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North Hop 2019 - Looking Back and Moving Forward

Tuesday 8th January 2019


With a new year brings new beginnings...

Firstly, Happy New Year to you all! Secondly it's a rather nostalgic yet exciting time here at Hop HQ. As the video above sums up, Spirit of North Hop Dundee 2018 marked the end of our large-scale festivals and the beginning of a new adventure!

Now, I know a lot of you out there are pretty disappointed that the North Hop festivals have come to an end, (some of you made it to pretty much every one there was!) but I want to take this opportunity to explain why things had to change and just what is next for North Hop...

At the end of 2013 after spending a number of months working with some new, up-and-coming distilleries and breweries in the Highlands, I found myself one night in the Heathmount in Inverness with a few industry contacts drinking beers and throwing some silly ideas around...one said idea was to give Inverness its very own craft beer festival, but with a twist, and so North Hop was born! 

At the outset North Hop was only planned as being one inaugural festival in Inverness to help raise the awareness of all the great food, drink, music and talent on offer in the Highlands and beyond. After a few tasting events the first main festival took place in August 2014 at Eden Court, Inverness. The festival far exceeded everyones expectations, including mine so it didn't take long until requests were coming in to take it on the road and share the North Hop love. So before long I found myself in Aberdeen checking out some of the bars, restaurants and shops there and discovered that the city had a great buzz and a lot of folk with a passion for the industry, marking the start of #northhopabz!

Fast forward 13 festivals, 8 events, 5 cities, 1 town, over 300 vendors, 150 music acts, just under 15,000 attendees, 9 Festival Brews, 6 Festival Gins, 1 Festival Cider, 600 straw bales, and unlimited sleepless nights I, quite frankly, need a break! As explained in a previous blog post last year, North Hop is just me, not a corporate organisation, not a massive team, just me! And as you can probably imagine that is a lot of planning, organising and stress for just one person, and the signs of that became quite prevalent at the end of 2017 when the second Aviemore festival left me exhausted, broken and feeling lost...

Back in 2014 North Hop was the first festival of its kind in Scotland. Mixing beer and spirits/cocktails at one festival, and then throwing in some food and music for good measure was pretty much unheard of and I think that's what made the first run of festivals so exciting and fun but as the years went on more and more organisers were coming on the scene, some with some new and good ideas, some attempting North Hop style festivals but failing miserably. Now you can hardly go a weekend without hearing of another gin festival, street food market, or food and drink extravaganza going on, many clashing on the same dates and effectively saturating the market for themselves and everyone else. This saturation of the market not only effects the end footfall of each event it also puts off the producers and creators who are fed up being bombarded with endless emails and offers of great opportunities and something 'new' and 'exciting'!

Another ongoing issue I was experiencing was venues! Now you would think this would be a straightforward element of the process, do a viewing, sign a contract, and rock up on the day...no, unfortunately it doesn't work that way and although some venues claim they specialise in certain types of events, they really don't and simply don't have the correct staff or knowledge to allow for smooth running of such events. One massive exception to this has been the AECC, and I just want to take this opportunity to say a massive thank you to Paddy, Louise and the team there for all their help and support over the past 3 years! They were a joy to work with and were always so enthusiastic about North Hop.

So after a combination of these factors, I made the decision to take a step back and re-look at North Hop as a brand and where I want to take it in the future. As the video suggests, this year is going to be more about offering forward North Hop's knowledge, skills and creativity to the industry and to anyone looking to put on a great event really...

I just want to take this opportunity to say a massive thank you to all my amazing suppliers, exhibitors, crew members, friends and contacts who have helped make North Hop what it is and have helped keep me sane, well most of the time! Here's to new adventures in 2019!

Slainte

Michelle

Michelle Russell
Director