Blog: Chris
Herstad Carney

The co-founder of Threshold festival says the best way to run a festival is to be a master of none

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I started out as an actor and DJ with a fairly simple life. I didn’t know
it was simple at the time. It was only when the near vertical learning
curve of putting on a festival was presented to me that I could look back
and see how straightforward things were back then. Don’t get me wrong:
being an artist is a struggle and by no means an easy life. But when you
first make that step into the production side of music and arts events,
there’s a Pandora’s box moment and it can’t be closed.

Being exposed to a whole new level of stress and excitement like this
probably took me a good couple of years to acclimatise to. I remember after
the very first Threshold Festival, I could barely move from exhaustion. One
valuable lesson I learnt from that day on was that I couldn’t solve every
problem that arose. At the time, I thought I could, and every single issue
that came over the radio had me running to fix it. You cannot effectively
run a festival like this and while lying motionless in bed on that Monday
afternoon in 2011, I promised myself that I would learn how to delegate
(and no longer carry a radio).

If you want to put on a festival, if you love music and arts so much that
you are compelled to show this to as many people as you possibly can, my
biggest piece of advice is to learn to delegate. Learn to delegate so well
that sometimes you don’t even have anything to do (only sometimes), because
once that skill is in your set, your project will flourish. The best thing
about delegation is that there are people out there as passionate as you
are about doing this, and they actually want you to give them that job.

There are many different facets to festival planning and production. As the
festival producer, I like to joke that I have “a broad misunderstanding of
everything that’s going on”. It’s kind of true though. I don’t know the
minute details of every aspect of the event, because I need to know a
little bit about absolutely everything and I need to know it’s working. If
something isn’t working, I need to make sure the right person is aware of
it and I can assist them to get it back on track.

I also work year round on the festival. I manage partnerships, write
funding bids and work with our marketing and PR company to keep the message
alive and sell tickets. My wife and co-founder of Threshold, Kaya, is the
artistic director. She shapes the festival into the three-day beast it becomes
each year. There’s Andy Minnis, who is operations director and also heads up
the visual arts team with curator Jazamin Sinclair. Emilia Eriksson is our
brand ambassador. She’s always – and I do mean always – switched on about
Threshold. She is like a turbo cheerleader for the event, working all year
round to make the right people take notice of us. There are many others and
they all do their jobs brilliantly.

I went to see Richard Branson talk at the Global Entrepreneurs Congress a
few years ago. This event was certainly not my cup of tea: way too many
pinstripe suits and conversations about what people “net”. Anyway, I
avoided eye contact with pretty much everyone and stayed for Branson’s bit.
Right in the middle of the interview, he was asked: “What’s been your
secret?” His response was brilliant and I may be paraphrasing: “I
surrounded myself with people who are much better at things than me.”
Genius. I wasn’t in a rush to set up an airline, but as someone completely
new and totally intimidated by the idea of owning a business, I was
inspired by this. It’s been my personal motto in business ever since. That
and: “Don’t make crap festivals.” They both work great for me.

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Herstad Carney

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