London Swing Festival Blog

Why Leaders Drive Organisers CRAZY!

For as long as I have been dancing (a bloody long time) there has been a culture within the Swing Dance Community that enables leaders to sign up whenever they want for an event or festival and almost always get a place (Of course there is always the odd exception).

Followers, on the other hand, have to sign up as soon as registrations open and even then they get wait-listed, or have to find someone to sign up with or just plain miss out on an event they really wanted to attend. To be honest this seems unfair to me. What seems more unfair is that no matter what trick organisers try to get leaders to sign up early, from discounts to pleading, NOTHING seems to work.

This year for Swing Patrol Festivals we have decided enough is enough! No more will followers be wait-listed. No longer do they need to find a lead to sign up with. Be brave we told ourselves, have faith, we told ourselves, the tickets will sell and it will all work out in the end! Won’t it?!?

My experience of running, or being involved in running about 15 festivals in the past 10 years, is yes, it usually does work out in the end, or mostly. Leaders sign up at the last minute enabling us to release the followers from the wait-list, and all is well.

Or is it?

No, not really. This culture of leaders signing up late has repercussions. It has a massive impact on how we plan for the event we try to produce for you! It has a massive impact on how followers plan for an event they want to attend. As any organiser in London will probably attest to, making these events viable is becoming increasingly difficult.

We sit down and set a budget based on what has gone before. Then about 6 weeks to 2 months out when not enough tickets are sold, and we are faced with the prospect of having to tell a bunch of followers they cannot attend the festival and having to return their money AND/OR We revise our budget and have to cut things.

Sometimes it is things like professional sound technicians, thinking we will just have to manage it ourselves. Or it’s the professional photographers and videographers, who produce the best memories for everyone. Or it’s a teaching team, or band or DJs. Whatever it is, it means that we can no longer produce the event we really wanted to!

Then about 2 weeks out the leaders sign up. But now it’s too late and all the things we cut we cannot get back. Should we have risked it and just hoped that the leaders would come to the party in the end? Perhaps! But what if they didn’t and event lost money. It would mean the event never runs again! Furthermore, as the event wasn’t the one we really wanted to produce we keep asking ourselves if this could be the reason it’s harder and harder to make these event viable!

Then for followers who have signed up and paid for an event they don’t even know if they can attend yet, it means they cannot purchase their flights or book accommodation or basically make any concrete plans. They get stuck in this situation where they cannot properly plan to attend but cannot cancel without jeopardising the £160 or more they paid to attend. (Organisers will only refund money if they cannot find enough leads to release them from the wait-list)

This year we started with LSF and decided that ALL DANCERS SHALL BE CREATED EQUAL! No one will have to be wait-listed, there will be no discounts just because you lead. Everyone will pay the same and have the same opportunities and we SHALL have faith it will all work out in the end…And there goes my sleep for the next 4 months.

What has it meant in practical terms so far? Here are the figures:

Track Name Follower % Sold Leaders % Sold Overall % Sold
Sugar Hill 109% 55.5% 75%
Congaroo 95.5% 55.5% 77%
Killer Diller 92% 48% 66%

As at 4:44pm on Friday 1 March.

As you can see leaders have a lot of catching up to do!

The worst thing about this situation is that there would be capacity to have more folks in the workshops. We could release more lead and follow tickets but our nerve is at capacity. We dare not release any more follower tickets until the leaders catch up. I should add that this is happening slowly – but slowly would be the key word here!

We do believe that the event will sell out – in the end! In the meantime, if you are a follower and you do want to attend LSF, I would get yourself a ticket while you can. Once they are sold they are sold and then your choices will be to either lead, social dance or stay home!

Leaders – WHY do you do this? We would really like to know. What can we do to change this culture? What can you do to change this culture?

Followers – Don’t despair yet. I still have hope we will release more follower tickets in the end!