Comment: Turn the summer into a festival of giving

I was astonished recently to read in a weekend newspaper supplement about the absolute plethora of summer music festivals held each year all over the UK - from the Wickerman Festival in south-west Scotland to the Isle of Wight Festival.

There appears to be something for every taste - but there is no accounting for taste, after all.

For an increasing number of third sector organisations, summer music festivals provide an ideal opportunity to reach out to potential new groups of thousands of young and socially committed supporters who are likely to have an affinity with their goals. Think of the tremendous work organisations such as Oxfam and WaterAid do at that bastion of festivals, Glastonbury.

Events entitled The Big Chill, Camp Bestival and Latitude are not my natural hinterland, but across the summer months many charities work hard to use these muddy gatherings to engage with and motivate new groups of people with a social conscience to act for their cause.

And when I say work hard, I mean work hard. Eschewing the myriad delights on offer to the paying public - excessive alcohol consumption, damage to hearing and insomnia - third sector staff promote their organisations professionally and to great effect. Some of my staff have just come back from a successful stint at Womad (the World of Music, Arts and Dance festival). Sadly, I was unable to attend, but by using a variety of entertainments and activities they were able to make contact with huge numbers of potential supporters over a short space of time.

Festival-goers are a captive audience. It's a real gift to be able to work in a highly concentrated fashion, showcase your messages and offer opportunities for people to become more engaged and make a difference. It's a gift that we should use more often.

So look beyond the camping, the mud and the squalid toilets - even the music - and think of the swirling new audiences out there. There is both quality and quantity in the potential of music festivals.

- John Knight is assistant director, policy and campaigns, at Leonard Cheshire Disability: jk.thirdsector@googlemail.com.

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