Last week we spoke to Summer in the City’s big gun Tom Burns about the evolution of the event and what to expect this year, but what about the other Summer in the City organisers?
We caught up with Dave Bullas, Liam Dryden and Jazza John for some quick-fire questions about their roles, the biggest challenges they’ve faced and their ambitions for the event. We did contact Luke Cutforth too – the fifth and final member of these god-like creatures – but he was simply too busy being NotSexy. It’s a hard job sometimes.
TenEighty: How did you get involved with the event?
Dave: I had previously been involved with hosting the YouStaged gathering at Festinho in 2008, Tom came to me wanting to put on the next big summer gathering. Smaller events were happening every month or two at that point, but we wanted to do something a little more ambitious.
We went for a full weekend event and included a gig on the Saturday night. We also announced it really early which meant people had time to book, some even coming from overseas which was so cool.
Liam: Tom and Dave had the original idea of a three-day gathering involving a live event; At the time, as my channel was growing quite quickly, I was somebody who could help get the word out. The initial video promoting the first event went up on my channel, and can still be seen today; it’s adorable.
Jazza: Tom called me in 2008. Asked me if I wanted to help him put together a gathering. I said yes and have been a thorn in his side ever since.
TenEighty: What is your role in the event?
Dave: Tom and I founded the event and we still manage it ourselves. Since we have such a small team this means doing a bit of everything – contacting the line up, writing up schedules and floor plans, dealing with sponsors, writing contracts, completing VAT returns… you know, all the fun stuff.
Liam: What is anyone’s role, really? Everybody sort of picks up the tasks that need doing or gets them delegated. At the moment my main jobs are handling of the social media and volunteers, with some smatterings of support and customer enquiries thrown in because I’m nice and cuddly.
Jazza: Six years ago I wanted to put together the publication that went together with the event (I have a romantic attachment to print media) and, as an Essex Boy, I’m a fantastic sales man – so I went around touting other people’s merch; albums, t-shirts, wrist bands etc.
Now-a-days I fit in SitC’s business development around my 9-5 job. There’s lots of cold calling and badgering people via email involved, not very glamorous. I am also in charge of getting the panels together, because I’m known as loving a chin-wag. I’m especially looking forward to the LGBTQ+ panel we’ll be having, our Gender panel and the time we’ve put aside for smaller channels.
TenEighty: As a content creator, what do you believe makes Summer in the City unique and important to the community?
Dave: I think the fact that it’s reached this size but is still in the hands of members of the community. If it was run by someone without that connection who just wanted to run a successful and profitable business, they would say ‘make it only one day, forget the panels, drop anyone with less than 500,000 subs from the line up and double the price.’ They’d still probably sell out, such is the popularity of the top YouTubers these days. Wait, why haven’t we done that?!
It’s those extra things that make Summer in the City special. The gathering elements that are remnant from our early years; presenting the event as a place to meet people with similar interests; encouraging discussion and collaboration; focusing on creators; trying to help them to learn and improve as well as make new connections and friendships which often come to be huge parts of their lives.
Those are things that someone coming from outside the community would likely overlook if they were to set up an event for YouTubers.
Liam: I think the “homegrown” aspect of it is one of the most important things; there are people besides us who have come to every event since 2009, and never hesitate to comment on its evolution (usually positively). Brands and “official” people we talk to always seem surprised at the way we’ve grown. Who can blame them? Even I’m surprised.
Jazza: The physicality of it. It’s often very difficult to remember that YouTube isn’t just Nerdfighters, or ‘Best-Friends’ or whatever pet-name our favourite creator gives us. We are a massive ecosystem of people of different backgrounds and with different interests. This is hopefully a place where beauty vloggers, book reviewers, gamers and Malfie fans can all be in one place and maybe get to know each other a little better.
It’s obviously also important for fans to be able to meet the YouTubers that they love, see them perform or buy their merch. But I hope that people don’t just spend their whole weekend queuing as there is so much to see and do.
TenEighty: What is your best Summer in the City memory?
Dave: Headlining the gig in our first year was pretty special. That was back when I had some kind of relevancy on Youtube!
Liam: Are we all gonna say the people chanting “thank you” last year? I think we’re all gonna say the people chanting “thank you” last year.
Jazza: All of the boys are going to say getting “Thank You” chanted at us by 7000 people when we went on stage at the end of last year’s event. I welled up thinking of that moment for about 3 solid months afterwards.
For something a little different I’d say seeing my friends perform. I’m not particularly artistic but I am surrounded by people who are. I’m one of the lucky SitC organisers in that I don’t get recognised very often, so when one of my friends takes to the stage I always take ten minutes to sneak away into the crowd and watch them play.
Some favourites over the years have been Dave when he used to be our headline act, Jack and Dean have always had great stage presence and Tessa [Violet]’s first big show last year made me tear up as I’ve known her when she used to only do lip syncs, now she’s a proper musician with an album. I’m her #1 fan boy.
TenEighty: Since the start of the event what has been your biggest challenge?
Dave: Keeping up with the changing nature of the event and the industry. The first year I literally called up three friends and put on a gig, and the gathering was an open invite, all funded by selling a few t-shirts. These days we have to talk to YouTubers through agencies, we have to to raise crazy amounts of money and we have to work endless hours, just to keep things running.
Liam: Definitely the growth, and the expectations of being an organiser that has come from it. In 2009-2011, it was easy enough to show up to a park with a box of t-shirts and say “thanks for coming, see you at the pub at 6, have fun!” but now obviously, as the event has become so much more than that, so must we! It has involved picking up a lot of things I had no previous experience or interest in, and that has definitely been a challenge.
Jazza: The transfer we’ve made into having this as a real business. For the record, we don’t make money out of this. Almost every penny that we’ve made has been invested back into the event, which makes it difficult when we get accused of being money-grabbing.
When we started charging for tickets and explained our need for security as one of the reasons we required capital I believe one person said, “what are they going to do, make barriers out of money?” I didn’t think that was very fair. But water off a duck’s back, eh?
Working with friends can also be hard. You go through a learning curve when you start doing business with people you grew up with and keeping the two spheres separate can be difficult. Sometimes you just have to tell people ‘no’, and when individuals believe they deserve a favour it can be hard for them to hear that.
TenEighty: Where do you see Summer in the City going in its future?
Dave: I honestly can’t look beyond the 11 August right now! I know there is plenty of potential to expand, but for me it’s more important to get the main event working and running sustainably.
Liam: We knew it was heading this way when we hired the Brewery in 2012, and with the introduction of Creator Day this year, we’re looking at how Summer in the City can truly be the UK’s answer to the large-scale YouTube conventions happening around the world.
It’s simultaneously exciting and terrifying, but if we can successfully find a balance to cater for both the community and industry of UK YouTube this year, then I think its development is very promising.
Jazza: I have no idea and it’s terrifying. Tom and Dave have vision, they’ve done a great job at steering this ship and the event would not be the colossus it is today without them. They wind me up, point me in the general direction of something and I get to work.
TenEighty: If Summer in the City had unlimited resources, what would you add to the event and why?
Liam: Summer in the City is a passion project between friends, but we have other things going on: full-time jobs, or other projects. Juggling all that with the responsibility of a huge and growing event between five people is becoming increasingly tricky, even with the help and patience of a lot of our lovely friends.
So honestly, with unlimited resources, I would add a full in-house team; Dedicated people with both event management experience and a passion for YouTube, who could earn a wage while working year-round under our direction, to make this event the best it could possibly be. Oh, and a ball pit.
Jazza: A couple of years ago we genuinely talked about having a fair ground with a Ferris wheel, bouncy castle and a helter-skelter. I’d so be up for making that happen.
Seeing as we’ve kind of maxed out one of the largest venues in the UK’s capital city, having an outdoor festival feels like Summer in the City’s natural progression. We’ve also talked about taking an event like this abroad, probably to mainland Europe. Look out for Verano en la Ciudad or Été dans la Ville!
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