South East Creatives: The Success Stories – 18 Hours
Folk Dance Remixed with Street Dance the Maypole for Journeys Dance Festival. Picture by Kim Hall
Creating mesmerising and memorable experiences for the whole community
With a passion for diversity and community, 18 Hours delivers events, education and activities that engage and resonate
A host of vibrant local festivals and events are planned and produced by Mandy Curtis and the team at local organisation 18 Hours. Events include Hastings Storytelling Festival, Streets of Rother, Little Gate Big Festival and many more.
With twenty years’ experience in events, education and research, Mandy ran the Development Centre and Global Fusion festival at Pestalozzi Village before going on to deliver local festivals including Coastal Currents with producer and writer John Knowles. After taking time out to do a PHD, she set up 18 Hours in 2013. Marketing expert Naomi Robinson joined Mandy, initially as a volunteer, and since then the team has grown to six. Running a portfolio of around ten festivals, each member of the team has a different specialism, but all get involved in many aspects of the events.
‘We have an amazingly versatile team with everyone helping each other out to deliver what matters most to all of us – creating a fantastic experience for our audiences.’ Mandy Curtis, 18 Hours
Storytelling and more
Since 2008, 18 Hours have produced Hastings Storytelling Festival which celebrates the art of storytelling through magical, moving, joyous and often raucous spoken word, dance, puppetry and digital performances. Sir Quentin Blake is the Festival’s Patron and four Children’s Laureates have appeared. Events have ranged from puppet shows in local schools to crazy nights of cabaret, performance and adult stories at the Velvet Curtain events.
But festival planning and production is just one strand of 18 Hours’ activity. The organisation also works with schools to embed the principles of global citizenship in the classroom, with modules ranging from environmental sustainability to British values. They also manage research projects in diversity, community and the Creative Industries for clients including Rother District Council and Hastings Borough Council.
A not-for-profit organisation, 18 Hours relies primarily on funding and some sponsorship. With decisions often made annually, forward planning, particularly around cash-flow, can be challenging.
Also, with the increasing number of festival and events in the area, 18 hours would welcome more co-ordination and network support opportunities.
But the greatest challenge the team faces currently is a lack of storage space.
‘Over the years we’ve amassed a huge amount of equipment and props, that have gradually taken over the office,’ says Naomi. ‘So, although we love being in the buzzy environment of Rock House with other creative and digital small businesses, we’ve outgrown the space.’
‘For small creative businesses like ours, finding affordable workspace is an issue,’ says Mandy ‘The area is crying out for more reasonably-priced options, preferably with capped rents.’
One issue which has been resolved this year is transport. Mandy was using her car to ferry equipment and props to and from events and continually having to make multiple trips. Now, thanks to a match funding grant from the South East Creatives programme, the team have a bought a Peugeot Partner van.
‘Getting the van has been transformational. Just being able to load up and go saves us so much time and effort.’ Naomi Robinson, 18 Hours
Funded by the European Regional Development Fund, South East Creatives aims to give small businesses in the creative, cultural and digital sector a boost through a programme of grants and business support through workshops, training, mentoring and events.
‘Getting the grant was pretty straightforward,’ says Mandy. ‘The local South-East Creatives co-ordinator Marina Norris supported us through the application process, we got the go-ahead within a month of applying and then had three months to spend the money. This coincided with our busiest time of year so put us under pressure slightly to find the right van quickly. But we’re so pleased now we’ve got it and we especially love the fantastic signwriting on it which was done by Sign Tek in Eastbourne.’
In the same way that 18 Hours took their Streets of Battle festival concept and applied it to Streets of Bexhill, the team are now exploring opportunities to expand their existing festivals franchise into new areas. The team is also managing two exciting new projects in 2020, but details are still currently ‘under the hat’.
See more South East Creatives success stories.Posted by Caspar Jayasekera on Wednesday 27 November 2019