This week I had the pleasure of talking to Georgie Thorogood, the director of Tennessee Fields country music festival, formerly Dixie Fields.
Georgie lives in Essex with her dog Nyx (meaning goddess of the night) and when she is not organising the festival she is running the fields (which host Tennessee Fields), hosting weddings, other festivals and helping out on the farm. Georgie is also the Southern regional director of the British Country Music Association (BCMA). She also practices reflexology in her spare time.
Georgie had a different route into her career as a festival organiser. She worked in horse racing for many years and this experience led her to start working at Chelmsford City Racecourse in 2015, when the course opened. It was here that she hosted her first concert with the band Madness, which she described as being madness. While organising this event Georgie realised that this was what she was meant to be doing. Georgie set up Dixie Fields in 2019 and in February 2020, after 5 years at Chelmsford City Racecourse, Georgie left to run the festival full time. Due to COVID-19, the festival was unable to take place in 2020 but, the newly named Tennessee Fields will be back in 2021, stronger than ever.
When did you get involved in event organising?
Georgie has always loved country music, going to the big named concerts regularly but, it wasn’t until she started working at the racecourse that she got into event organising. The team was small and everyone got involved, pitching in wherever necessary. This meant all events were natural and easy to manage.
“Variety is the spice of life”
When it comes to the day to day of organising a festival there is no ‘average’ day. Depending on where she is in the organising schedule every task and day is different. Right now Georgie is 'full on' getting ready for this years festival, on her to-do list at the time of our conversation was;
Sorting rehearsals for American artists
Meeting with the bar company
Meeting with security
Throughout the year Georgie will keep an ear out for artists, new and old that she feels will be a great fit for the festival, and then begin negotiating with the artists and/or their teams for their involvement.
One area that I was particularly interested in was the insurance aspect (sad I know!) due to the added 'COVID insurance' however, there is a special events insurance company which can take all the added stress away, and it also helps that Georgie's brother is an insurance broker.
When it comes to working with people, Georgie likes to know that she can trust them and have complete confidence in their abilities. She likes to have an open and honest relationship with her team so that everyone is on the same page.
Georgie says that there are usually 15 volunteers, including any family and friends that she can rope in to help at the time. Other staff include security, bar staff, production staff and medical teams. There are a fair few people who she needs to have a good working relationship with and can trust that they can do what she needs them to do at the times she needs them to do it. Trust is very important.
“For it to be a success everyone needs to work as a team”
This is the same for working with artists. Georgie says the more support artists can give them, the more they can support the artist. Mutual respect for what everyone does is key to a success event.
“Working hard and thinking laterally is key for anyone who wants to be involved in the live events industry. There is such a huge number of different aspects which go into running an event, so it is really important to be diverse and to learn as much as you can about all the different subjects, whether this is technical production stuff, health and safety, how to run a bar and organise staff or how to book and deal with artists and management. By volunteering at other events or by getting work experience in different areas, you will have a much better understanding of the running of the whole event and that is vital. Working in events is all about teamwork, so being able to roll up your sleeves and get stuck into whatever needs doing is absolutely paramount.”
Georgie's advice to anyone wanting to get involved in organising a festival or thinking of organising one themselves would be to just keep going. Go and volunteer wherever and whenever you can. Look at all the technicalities involved and learn about every area as much as you possibly can! You never know who you are going to meet along your journey and how they may be able to help you in the future. Be kind, polite and offer to help. You don’t want karma to prevent you from achieving your dreams. Don’t be afraid to give suggestions, if you have an idea on how to make something better then offer advice and to help make it possible. People will appreciate the help and you will learn a lot along the way.
“Having a good network of friends in the industry is so useful too, so take any opportunity you can to work with new people, get to know new people and learn whatever you can from them, because you never know when they will be able to help you out, or vice versa – plus, having a good relationship with the people you work with makes a hard job a whole lot easier and more enjoyable and can seriously contribute to the smooth running and success of your event.”
To any artists out there who wish to be involved with Tennessee Fields don’t forget to submit yourself (or ask your booking agent to do so) once artist submissions are open. Georgie listens to all submissions but she also tries to go to live gigs to hear artists with their bands. This is a year round activity and something she is excited to get back to doing now things are opening back up again.
For any non-artists out there if you want to volunteer to help get in touch with Georgie, they are always after volunteers. Get stuck in!