Thirty-two people were in the Arrington Auditorium at the Birmingham Public Library this evening as Elizabeth Sims, of Catalyst and Region 2020, moderated a town hall meeting about City Stages. Many more will be able to hear of the results of the meeting when the comments and suggestions are posted on the Sustain City Stages website in the coming days.
While I was not the official scribe, I did decide to take some notes on the laptop during the discussion. For some reason my “new” used iBook (courtesy of my little brother – thanks) was not able to be recognized by the WiFi cloud in the building. So I’ll try my best to read the notes I typed and list them here for you. I’m also going to make sure that any comments posted here or that I’m aware of end up in front of the people who need to see them as soon as possible.
The meeting consisted of those in attendance providing answers to two questions. Since I was fighting with said laptop I have horrible notes for the first one “What do you enjoy about City Stages?” For the record, there was a page of answers, (I just didn’t try to take them down; we’ll have to rely on the notes from the meeting when they’re posted – I’ll provide a link). I will list a couple though just because they’re in my head:
Diversity (all levels)
Sense of reunion (seeing friends from long ago)
This past year’s smaller footprint
Here are the notes I took for the answer to the second question with paraphrasing when possible (I apologize for anyone that I misquote; we’ll rely on that link for corrections):
How can we make City Stages better?
Missing opportunity to showcase local food at festival
Incorporate a “Taste of Birmingham” type event into festival (separate ticket price)
VIP section is money pit – unattractive experience – get rid of VIP section
Get radio stations to stop blasting music
Further reduce the number of squares at the festival
Provide compilation CD (or download) of past festival performances
Hold events throughout the year- providing continued presence similar to Sidewalk
Investigate after hours events at local venues (i.e., WorkPlay, Speakeasy, etc.) – provide stronger economic benefit
Bring back the arts and crafts area – added interest for another group
Using more big screens for acts during festival
Investigate use of Railroad Reservation Park in future
Look at transportation options (MAX park and ride from outside of festival area)
Have more local children’s groups perform
Leverage downtown/loft dwellers pre and post parties
Improve communication with festival goers to help determine what they really want
As we’ve seen earlier today, both here and at Wade’s site, there are ideas out there and comments and suggestions. Perhaps because of the job that I have, I’m driven to look for solutions and stress the positive. I’ve gone to this festival for most of the past 8 years (I’ve said before that it was the first thing that ever got me here), and plan to continue to go and pay my money to enjoy good music and good friends, so long as there is a festival to attend. If it is meant to go, then it has provided many good memories for people, despite all of the problems that it has.
As mentioned earlier, the results of this meeting will be posted on the Sustain site, where other comments and suggestions will be encouraged. The board from City Stages will be presented with the suggestions and they will hopefully look at which of them will be feasible. I will say that they are willing to receive criticism, though one of the representatives did become defensive about some of the options. I think that they’ve become so used to defending themselves (whether or not they were right) that they are almost not sure of what to do when someone is trying to offer constructive criticism. I guess we’ll see what happens. We need to demand excellence of this festival. Demanding it should be par for the course. We’ll see what they do with these suggestions and comments; will they right the ship? I hope that they do.