It was 2 years in the making and last weekend we were able to run Wales’ 3rd International Tango Festival. Now it’s time to reflect and plan the next festival!
As you are very aware, organising any event in the current time is fraught with uncertainty. The festival was originally announced in January 2020 to be held at the end of November 2020, however we all know what happened in March 2020. So, we postponed the festival until the last week of November 2021, which we knew was still going to be a risk. The festival has gained a reputation for its quality and variety, and we didn’t want to disappoint our guests by having a reduced line-up. Luckily all our guest teachers, DJs and band were still happy to come.
Come August 2021 and we were coming off another wave of the virus in the UK and things were starting to open up and in person dance classes were restarting. However, with so much uncertainty surrounding not only the virus but also Brexit and a rise in cases we went through a few line up changes, which due to an extensive interview process we were able to add more live music, more DJs and also another teaching couple. So our final line-up ended up being 4 bands: Los Firuletes, Tango del Mar, Cabaret Tango and Tango Calor; 6 DJs: David Bailey, TK Vincent, Sian Fussell, Wayne Rozier, Lorenzo Salzano and UTN; and 5 sets of teachers: David and Ann Bailey, Sian and Sue, Eduardo Bozzo, UTN and Nick and Diana; plus Goggi’s Cuisine catering the Saturday Ball. We will put links to all these groups social media and websites below, please check them out and give them a like, it really does help grow the community.
The only spanner in the works was the venue. For the previous tango festivals we used Swansea University. However, in September the University was trying to sort out its COVID policy with students returning at the end of the month and it was not known whether a large external event such as the festival would be allowed to run, added to that we didn’t know if the university would become a virus hotspot, therefore we were pleased to have been invited to the open day for the new theatre space at Venue No.1 and having met the owner, they said they were happy to host the festival there. We knew this would be an inconvenience to those who had already booked their accommodation and planned their trip and for that we can only apologise.
Friday the 26th rolled around and the festival started with David and Ann teaching the opening workshop. We had originally planned to teach the opening workshop but with the requirement for theatres to check Covid passes we decided that we were needed on the door. From September when we started running our in-person classes again we have also asked for LFTs to attend UTN events as they are very good at picking up if someone is infectious, so we had decided fairly early on that they would be needed on each day of the festival. We did not know how this would go down, but pretty much everyone had taken them before arriving and had they tests, apps, texts or emails ready to hand which made entry very quick. It also meant we did not need the stockpile of tests we had bagged up, although some other tango groups have kindly taken them off our hands for their own events. So, we need to say a big thank you to everyone for being prepared. We are also pleased to say at the time of writing we have not heard of any cases arising from the festival.
The Friday continued with a 3 hour milonga with David and TK DJing, and live music from Los Firuletes. From the feedback, everyone had a good time and really enjoyed the mix of music. As with every new venue there will be some teething issues with setting up. So, for the Saturday we did a bit of reorganising of the seating area. We also had a few blinding spotlights for the first part of the Friday milonga, which thanks to the venue manager we were able to sort. In terms of lighting, we had feedback from the last festival about it being a bit dark in the room. We think we improved it for this year especially in the main seating area however we still have some work to do on one side of the floor. After the last festival, we also had some feedback about the sound quality from the DJs, so for this festival we have invested in a new PA system which seemed to have worked very well on its first outing.
Saturday started very well. Normally we have to stay up late and wake up early in order to tidy and move rooms, prepare food, etc. However, with the new venue we didn’t have to worry about that as the venue manage cleaned the floor for us and the café meant we didn’t have to provide all the food, snacks, tea, water and coffee. This meant that we were able to welcome everyone attending and get to know them a little bit better. The workshops then started, and things got a bit stressful after that. There had been storm force winds across much of the UK, unfortunately the train Eduardo had planned to get to Swansea which would arrive at 12:30, and give us plenty of time to collect him and take him to Venue No. 1 for his 1pm workshop, got into at 12:57. Again we would like to thank everyone for their understanding and thank you to Sian, Sue and Eduardo for adjusting the times of your workshops so we were back to schedule by 4pm.
One thing we had not prepared for was the popularity of both workshops 3a and 3b. In the past when we have run two workshops at the same time, one workshop would be more popular than the other and therefore we could use different size rooms. However, both had equal number of more than 20. This meant that the small room we were using got a bit cramped. To try and avoid this in the future we are going to send the workshop booking form when we send out the tickets so we can plan better and if necessary, limit numbers at certain workshops.
The rest of the day went off very well. Tango del Mar made their festival debut playing the afternoon tango café. We think this did surprise a few people, having a live band during an afternoon practica session. Also a few people missed part of the set, as they went up to the café and didn’t realise that there would be more live music. So next time we need to improve the communication channels. This also goes for the evening too where some did not know that we would be providing dinner through Goggi’s Cuisine. As usual Goggi’s food was amazing and went down very well.
The evening seemed to go down very well with DJing from Sian Fussell and Wayne Rozier and more live music from Cabaret Tango as well as 3 performances from Nick and Diana. We think we found the limit of the venue at the time. We had just over 100 people attend the festival and we think that is the most that the main room would be able to accommodate. As with previous festivals we had a chillout space for those who wanted a break from the main room but still be able to dance and hear the music.
Then came the Sunday, which had a curse of live music hanging over it. On Friday Mirek, the bandoneonist with Tango Calor had messaged to say he had put his back out, on Saturday he still couldn’t sit or bend let alone drive from Bristol to play. Therefore, we spent Saturday trying to find a replacement act, unfortunately the other bands were unable to fill it so we decided that Chris would dig out his keyboards and do a few piano pieces and DJ Lorenzo would do a longer set as we now had an extended five and half hour milonga. Unfortunately, on the Sunday morning during the breakfast when Chris had hoped to set up, sound check, practice and get used to the keyboards again (we have an upright piano at home), the transformer in the plug blew. Therefore, he spent the morning looking around the house, in Tesco and Curry’s trying to find a compatible 12V, 1A plug. Luckily, he was able to contact DJ SteveFlo who had something suitable so after the 2 UTN fusion workshops Chris went for a drive across Swansea to pick up the plug. Thank you Steve for your help!
In the meantime, we had found out one of our guests, Chris Walsh was a Blues DJ and was willing to do a Blues set during the milonga. We have wanted to have a blues DJ at the festival, but never really felt that we were ready for it. One of our goals is to create a Blues scene in Wales and we have been hoping to use the festival as a springboard. This gave us a great opportunity to see if it would work. And not only did it work it was fantastic to see people dancing both tango and blues in Swansea to Chris Walsh’s fantastic music choices. Chris we cannot thank you enough! Our Chris had by now come back and got his keyboards working and played three pieces, the first two of which were used to try and get the volume and EQ right, he later played 3 more pieces where he found the limit of his keyboards and sound layering. This was a very shoestring, put together section of live music and we hoped you enjoyed it. We would also like to thank Lorenzo for playing an extended number of sets.
So that pretty much sums up what happened at the festival (we also held our usual Monday evening class). We think we succeeded in running a full festival even in Covid times. We wanted to continue running a festival which mixes all types of tango and tango music and create environment where everyone is welcome. From the feedback we have had people who have come to previous festivals have said it was just as good, and that Venue No .1 provided a more intimate atmosphere. We also wanted to put on a festival that really embraced music, and with our 3 live bands and range of DJs the feedback we have had is that the festival has gone well beyond any other festival or tango event in the UK. All the workshops and teachers have also gone down incredibly well from the feedback that we have so far received, with many commenting on how much they have learned, no matter what level they are or what style of tango they enjoy.
So, we would first like to thank our teachers, bands, DJs, caterers, and venue staff for just being great and for stepping up. We would also like to thank everyone who attended, for trusting us, supporting us, and just creating an amazing event. We are sorry that we didn’t get to dance with everyone or get to know you as well as we would have liked. However, there is always next year!
We have already started planning the next festival and are aiming for the last weekend of November again. Nick and Diana, and the rest of this year’s teachers are keen to come back, plus those who couldn’t make it this year. The format will be very similar with large group workshops, live music milongas and exclusive limited couple workshops. Depending on the response we get and how fast people book, and therefore attendance projection, will depend on what venue we use. If you would like to register, please get in touch. We will probably keep the same pass types as this year and as a Christmas gift, if you register by the end of 2021, we will give you the same prices as this year. Finally, if you want to keep up to date with us, we send a weekly newsletter with not only our news but a list of upcoming quality events that if you enjoyed the festival you will love. Please also like our Facebook Page (we need 16 more Likes to reach our target of 800 total Likes by the end of the year) and subscribe to our YouTube channel where we are uploading videos from the festival including the Nick and Diana performances and sets from the bands.
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