Whitstable Oyster Festival (WOF) is a Canterbury City Council event initially commissioned to TEU as part of a 1-year contract, followed immediately after by a further 3-year contract. Our remit is to develop and maintain the event at a commercially sustainable and viable level thereby guaranteeing its future. Another part of the contract was to increase visitor numbers to Whitstable and the district and increase visitors spends and stays.
Dating back in various forms to Norman times, the festival thrives in and around Whitstable’s working fishing harbour and charming, picturesque town. Historically running for a total of 10 days over 2 weekends in July, TEU put together a series of events whilst working with local producers, artists and venues to curate a town wide programme that was varied and eclectic, thus promoting the cultural offering of the district and a local and national level.
Due to the increasing number of events put on during WOF, TEU broke these down into 3 headings: Oyster Festival, Festival Friends and Fringe Events. Oyster Festival events were specifically organised and managed by TEU alone, Festival Friends events were organised and managed by TEU under the guidance of local volunteer group ‘Whitstable Oyster Festival Association’, and Fringe events were organised and managed by local groups/residents outside of TEU and WOFA. Additionally, there were a number of events produced by locals that did not fall under the TEU umbrella.
2015 and 2016 saw the successful introduction of the festival hub, ‘The Shuck’, which hosted food, drink and entertainment over the 10-day period. Entertainment ranged from the completely free Toddlers Brunch, nominally charged family events such as Pirate Pottery and Ministry of Prams to performances from household names like Craig Charles, Marcus Brigstocke, Goldie and The Cuban Brothers.
Economic Impact Surveys carried show visitor numbers averaging 60,000 each year and in 2015 the economic boost for the town was valued at £2.8 million.
The Event Umbrella was contracted by Canterbury City Council to manage Whitstable Oyster Festival on their behalf in order to create a commercially sustainable event that promoted the district to visitors on a national and local level. TEU also worked very closely with WOF’s volunteer group, the ‘Whitstable Oyster Festival Association’, and Harbour Master. TEU developed lasting relationships with sponsors and outsourced contractors, in turn managing all production, programming, traders, bars and entertainment. TEU successfully met and exceeded all targets set out within the contract and over a 3 year period increased visitor numbers, increased visitor spend, made the festival financially viable whilst offering more activities including an open air cinema and promoted Whitstable and the district nationally and locally as an attractive and culturally vibrant place to both live and visit.