Cliffhanger is on this coming weekend. It's now in its third year and seems to be going strong. Sheffield City Council approached me having seen my website back in February 2005. I was abroad working in Jordan at the time, taking a short break from event work to work on the Iraqi Diaspora election (now that was an event and a half!), but met with a guy from the Parks and Countryside department shortly after returning to the UK. His name was Kevin Cheetham and he was head of events for P&C. He was responsible for putting on such events as The Highland Fling, Sheffield Show, After Dark and Art In The Gardens, all of which attract in excess of 10,000 people annually. He had an idea to put on a large event celebrating the outdoors, the Peak District, and the folk who live in Sheffield so that they can combine the two. I'd been brewing similar ideas for a couple of years, but had yet to take the plunge and do anything about them. We got excited when we realised that he had somebody with the expertise, contacts and drive to organise something that was otherwise out of his comfort zone, and I had somebody who had the take responsibility for, and promote locally such a large event.
That was then. We're just 5 days away from Cliffhanger III, we're not only still talking, but get on well and are continually working on how to improve the event, not just for the next year, but through until 2013. The phone has rung pretty much non-stop today - 'we need more wood for the climbing wall', 'where do we collect our passes from', 'i can't make the press event tomorrow night, something's come up' etc etc. Stressing out about any of it is counter-productive. Each call and email generally brings with it its own problems, which usually have knock-on effects on other elements of the event, but by approaching each one calmly and individually it's fairly easy to keep up-beat about them. We're three years in now, so some of the problems that we had in year one are now predictable or have even been ironed out, but there are always new ones, not least as we are always trying to develop new angles.
The biggest worry, and the one thing that stresses me out no matter how hard I try to ignore it is the weather. We live in a country with very fickle weather. Today it was hot and sunny one minute with monsoon rain the next. Weather can make or break an event. In year one we had it bad. Just enough people came to make it worthwhile putting on again. In year two things were significantly better - the sun shone most of the time and visitor numbers were doubled. The long range forecast is currently seesawing between sunny and rainy. We'll see...