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What is a good festival and how do you create one?

TechNExt took over the region this June with over 3000 attendees and more than 50 events taking place across the North East. From the very first conversations with our co-creators at Dynamo and Sunderland Software City, we knew we had to do things a little differently to ensure that accessibility, inclusivity, diversity and sustainability was the golden thread that ran throughout the whole experience.     So, the ‘Good Festival Ambition’ was born.

This ambition meant working hard to deliver a diverse events programme with the aim to make our core events truly accessible, considering those with different protected characteristics and ensuring we meet a wide range of needs and make everyone feel as welcome as possible.

As well as speaking to people from our community for their suggestions on how to create a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere across the week, we also considered everything from how to minimise the use of single-use plastics to delicious food options that helped guests to make more conscious choices! Across the week our Good Festival Ambition came to life in many different ways…

  1. Festival buddy system

We know that attending an event alone can be an intimidating experience for some people, that’s why we put a buddy system in place that gave attendees the option to be met by a friendly face from the TechNExt team or wider community on arrival. Festival buddies helped attendees feel comfortable at the event by chatting over a coffee on arrival, introducing new faces, or helping them understand more about the content of the event and what was planned that day. Anyone could apply for a ‘buddy’ through the ticket booking process.

  1. Sustainable catering

The catering was designed throughout the week to reduce carbon emissions by encouraging people to make conscious choices about what they were consuming. That meant that all buffet options at the Main Stage event and Festival Party were meat-free and the menu for the 120 guests at the conference dinner was vegetarian by default, with delegates being asked to ‘opt in’ to the meat option if that was their preference. The result was 55% of the attendees at the dinner choosing the meat-free options, as opposed to the average of only 10% that we would see at a usual event, greatly reducing the carbon footprint of the event across the week. We also worked with venues to ensure that single-use plastics were replaced onsite with environmentally friendly alternatives and recycled event materials wherever possible.

  1. Quiet spaces

A major event like TechNExt can be overwhelming so we made sure that there were signposted quiet areas in each venue where delegates could take time away from the crowds. This space was designed for everyone to make the most of, but we took steps to help guests understand that it was a sanctuary away from the event activities and not a place for meetings or phone calls.

  1. Accessible venues

With events taking place up and down the region we cherry picked venues that were easily accessible by public or alternative transport and communicated green travel options with delegates in advance of the event. From trains to metros, car sharing, e-scooters and bikes we had guests utilising a range of environmentally friendly ways to get around events. We also ensured that venues that were used across the festival programme were as accessible as possible to attendees.

  1. Funded tickets

The tech sector is diverse and we wanted to give as many people as possible the opportunity to be inspired, share their knowledge and gain insight into the latest developments in the North East tech sector. We knew that cost may be a barrier to some individuals or organisations so we offered several funded and supported places for the Main Stage conference and the party, allowing those who may not usually get access to such events a chance to be part of the festival. Funding was also available to allow a range of organisations host their own fringe events too.

We are always interested in how we can continue to learn and develop the kind of experiences that we offer delegates. Let us know what you would like to see as part of a ‘Good Festival’ of the future.

To speak to the team about your event ambitions for 2023 and beyond call on 0191 691 3456 or email