How to...report from festivals (part two)

In Part One you learned all about the logistics of festival writing, but how do you come up with the goods? What makes a great festival review?

How to...report from festivals (part two)

Capturing the magic

This is the most difficult and the most important thing about reviewing festivals. You need to understand every act as part of the bigger picture and you have to make it fun! It isn't enough to just describe what you have seen, you need to take the reader on an experiential journey.

Consider…

  • how popular the act was with the crowd
  • how well they fit with the rest of the festival
  • how well they are suited to festival performances
  • what the energy at the stage was like
  • what their mood was like, do they seem to enjoy performing at festivals?

This needs to be exciting, fast writing that doesn't weigh the reader down with standard information. Small interesting facts or details can help to jazz things up. Think about your own personal experience and also the crowd's reaction. This shouldn't be an intellectual analysis it should feel more loose and narrative than that. You can approach narrative in two ways, either by telling the events as they happened, from you walking to the stage, the crowd building, the act emerging etc. or by telling the story of the act within the festival and building their role in this festival, at this time.

Think about a beginning, middle and end. How will you introduce the act in their wider context and how will you close? You should know the answer to this before you start writing.

Length

In keeping with the need for exciting writing, 300 words can be just about enough. It's a good length for you to keep the energy up and only touch on key points rather than risk rambling. This is often harder to do than longer pieces, as you need to be more considerate of what you're writing, but it means you can really concentrate on this being as good as it can be.

If you're writing a round up piece then it can be 600-1,500 words but don't get bogged down in a ramble. If you're using this much space then cover as many acts as you can and don't just report from your viewpoint. Include quotes from the crowd, key stats about the event etc so this has some variation and a nice flow to it.

Quality Assurance

When you're writing fast for festivals it can be very easy to make mistakes and not spot them. There are a few tricks that can help you proof read fast…

  • read it out loud to yourself
  • paste it onto a new document or format to change your perspective
  • change the colour or size of the font

These can really help you to pick up on things that you were scanning over before. If there is any opportunity for your editor, a fellow writer, or a friend to read this before, make the most of it!

Image courtesy of Hedvigs

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Emily Steer

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