How to successfully run a feminist, experimental music and art fest on no money
Success is a flexible concept. When we set out to put together the first Titwrench fest back in 2009, it definitely wasn't about success in terms of money. In fact, that's what I see as the biggest problem with the DIY culture in which I'm involved -- none of us have any money and, in turn, we always assume our audience never has any money. By the law of attraction, that would mean we wouldn't make any money. And with the 2013 edition of Titwrench, I don't think we did.
But in our little festival world, where success has never been measured by money, this year's Titwrench ranks as a total success. We brought out artists, musicians, dancers, MCs and poets from across the U.S. who engaged our all-ages audience with performances they had never seen before. We put on a three-day festival with no injuries or deaths and zero logistical problems.
A view from above the make-your-own telephone microphone workshop.
The first important piece to having a successful DIY festival is working with an appropriate venue for what you're trying to do. This year, Titwrench took over Glob, a warehouse that has been home to many Titwrench festival days and fundraising events over the past five years. The multi-level, indoor/outdoor space that has only been visited by the cops once (that I know of) in its almost-decade existence, and has served us well.
It wasn't our biggest turnout in Titwrench history, but the crowds that came out each night were there until the wee hours of the morning. As I constantly wandered the space each evening, I saw success in the number of people participating in Titwrench's non-music activities. BYO-T-shirt screening, live tarot readings and chair massage were all part of this year's events, along with make-your-own telephone microphone and moon-cycle workshops. Our community was growing and getting educated and massaged and having its future read through tarot cards and it was going great! Success was happening to us.
On the musical end of things, we definitely saw success: With a much smaller lineup of bands and performers for 2013, the show part of the fest was easier to handle. Bands from out of state made it to Denver on time, performers came early to load-in equipment and no sets ran over their allotted times. For probably the first time in Titwrench's history, we were actually on schedule. Another successful moment in DIY fest history.
Finally, the biggest success came in the after-effects -- members of the audience and performers alike approached me after everything was said and done, just to say how much it meant to them to be a part of Titwrench. When you run a small operation like this, you also get the opportunity to meet face-to-face with every single person involved. I can't imagine running a festival any other way.
In the future, we hope to get the money part figured out -- nothing sucks worse than not being able to pay the people you ask to participate in your festival. As organizers, it would be cool if we could get paid, too, but I don't see that happening anytime soon. But if we were in it for the money, I don't think we'd being putting on an all-ages, sliding-scale admission, DIY, female-centered, experimental music and art festival.