Kili Live’s Christmas light touch

Christmas at Trentham

Deutsche Entertainment (DEAG) flicked the switch on its celebrated series of festive light trails, known as Christmas Gardens, back in 2016. It currently runs 11 across Europe – success that inspired promoter Kilimanjaro Live, which DEAG bought a controlling stake in some eight years ago, to follow suit on this side of the Channel.

“During 2018/2019 we discussed running light trails through the UK,” Kili Live founder/CEO Stuart Galbraith tells Event Industry News.

“We went to have a look at what DEAG was doing in Berlin Botanical Gardens with the intention of running a trail in 2020.” And what a year that was.

A whole lot has happened in Galbraith-world since the plan was made. Crucially, he was a founding member of the LIVE (Live music Industry Venues & Entertainment) initiative. Mission statement: ‘to ensure that the importance of the UK’s live music industry is understood and its interests represented with policy makers, regulators, the public and the wider music and entertainment industries. [LIVE] will achieve this primarily through political engagement, media relations, and digital communication, while also promoting and developing standards throughout the business.’

“LIVE started in the early stages of the pandemic, around April,” Galbraith says. “A group of people who worked extremely hard to make sure our sector was being heard by government.”

LIVE has directors and a permanent CEO but the LIVE Awards, at the Brewery on December 13, will be the first time members get to meet each other in-person. “And we’ve arranged a board meeting for the next day,” Galbraith chuckles.

“Setting up LIVE, we argued that light trails were outdoor recreation rather than events, which helped us run the Nottingham trail – at Wollaton Hall – through tier 1, 2 and 3 lockdowns in 2020,” he continues. “Other, similar activations also took place, which without the direct involvement from LIVE probably wouldn’t have happened.”

Kilimanjaro added two more light trails to its roster last year, at Kenwood in the capital and at Trentham, Staffs – through, or around, November storms and omnipresent Omicron uncertainty. 

“We’re really looking forward to an uneventful 2022 in the same three locations,” Galbraith says now. “Numbers will even out. We expect more at some sites and less at others. In 2020, wandering around our light trial at 2m distance from others was the only thing you could do.”

March on

Using Let’s Rock infrastructure, in situ, Kili Live ran three test projects last summer; Madness at The Quarry, Neck of the Woods in Earlham Park and Perfect Day in Exeter, with the promise of more to follow next year. Recalling the essence of a comment made back in the thick of lockdown, that spring 2023 would be firmer ground for booking tours et al – words to that effect – I ask Galbraith what his thoughts are as the calendar pages turn. And, incidentally, how much ticket prices, dynamic or not, should reflect fans’ straitened circumstances.

“The 2023 forward-looking statement holds true,” Galbraith says. “This has been a brilliant year across the board. We did two and half to three years of business in 2022, a great deal of which was rescheduled shows and events. It hasn’t made up for doing lots of nothing in 2020/2021 in terms of profit but there are only a handful of reschedules left for 2023. Most have played through, which is great to see.”

“[In terms of ticket prices] it’s supply and demand. If you’re hot, people will pay what you ask. If you’re not, they won’t. Peter Kay is charging £35 and playing 100s of arenas. It’s great value for money, appreciated by his audience, and he’s touring until 2025. That’s one extreme. Other artists are pushing higher ticket prices and accepting they won’t sell-out. That’s the reserved seat environment. Supply matching demand.

“If an audience is prepared to pay £275 for tickets it enables the artist to sell 10 per cent, at the back, for £50 – which is in step with theatres and classical music events.”

Nic Howden
Author: Nic Howden

Nic is a senior PR professional, former Editor In Chief. With strong exposure to the live music/events industry, Nic has the ability to conceive/deliver successful campaigns and on-going publicity leading to excellent media coverage.

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