for our Saturday night dances (which was great) and a technical college turned polytechnic for the rest (which was cramped). In 2001 we found a big secondary school which actually had enough space for us. We tried to use the sports hall again, but they quoted some enormous price; I think the problem is that opening up a sports hall needs a vast staff, all on overtime - in the school we had to pay for one caretaker which brought the price down. If you can find buildings that have to be open anyway, or need no staffing (the indestructible village hall) then they will probably be cheaper.

Assuming you are running a traditional IVFDF then you need to find 3 biggish halls for Saturday night, 2 for Friday evening and one for the afternoon dances. You need a range of room sizes for workshops and you need sleeping accommodation for about 250-300 people.

We had about 350 people on Friday evening, 400 on Saturday, 150 at the Saturday display ceilidh and 200 at the Survivors. Our biggest workshops had 80-100 dancers. We had worked on a basis of absolutely jam-packed dancing needing one square metre per dancer and had a panic that we wouldn't fit everyone in. In fact we forgot that a fair proportion of people will be flaked out, playing in sessions, chatting to mates and generally not dancing; in retrospect our overflow dance hall (Holodeck) was not really needed, though I think if we were running things again we might well keep it in case more dancers turned up. (Note that the square metre (10 square feet if you want to be Imperial) per dancer rule is jam-packed; we decreed the Scottish Saturday night full at 100 dancers even though the jam-packed formula suggested it would take 150, which it might have for a ceilidh.)

In round numbers we sold tickets that entitled 500 people to dance on Saturday night. We counted 350 dancing overall and 50 non-dancing in the main hall (which was where we had a bar and an obvious area for standing around chatting); we don't know where the other 100 went, but there were probably 50 on the premises in sessions and 50 out doing the town.

We had more people sleeping than we allowed for. At the time we decided on six classrooms we were being quoted a price per hour which made them quite expensive so we had a strong incentive to keep the estimates down; eventually we agreed a flat rate for the festival so another time we might try to allocate more (though there is a surprising amount of effort needed to clear a classroom for sleeping and then restore it back to the carefully mapped way it was). We don't have an exact count but think it was probably 250-300 people. This was not a problem because while we had allocated some classrooms for sleeping we had the dance halls available. Obviously it was better to have them for late-night dancing and for sleepers not to have to clear their stuff away for morning workshops. The problem with sleeping on the premises is that it panics hall owners as being something out of the ordinary and therefore suspect. In 1997 we went round church halls and suchlike and about one in three allowed us to use their premises.

We had one request (well in advance) for a women-only sleeping room from a club with a significant Asian contingent and one (from Exeter) for a room to be allocated just to them, both of which we agreed to (though I'm not sure Exeter did very well out of it since they ended up very crowded).

It is a big plus if you can get everything together. People were delighted with the 1997 sports hall because all the evening dances were in one building whereas in 2001 we farmed out the Scottish dance to a school five minutes walk away. We could have given them the school gym, but it was very echoing and not so nice a hall, and we were worried about capacity problems. I think we made the right decisions, but the Scottish dancers often get separated from the rest of IVFDF, mostly for the perfectly good reason that there is probably less traffic between it and the other dances than between the other dances which are usually less specialist. Often this whole question is irrelevant - you have the halls available to you, like them or lump them,

Our workshop rooms were too small in 1997. Many of our 2001 workshops had 80-100 dancers, which would have been fine if we had guessed right and put them in the big halls. Inevitably we guessed wrong for some and there were a couple of workshops that filled their rooms. There were some problems with footwear (basically no clog workshops in a gym) that had to be born in mind.

Most appropriate venues will have catering facilities already. In 2001 we tried to persuade the school dinner people to come in and do something, but while they might have been willing to give us "lunch for 250 people" they were not really interested and didn't want to go near esoteric things like breakfast. On the other hand the Whitby festival school dinner people do a great job so its something that will depend on the local catering manager and you may find a co-operative one. Some venues try to enforce rules that ban food that their caterers have not supplied as a way of increasing the catering profits. The 2001 school was set up (as are most schools) to have an outside bar come in to serve the main hall; there was a minor matter that only a small part of the school was actually licensed premises so technically only the main dance hall was licensed and the other halls not. (I suspect there is a separate fire inspection needed for licensed premises so the school had just listed the likely bits of the school for said inspection.) In 1997 we were assured that the student bar and cafeteria would be open, only to find that come the day it was not. There were plenty of take-aways in the vicinity so it was not a disaster, but a bit of cynicism on our part (like asking the cafeteria staff a week before whether they expected to be open for IVFDF) might have rescued it.

Car parking didn't seem to be a problem (though it was unavailable in 1997, and tight in 2001). In 2001 we pretty well filled a 140 space car park.