Kerry Marks’ dream of establishing an all-inclusive music and family event has been hard-earned. Launching Meraki Festival in 2017, the St Albans event attracted 4,500 people in the first year, and with line-ups including Tony Hadley, Bonnie Tyler, 10cc and All Saints, grew to 7,500 last year. This year features Paul Young, Danny Rampling and Carol Decker.
What prepared you for the task?
“I ran my own business events and technology shows for 10 years, working for the United Nations and TEDx. Specialising in virtual reality and 3D printing, I built and sold my own global tech event, 3D Printshow, which helped me fund the event.
“I love festivals and Glastonbury will always be an inspiration, but so many seem to be all about money and not community. If the kids want to go on the Big Wheel five times, it creates so much pressure on parents. The driver behind Meraki was that everyone is equal and once inside the festival, all activities are included, so you pay for nothing apart from food and drink.”
How did you make it all happen?
“I work nearly full-time on consultancy and technology shows, and work on Meraki every evening and weekends. One of the hardest things about a start-up is, there are not enough hours in the day.
“The first year was extremely tough. I had the funds to kick-start it, but I wasn’t prepared for the full cost – that was a learning curve. Outdoor events are much harder than indoor and what can go wrong, will go wrong.
“We went big in Year One, quickly forging good relationships with agencies. I booked some artistes that way and some direct, as I had a few connections.
“I posted thousands of flyers, advertised wherever I could afford to and did a huge amount of groundwork to raise awareness.”
What has made the festival a success?
“Daytime at Meraki is all about activities – circus training, fairground, Lego classes, archery and more – the evening is about the music and the dance Big Top.
“I believe in focusing on your goal and working as hard as you can to get there. When you see so many happy people, it drives you forward.
“With 7,500 people last year, we are keeping our fingers crossed for good weather this time.”
What have been your highs and lows?
“Just before Year One, the weather was so bad the main stage ripped apart and our marquees blew over. We had cancellation insurance, but I didn’t want to give-up and we rebuilt the site in 24 hours. I was terrified, but determined and we made it happen. Then the sun came out for the whole festival!
“A high for me it was when Judge Jules played in the dance tent and kids were on parents’ shoulders. Parents kept saying they never imagined enjoying a night of house music with their kids. Even Judge Jules commented what an amazing atmosphere it was.
“After all the stress, I had a happy cry behind the dance tent.”
Sound: Capital Sound
Stages: Star Events
Marquees: UK Marquees
Security: AP Security
Loos: Richard Andersons