There are some great festivals held in Birmingham every year but the two big events put on in Moseley Park are amongst the very best. Mostly Jazz, held in July and now in its second year, and last weekend’s Moseley Folk Festival, which has been going since 2006, are brilliant examples of how it’s possible to hold a ‘get away from it all’ festival in the middle of a big city. So you get the feel of a big festival (multiple stages, pirates, stalls selling ‘wacky’ hats) without the potential for its attendant misery (long treks from the car with all your stuff, a relentless flow of people, mud that you remain caked in for the weekend). Apart from the programming, the friendly atmosphere, and all the other factors that make the Moseley festivals so good, there’s the setting: a small, secluded park with a natural amphitheatre, just off a busy high street.
This ought to be a model that can be transferred to other parks across the city, though of course if you’re going to hold a festival near to where people live, you’ve got to keep the neighbours on side. I get the impression that they get round this at Moseley primarily because the organisers are wise to it and approach the issue sensitively, but also because the event is professionally run, with adequate levels of security and a sensible 10.30 p.m. curfew. And, crucially, because the park is privately owned, any money raised by hiring it out is ploughed right back in to making improvements. If we want more events like this to be held across the city in our public parks (and I believe we do) then at the very least we need to ensure that money raised locally is invested locally, and not diverted into a central council pot. After all, people are much more likely to put up with some inconvenience if they know that events such as these will help fund improvements in their local neighbourhoods. And at time when the council doesn’t have a huge amount of cash to spread around, changing the way it does things (as well as providing help with publicity) is an inexpensive and effective way of showing its support.