Julian Rudd talks about his experience of partnership-working and why it is the backbone of the London Mela.
For ten years, Remarkable Productions has organised the London Mela, which has grown to become Europe’s biggest Mela, attracting up to 90,000 people. The event is built on multiple partnerships, from commercial sponsors to local authorities, community groups, charities and embassies. It is important to understand what benefits your partner will gain by working with you; this underpins everything. Our partnership with the Nepali Embassy is a good example, as they have been working with the Mela for three years. The embassy wanted the Nepali community to be visible in the UK and it was felt that the Mela was a good way to raise awareness. The embassy has an active role − it organises a line-up of Nepalese artists to perform − and we provide a space for them to promote Nepal, tourism and Nepalese culture. It is a very popular attraction, and we could not produce the line-up without them, as they have the specialist knowledge in finding artists.
‘Longevity’ is key to establishing strong partnerships. It is a mistake to think that both sides of a partnership will achieve all their targets in the first year. Make plans for the long term. Get to know one another, how the event works and how your audience reacts to the new partner, and then work together to assess what worked, what did not and what opportunities you may have missed.
Last year we started a new partnership with Oxfam. We understood from the beginning that the partnership would change and improve over time, which made us look at the event differently. Oxfam used the first year to raise awareness, while learning how the Mela worked, and make plans for the second year. Both partners had realistic expectations and were happy with the result.
The concept or ‘vision’ of the Mela dictates the partnerships, with each partnership adding another layer to the event. The BBC has worked with the London Mela for seven years and plays a major role. The partnership helps the event reach new audiences and attract top artists who would not normally play at an event of this type. O2, which has been the title sponsor for the event, plays a critical role − working with a brand of such scale adds credibility.
In a final tip to anyone starting out in partnerships, I would say do not be afraid to pursue a partnership enquiry if you do not get an immediate response. Persistence can pay off. But equally, do not sweat if they say no, explore a different route. Essentially partnerships begin with talking to the ‘right’ individual in an organisation. That is the start of a good partnership.
Julian Rudd is Director of Remarkable Productions.