Bolsoul 2015: The Anatomy Of A Unique Event

Well, it’s about 10 days since we descended into Luton after 12 days in Croatia steering the very first Bolsoul festival. Throughout the last 10 days we’ve been trying to deal with all the stuff we put on hold throughout September and most of October ‘cos Bolsoul took up all that time. So we’ve been busy and we’re only just getting around to putting our thoughts down on paper. So here they are:-

The Beginning…..
Bolsoul started off as one of those crazy dreams you have where one’s imagination fills in the blanks. Diane Dewhirst is the queen of finding interesting places to visit and she located Bol in Croatia and the Elaphusa Hotel for a week’s holiday back in May 2014. As usual Ian was too busy to focus on a holiday, so he left to her to do it and just paid.

So they arrived in Croatia, tired but in relaxed fashion (after a 6.00am flight from Gatwick), had a late breakfast in Split, hopped on the ferry and then the bus from Supertar to Bol. They then walked from Bol to the Elaphusa with cases. By the time they got there they were knackered. But they got energised when they saw the hotel and even more energised when they got to their room with that INCREDIBLE view of the Adriatic and that crazy Zlatni Rat Beach. Wow. A breath-taking location in a GREAT hotel. Then they started exploring further….

By the time they’d looked around, eaten dinner and stepped out to the Terrace for an after-dinner aperitif, Ian’s brain was already working. But the Terrace was what really got him into overdrive. He just wanted to hear the right soundtrack in that environment and then everything kinda clicked. Over the course of the next couple of days, Bolsoul was born. Every way he turned another great environment turned up – the Bolero Bar, Club Ellas, the Swimming Pool deck, the Beach venue and so on. That’s when he rang Carl and said “I think we may have something here…….”.

The Reality…….
So then started the gruelling process of trying to create something from nothing. We flew to Croatia last October and negotiated. Deal done we returned. The original plan was to launch in May 2015 with a more widespread Soul Music event. We spent months negotiating with 3 of the biggest names in Soul Music history for a historic first-ever appearance on stage together in Europe. By the time the terms were finally agreed, it was too late to launch in May. So we then switched to October and decided to stick with the original idea of launching a Contemporary Soul Music event. Which gave us a mere 6 months to launch.

We approached our ideal DJ targets and luckily got 80% of our targets. The others had already used-up their holiday allocations or were booked elsewhere - hopefully they’ll be joining us next year. Next up we approached our No.1 target act, who, unfortunately was designated to be elsewhere during the second week of October. But things change in this business and we never gave up, so we were delighted to welcome Jarrod Lawson to the first Bolsoul with just 4 months to go. Plus by this point we’d already invited Tracy Hamlin and Rose Vincent to join us, so we knew we had a party on our hands.

So then it was full-steam ahead to try and launch a brand new festival in a foreign country in roughly 4 months. A tall order. Plus, despite having been around the block a few times, we were unproven promoters as this would be our first one. But we always felt that the natural aces we held – wonderful location, excellent 4* hotel, cheap flights, good weather in Croatia in October and the obvious value for money would be a solid foundation. So we forged ahead. Cue 4 months of nerves, frantic promotion, financial juggling, plane-booking and endless deadlines right up to and through the actual event. Just the two of us as we couldn’t afford to bring any help on board plus we thought we should be pretty hands-on over everything. That’s why we did the transfers ourselves for instance. Had to. We’d have caught a severe cold if we hadn’t.

So we were a bit stretched on the first one. Plus we were testing all our self-created systems which took days to administer and were invariably a pain in the arse, as these things always are. So we had to do a lot of stuff on the hop. Plus Ian came down with a severe chest-infection which didn’t help any either. He wished he’d have been on top form but he can always leave it to Carl to lead the dawn brigade and then have breakfast.

Luck was with us though. We had a thoroughly professional DJ team who knew the score and sorted out most of the stuff themselves despite us losing a couple of venues to the weather (the Bolero Bar and the Beach Venue) for several days. Thanks to everyone for mucking-in. The schedule just kind of fell-in naturally and the music was generally going from 12.00pm-5.00am every day. Scheduling and the different environments are top of our list for next year and I think we’ll be covered for all contingencies. We believe that the way the music floated throughout the hotel complex made this such a unique gig. So we would like to take over the entire hotel for 2016, numbers willing, as there are ways we can improve things if we control the whole environment. One thing’s for sure: Contemporary Soul Music sounds fantastic in that location and because the event is a whole week you actually get to hear the music over a more comfortable time-scale and discover so much more. Even laying on our beds exhausted and with Ian unable to breath @ 5.00pm most days really didn’t seem that bad with the sounds that were reverberating around the pool. Very therapeutic.

Luck was also with us for our INCREDIBLE live acts – Jarrod Lawson & Band, Tracy Hamlin and Rose Vincent. We really couldn’t have chosen three cooler acts for the first Bolsoul and ALL the live performances were electric and thrilling. We didn’t get to use the Beach Venue as planned on the Saturday but that didn’t seem to matter anyway, as the performances in the upstairs bar and in the club were all fantastic. Bolsoul also offers a closer relationship between the acts and the customers as everyone’s in the environment together having fun which, once again, makes Bolsoul pretty special we believe.

So, all in all, I think we’re pretty happy with how the first Bolsoul went. Next year we’ll be much

tighter on the organizational front and hopefully have more time to tighten the schedules over the different environments. Plus someone to cover the admin and a couple of runners for the transfers etc, etc, etc.

We’d just like to take this opportunity thank everyone who came to the first Bolsoul full-stop. The customers were BRILLIANT and really made the event with their enthusiasm and good nature. Although it’s less than 2 weeks since the event, we have Cool Million already lined-up for Bolsoul 2016 (and you KNOW they’ll be fun) plus we’re genuinely humbled by the reservations and deposits that have already come in for next year.

Mind you, we don’t blame you. Who wouldn’t want to come to Bolsoul 2016? You’d be mad not to.

Ian & Carl

16th October 2015