No More Art All Dayer’s

Why we won’t be hosting this event.

So we always try to be an open business here at Cotton On MCR, we try and share as much as we can about the decisions we make, why we make them and what work we do etc. With that in mind, I thought it best to write a recap of our Art All Dayer events and explain why we won’t be doing these events again.

We absolutely loved hosting the Art All Dayer, it was our goal to have an event that encompassed so may different art activities, that people can come and be surrounded by local artists and artwork, and I think we accomplished that! We have met and worked with so many amazing people and had some incredible feedback, it was been wonderful.

But, (there’s always a but) the Art All Dayer comes with some major challenges too. We found a great venue in Halle St Peter’s, it’s a stunning space and great for the fair. However, it didn’t tick all the boxes. Although the main hall was amazing, and so was the Victoria Wood Hall where we held the exhibitions – we always struggled to encourage people to head upstairs to go the exhibition. We told every person coming in about it, that it was upstairs, we had signs all around the venue guiding people up, yet we only ever managed to get 50% of those attending into the exhibition.

The other challenge with Halle St Peter’s, and with most of our Art All Dayer events to be fair, was the workshop element. It costs a decent chunk of money to host the workshops; staffing, materials etc. Sadly, we weren’t selling enough tickets to warrant hosting them. We thought maybe the lack of tickets was due to people not being able to see the workshop itself, as this was in the basement room at Halle St Peters. This was one of the selling points and one of the reasons we moved to 100 Barbirolli Square, to have the workshop (and the exhibition) all in the same room. We also tried changing things up by making the workshop a drop-in style one and then a free workshop at our Winter Edition 2022. Although we had great feedback from those who took part in the workshops, we just didn’t sell enough tickets to make our money back sadly.

So, let’s talk more about the move to 100 Barbirolli Square. There were a number of reasons why we tried a new venue, those mentioned above about it being in one room and, we felt like the event itself was getting a little ‘samey’. We wanted to try something new, and with the move to Barbirolli Square, meant that we could have food and drink stalls also! The first event in September went really well, we had plenty of people come and great feedback from the traders. But sadly, this wasn’t the case at our Winter 2022 event and we all took a big hit there as attendee numbers were low.

Throughout doing all six of our Art All Dayer’s we have always asked for feedback both from traders and attendees. We get so much positive feedback and a lot of constructive feedback also. We have listened and tried to adapt to take on board everyone’s ideas, but it is impossible to please all.

One thing that has come up a few times is our advertising choices. We do a lot of advertising on our social media, newsletter and free listing websites to name a few. We have also paid for advertising in other platforms such as Manchester Wire and Manchester’s Finest. However, the paid advertising hasn’t shown any correlation to more attendees. We’ve looked back at the numbers and, between the two venues, they were pretty even. We had four events in Halle St Peters, three of these had around the 700 people attend, and one had under 400 people attend (Summer Edition). We did two events in Barbiolli Square, Autumn Edition had 693 attend and Winter Edition had 350. That Autumn Edition in September at Barbirolli Square, (with 693 attending) was our second highest attendance rate and this was when we paid for advertised on Facebook and Instagram alone.

We could look at having a bigger budget for advertising, but the money for this has to come from somewhere, so that would mean either charging the traders more for table hire, or charging more for entry. Neither of which are popular choices. To spend money advertising on big platforms, such as Manchester Finest, cost over £700 (the amount paid back in early 2021), so where does that extra £700 come from to cover that? Especially knowing we paid this once and can’t see where it made a difference.

Another point that has been raised a few times is how we attract passing trade. Some people felt that Halle St Peter’s was a better location as people hang out in that area around Ancoats as it’s full of bars and restaurants etc. It is a great location however, our events never really appeal to passing trade. The numbers as Halle St Peters vs the numbers at Barbirolli were similar, especially for our first event at Barbirolli in September which matched with the same numbers that we had at Halle St Peters. We found that people come to our events to come to our events, not because they have passed it on the street.

People have suggested having more presence on the street, staff with flyers, performers etc. All of this costs money, an extra staff member and printed flyers, you are looking at £200 plus for that. Then you have to pay for a license for this, a permit to have someone on the street, another £100 minimum. The more money we spend, the more money we have to charge to account for the additional costs. Again, not a favourable option.

Passing trade in the city centre is one of the hardest target audiences to reach to. People who come into the city centre have a plan, they are meeting people, they are going somewhere… To stop them in the street, ask them to spend money and take an hour out of their day on a whim – that’s a big ask!

I’m not being defensive over the event, we do take what people say on board, but when you start to really think about these things and cost everything up, it all becomes either too costly or too risky.

Hosting the Art All Dayer is one of the hardest parts of running Cotton On MCR. Not only do I have to please the traders (sometimes over 65 people) I also have to please all those that attend, which is another 700 people. I have to manage all aspects, from start to finish, and manage everything on the day. So then when we don’t get the numbers through the door, that responsibility is on me, and I feel this pressure adding up with every passing minute, made worse when I see the traders are unhappy, and rightly so. We ask traders to pay for their stand an in return we are to provide the people. If I don’t get the people through the door, I haven’t held up my part of the deal. Hosting the event has become extremely hard to please all, it’s too tricky to understand what needs changing to get people through the door, without costing anyone (me, the traders or the attendees) any more money.

Plus, there is so much competition now for events like this. We are proud that we were one of the first (if not the first in Manchester) to host this combined event, but now a lot of people are doing it. Plus, we want to be the front runners, we want to be different to our competition, we want to come up with new event ideas and leas the pack.

When thinking about what events I want to host this year, The Art All Dayer doesn’t appeal to me anymore. I have had so many knocks and some negative feedback that I completely take to heart, it’s become something that is just too stressful for me to take on.

BUT! Fear not. We have some amazing NEW event ideas that we are looking to host this year, ones we are really excited for and full of enthusiasm to get up and running! We have as always listened to what people want from us, we have looked at what events work well and what doesn’t, and using this to re-evaluate our events and bring you some new and exciting things! We are in talks with a few venues and once dates and things are firmed up, we’ll start announcing our plans soon!

Lastly, I just want to say thank you to all the creatives that have traded with us and enjoyed our events and supported us this whole time, and thank every single person that has attended and worked at the Art All Dayer’s – you are all legends!

If you want to keep up to date with our new events, you can sign up to our weekly newsletter (fill in the form at the bottom on the page) or to our opportunities newsletter where we email each time we have an open call – sign up here.

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