Reflections on Long Division 2018

By Dean Freeman, Festival Director

Capturing the buzz and excitement of an event like Long Division in words, a few months after the whole thing took place, is incredibly tough. It’s so ephemeral, you quite truly ‘had to be there’.

I’ll come back to that. But what I can talk about is cold, hard numbers – which I actually find quite exciting. It was the largest Long Division Festival to date; we doubled our audience, using 25 different venues over five days. We programmed music (from electro to jazz to punk to folk) alongside art exhibitions, Q&A sessions, spoken word, workshops and all manner of things that fall between the cracks of those mediums. It’s now unquestionably the largest music & cultural festival in the district.

Charlotte Hatherley at Wakefield Cathedral by John Jowett

 A big step for us was the addition of free to attend events. 114 events / performances were free, plus 37 days of free to attend exhibitions. This was only made possible with the support of Wakefield BID. Although Long Division has always been very good value, I realised that 25 pounds is still a large barrier if you aren’t culturally engaged or feel you understand what the festival is, and who is performing. The barrier was not the cash value, but the cost of taking a risk. The absolute majority of the new attendees were from the Wakefield District.

 One of my favourite stats was that 81% of attendees said they had visited a venue or place they’d never been to before during the festival. More than ever before, it felt like we took over the city centre. The BBC Introducing stage on the precinct was hard work to organise but was a revelation. Seeing people in the streets of Wakefield laughing, smiling and dancing was wonderful. Drawing so many people from across the UK to the city and to have them explore all the cool and sometimes secretive parts was great too.

It was those moments that encapsulated the buzz of the event. Wakefield felt like Berlin or a New York Borough – except it didn’t; it still felt like Wakefield, but a brighter Wakefield, one more alive.

Crowds gather for Billy Bragg at Wakefield Cathedral, Long Division Festival, Wakefield, 2nd June 2018

It was the great leap forward we needed. To work with so many partners, venues and artists was very rewarding and we are excited about 2019 already.

In the interim, we will be launching our Manifesto For A New Wakefield book. This will compile materials from the thirteen commissions from Wakefield based artists that appeared at the festival, alongside write-ups and information on organisations and businesses we feel are really pushing Wakefield forward.

The launch will be at an event at 7A Project Space on December 15th. This unique warehouse like space is run by Neon Workshops. There will be live performance, food and drink and a chance to get hold of a copy of our limited edition book. You can find more information here.

 

One Day after School, Precinct Stage, by John Jowett

Banner image: Wakefield precinct by Alexandra Vaughan