Bring a Faiths In Tune festival to your city / country
Have you been inspired by our festivals and want to bring an Interfaith Music Festival to your city or your institution? We are happy to team up with you and make it happen!
Step 1: Why do you want a festival?
An interfaith music festival is a great way to reach out to many people and get them curious about engaging in interfaith dialogue, and about other work that you might already be doing.
If you are part of an organisation or an institution that already has runs initiatives which promote interfaith dialogue, you might be finding it difficult to attract particularly to three groups of people:
1) Those who feel that "faith", "interfaith" or "religion" doesn't speak to them and has nothing to do with them
2) Those interested in interfaith stuff but to shy to come out of their shell to take any active part
3) Those who lack a particular social or educational background and feel that they would embarrass themselves if
they tried to have a smart conversation but lacked a certain vocabulary or basic knowledge
Well, a music festival is a great way to overcome these barriers. Firstly, it is "camouflaged" as entertainment and it is simply a lot of fun. Moreover, bringing together the music of different religions also means bringing together music from many different cultures and world regions, and even if people might not be particularly interested in "religion" they might be interested in this curious genre of "World Music" which the music industry has come up with and been highly successful with in the past couple of years.
Secondly, a music festival is a great way to encourage a first "passive" form of engaging with other faiths. All those who don't feel like sitting in a circle where they might be expected to say something might however very well not mind sitting in a theatre where all the attention is on the stage and not on themselves. Attending an interfaith music festival doesn't require people to come out of their shell, it doesn't require them to say anything smart - or even say anything at all - but it does allow them to listen and immerse in the music of various faiths, and maybe develop a curiosity about the people, faith and traditions that underlie a piece of music which was performed on the stage and which might have been very unusual, unexpected, and maybe even very moving.
Thirdly, an interfaith music festival is a great ice breaker. I may feel intimidated by the idea of speaking to someone who wears a particular religious outfit, follows a different religion than me and maybe also speaks a native language strange to me; however when I hear and see them perform devotional music I can feel all those emotions, hopes, love, fear, maybe even a level of spirituality that I can very well connect to and empathise with - in other words, music helps to humanise the "other" in my eyes and in my heart, and this takes out a certain initial tension and makes it much easier for me then to approach that person that has just opened their heart in front of me, to just make some first friendly casual conversation, and maybe even ask them some question I had always wanted to ask about their faith. Our experience from the Interfaith Music Festivals shows that the foyer outside our festival theatre is usually as crowded as the theatre itself, busy with people of all different faith backgrounds chatting to each other and building all those personal interfaith bridges.
Lastly, an interfaith music festival is a perfect initial point of contact to inform people about other, existing interfaith initatives and projects. The FAITHS IN TUNE Interfaith Music Festival in London has from the beginning combined the music festival with an interactive interfaith fair where we would invite faith and interfaith organisations from all over London to present their activites and reach out to the festival audience. If your organisation already runs interfaith projects, this is a priceless opportunity to draw a lot of attention to your important work and get more people interested.
Step 2: What type of festival?
Interfaith Music Festivals can take numerous different shapes and have varying sizes. Pick the right type according to your context and don't be shy to innovate!
There are many different types of festival you could possibly have, the choice may already be limited by your budget, your location and your team size. Also, there is no one right way to do an Interfaith Music Festival, the format is by nature flexible and can be combined with loads of other events and ideas. The most important thing is to be realistic and pragmatic about what you can achieve with your capacities, and make the best of it.
Festival size: Putting together an all-day music event, coordinating 20 musical acts with different technical requirements - it is a fun thing to do, for sure, but not an easy thing and will require a lot of time and hard work. If you have limited capacities, it could be totally OK to start out with a smaller interfaith music event on a trial basis, and then possibly take it from there, going bigger the next time. So maybe a two-hour music evening bringing together music artists of two, three or four faith backgrounds might be just the right way for you to start, and not necessarily less effective than a huge all-day festival. Don't get us wrong - we love big, we love two have 20 faiths and 30 country origins represented in one day, but sometimes being pragmatic is the only way to make sure you don't overload yourself and end up in chaos.
Either way, our FAITHS IN TUNE team will be more than happy to help you put your festival together!
Representation and diversity: One country that has been incredibly involved in interfaith work and has shown incredible engagement towards building the global interfaith movement is Morocco - despite the fact that almost 99% of its population identifies as Muslim. The lesson to be learnt is: Interfaith makes sense for everyone everywhere, and therefore your interfaith music festival may not need to represent 20 different religions to be a great success. The diversity in representation of different religions at your festival will highly depend on your local context. London is a great example of a city that has adherents following pretty much any faith, philosophy or world view you can think of; but then again not all places are like that. If you have the capacity to do a big festival and want to make it as interesting and unusual as possible, you can still come of with many great ways to diversify your music programm. Diversity can be achieved by having different religious sub-groups represented, different countries of origin, different levels of traditionality and modernity, different genders... and you will be sure to come up with a diverse programme that will blow everyone's mind.
Intrafaith diversity: Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie reminds us of the dangers of a "single story" view of cultures and people, suggesting that the best way to build respect, understanding and empathy for others is to not represent them with a single story which helps solidifying a particular stereotype, but to offer many different diverse stories allowing for a more diversified picture of a group of people that will ultimately be a lot closer to reality (the woman is briliant, we absolutely recommend you watch her TED talk). Therefore, if you have the luxury to have several great artists from the same faith but different subgroups or sects available, we recommend that you don't just have many different faiths represented at your festival but also display intrafaith diversity wherever possible. At our London festivals for instance, we have had many wonderful music acts representing a Muslim background - and still no two were alike.
The idea of interfaith music festivals is not primarily to "teach" people about different faiths (although if someone has never heard of a particular religion called "Jainism" or "Baha'i" then letting them know that these faiths even exist in the first place is surely helpful), but to get them interested in the people behind the faiths. The point is not to have your festival attendees think: "Okay, today I learned what Muslim music sounds and looks like and now I know all about it” but rather “Wow, today I saw some great and really different examples of Muslim music performed by some quite different looking and different sounding people. I still don’t know much about Islam, but I am curious to find out more and I feel that I can connect to some of these people and ask them to teach me more about their faith.”
Combining the festival with non-musical elements: Combining your Interfaith Music Festival with non-musical elements is a great way to add more substance to your project. Examples of such elements are an Interfaith Fair, a panel talk, interactive workshops, an exhibition or even a longer-term interfaith project which could either start with or culminate in the music festival. We at FAITHS IN TUNE will be happy to help you come up with great ideas for adding interesting and engaging elements to your festival, and help you implement them on the ground.
Step 4: Where and when?
Choosing the right location and date for your festival is not just a matter of practicality, it also has a lot to do with the sensibilities of your audience.
Once you know why you want to have your festival, you have an idea about what this festival could look like and you know you have access to the necessary financial resources, you should decide on a date and venue. These decisions don't have to be made in a certain order; sometimes you might already have a single certain date in mind which limits your choice of available venues, and sometimes you might already have your heart set on a particular venue or might even have been offered to use a particular venue in-kind, which automatically limits the dates on which the venue is available for your festival. If you aren't sure either of your date or venue, a good idea is to narrow your choice down to a certain number of dates and a list of suitable venues and then inquire at all those venues the availability for your choice of dates and get offers that you can then compare.
Picking a date: There are several factors that you should consider when picking a (range of) date(s) for your festival. Firstly, you should pick a date that gives you enough time to prepare your event, so ideally something that is still a couple of months away. Secondly, you should avoid clashes with any religious holidays or occasions which might prevent some of your target audience to attend the festival - this also means that if you want to enable Jewish attendees to come, Friday nights and Saturdays are generally off the table. Thirdly you should avoid clashes with any competing local events that might force your potential attendees to choose between your event and, say, carnival or the annual book fair. Fourthly, you should be aware that if you pick a week day, many potential attendees might not be able to get the day of work in order to attend your event, while if you hold a festival at university during term break, many students might not be able to join because they are abroad visiting their families or travelling. If you make a calendar with all these exclusion criteria, you will probably be left with a smaller choice of appropriate dates.
Choosing the venue: There are multiple criteria for picking your venue.
- Cost: The cost of hiring a venue may be the first natural exclusion criteria for potential venues. If you are offered to use an appropriate venue in-kind, then you are lucky and the choice is a lot easier!
- Equipment and accoustic: The venue you choose should ideally be equipped with a stage and the necessary technical equipment (sound and possibly light) for a music festival. Sometimes such equipment can be hired if not available at your venue, but this will come at an extra cost. A good accoustic is also quite important and raises the quality of your musical performances - it can be quite frustrating both for the musicians and the audience if the music performed or any announcements made cannot be heard well.
- Location: Your ideal venue should be in a location that is easily accessible to your target audience, not just in terms of accessibility for the disabled but also generally in terms of not being too far away from where your target audience lives and having good public transport connections.
- Atmosphere: If you have a choice, you should pick a venue that has a good atmosphere for your festival. This also includes respecting the sensibilities of your audience; some people might for instance not feel too comfortable if an interfaith music festival were to take place in an otherwise actively used church or temple
- Indoor our outdoor: If you expect good wheather for the date of your festival, an outdoor location might be lovely. However in this case you take the risk of bad weather and should be prepared for having to keep your techincal equipment, musicians and audience dry.
- Space options: The appropriateness of your venue also depends on its size, its facilities in terms of what elements are included in your festival (if you want to include e.g. an interfaith fair or an exhibition you need certain spaces for these), and possibly also its catering options. You may have certain ideas or financial limitations on what kind of catering you want for your festival, but some venues don't allow you to bring in outside catering and make your venue booking dependent on the fact that you hire their in-house catering.
Step 3: Money, money, money
Having access to the necessary financial resources is key to being able to have a festival. However, there are also creative ways to work around a limited budget and still have your Interfaith Music Festival.
Main costs for your festival will occur from venue hire, technical support, printing costs, advertising and possibly staff costs, performance fees and travel expenses. If your organisation does not dispose of substantial funds to cover all these costs, you may want to think about finding sponsors - public or private - who can help you put together the festival by either contributing financial resources or offering in-kind donations.
If you find a suitable partner or sponsor institution, they might be able to provide you with a venue, including technical support, that they are willing to offer to you in-kind (i.e. for free). The same could go for printing costs, which large institutions such as universities might often be able and willing to cover for your festival.
Advertising costs can be avoided if you decide to advertise your festival entirely through costless channels, most importantly social media and emails, but you could also come up with other creative ways for advertising, such as staging small public teaser performances or contacting local radio stations and newspapers and asking them to help you spread the word about your event.
As for the time and work that both the organisers and musicians invest, it is certainly the most vital and valuable ingredient to a successful festival. If financial constraints stand in your way, you may choose to put in your efforts voluntarily, and so may the musicians. All FAITHS IN TUNE Interfaith Music Festivals have been largely organised on a voluntary basis, with musicians and artists donating their performances to the cause of promoting interfaith dialogue without asking for financial remuneration. Without their selfless contribution, our wonderful festivals would not have been possible!
Step 5: Get in touch!
We are passionate about promoting interfaith peace through the power of music and would love to help you put your festival together!
Once you have the previous questions figured out - or at least some of them - you can get in touch with the FAITHS IN TUNE team and we will be more than happy to partner up on organising an Interfaith Music Festival. With experience reaching back to 2011 and numerous successful major festivals and events to look back at, we are the perfect partner to make your dream of an interfaith music festival in your city or at your institution become reality.
Just get in touch using our contact form. We are looking forward to hearing from you!