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Ep.44 Wake The Tiger and the story of building a visitor attraction

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8 Jul, 2024

Wake the Tiger: the creation of an amazement park with Managing Director Graham MacVoy.

Wake the Tiger is the visitor attraction created by the creative and immersive Boomtown festival owners.

The pandemic has a lot to answer for, but it gave Graham and his directors the headspace to provide a more permanent base for their creative ideas, so the Amazement Park, Wake the Tiger, was created and opened in 2022.

I listened in awe in this episode as Graham shared how his love of snowboarding led to his career running snowboarding events in Europe, sponsored by Red Bull and festivals such as Creamfields, BST High Park, and Boomtown.

Graham talked about how the Wake the Tiger was a considerable punt of an idea which thankfully saw 190,000 in its first year of operations.

“I got a degree in engineering. When I graduated in 1997 all I wanted to do was go snowboarding. So when I left university, I went and lived in the Alps for 10 years, and I just snowboarded a lot, and loved it. But over that period, I Yeah, yeah. And I started building jumps, and ended up building jumps for events around Europe.”

Wake the Tiger has brought the talent and creativity of Boomtown into a permanent space that blows people’s minds, challenges us to think differently and creatively to make a difference to our lives and our planet.

We chat about:

> Learning to run a visitor attraction – from day visits where families are the main audience, to late-night openings and party nights.

> The challenges of promoting a concept and an experience that is almost impossible to describe.

> The importance of creative thinking in making change and how it takes a ‘dead world’ to make people stop and listen.

> Why funding the arts is so vital to the future.

> Their exciting new project working with schools.
> How they are creating a space for private hire and corporate inspiration.
> And their big Christmas celebrations where they will be celebrating the season but rejecting all the consumerism that goes with it.
Full Transcription
Kelly Ballard
Welcome Graham.

Graham MacVoy 03:12
Hi, lovely to be here. Thanks for having me.

Kelly Ballard 03:15
Thank you so much for sparing the time to share your knowledge and experience of this amazement park Wake the Tiger that you are, co-founder and MD of how does that feel? Looking back, you launched in 2022 How does that feel? Because we’re going to talk about your history, and you weren’t always an attraction manager, but you’ve had an extensive history in the visitor economy. How does it feel today?

Graham MacVoy 03:42
I mean, the last three years, since we started the company, has been it’s been quite a journey. It’s been a huge roller coaster of emotion and success and glorious failure and everything else in between. But we, I think we’ve achieved something that is homeless, indescribable and impossible to imagine, coming to the product that we’ve got, the experience that we have from nothing in such a short time. So it’s a, yeah, it’s been amazing. And that’s thanks to, like a lot, lots of people who’ve been involved in that be great. Well,

Kelly Ballard 04:20
for those people who don’t know or haven’t been to Wake the Tiger, myself included, up, hold my hands up. I feel awful I haven’t been. I’ve heard lots of great things, and it is not far from where I live, which is shocking. I am coming, I promise. But all I’ve heard is good things, but people struggle to describe it, um, tell me what, describe what people experience, and tell me a bit about Wake the Tiger.

Graham MacVoy 04:46
Starting from the beginning. So Wake the Tiger is a new visitor attraction that is based in the centre of Bristol and St Philip’s just behind Temple Meads. And it’s a probably, it’s about an average of sort of two hours, 90 minutes to two hours to go around the experience. There’s nothing else like it in the country like you arrive and you, you’re in this, this world has been taken over by, I don’t know nature, I suppose. And it’s a disused paint factory. You step through this portal into this other world called Meridia, which is at the end of its societal and climate breakdown. And these survivors are in this factory called the dream factory, which is where you arrive into and as you arrive, it’s like a sort of, I don’t know, like, would you call it? Harry Potter style street like set you walk into and say, I say eight years high with information about the world and about the guilds that are there and about the sort of situation. And then you go through this dream factory. All these inventors and anarchists and visionaries have been sort of looking at how they can solve their world’s problems in Meridia, to make the world habitable and improve it through all sorts of different ways, and their interactions and fun bits and story. And it’s quite abstract art in places from every room, and some of it’s is just, I just think it’s a really wonderful place. Actually.

The other day, I was having quite stressful day, and I decided just to take half an hour out and walk around, because I’ve been so in my office for couple of weeks. Then it just, it was just like, ah, remembered why I’d done it and it. I mean, I personally, absolutely love it. I mean, I must have walked around 1000 times, and I still find it a calming place, an interesting place, and it, ultimately, it’s a really interesting, immersive experience with narrative art interaction.

And downstairs is all about this world of Meridia. But as you go upstairs into the newer section that we opened earlier this year. It’s all about a journey into your mind and self-discovery again, sort of through art and through interaction and reflection on what you’re seeing, really. So it’s, I don’t know some people, some people really get it, like the message that we’re trying to see, I suppose, like any art, if you go to a gallery or a museum, like some people understand maybe what the artist is trying to do, and other people are just like, well, that’s a nice painting. And other folk don’t get it, and we get that mix as well, but some people love it, and some folk are like, Oh, it’s nice photos. And some folk are like, no idea. But the no ideas are a small percentage, I would say. And our sort of main platform from reviews is Google, and you know, you look at the spread on that, and it’s really positive, so I feel that people enjoy it when they come here. And we get a lot of families, that’s the biggest part of our attendees. But we’re starting to do a lot more private events and our own events, or in-world events, which are amazing as well. And yeah. So we’ve got all sorts going on really.

Kelly Ballard 08:11
That’s amazing because, yeah, as you say, you expanded. Didn’t you double the size of it this year?

Graham MacVoy 08:21
Yeah. So in February we, we opened the outer verse, which is the upstairs section, and we’ve been building that for the last year. So, I mean, that’s where this, this whole journey, has been quite insane.

So we, when we incorporated in March 21 and Luke and I, my business partner, have been chatting about permanent space for a long time. So, I mean, I don’t know if you want to know a bit more about the history of it?


Luke. Luke and Chris, who are the co founders of Wake the Tiger, they founded Boomtown Festival, which is a music festival down in Winchester, which is like nothing else on the planet. It’s like walking into a film set that’s built for the weekend. Another World is unbelievable, like place and experience for a weekend and but you build it for 70,000 people and take it down five days later, and it just felt like such a waste that all that creativity was in just wasn’t available, and we wanted to make something that was available to wider demographics. So you didn’t maybe just want, like, have to like the music or camping or going to festivals or certain age whatever. We wanted to have something that was accessible to all ages and but we’d never really had the time to do it. I mean, Boomtown and everything I’d done before that as well.

I joined Boomtown in 2017 and Boomtown is a big production, and the pandemic hit, and we had a bit of time, and I got quite a lot of synergy with Luke and Chris and how we felt, and we worked together really well, and we’d sort of just been chewing over ideas, and then the opportunity for us to all to. Work together as founders of this new concept.

Boomtown owned this massive warehouse where they built the sets, and during the pandemic, we had no festival for two years. So we’re like, okay, cool. Well, we need to take a bit of weight off the festivals overheads, and we wanted to do this permanent place. Okay, cool. So we started using that downtime as an opportunity to evolve a new business. And it was, it was quite a big undertaking, and needed a lot of investment and funds to set up in a time, you know, we were asking people for money, and I pitched a lot, I mean, hundreds of pitches, and I could probably still recite that investment deck off the top my head!
We were trying to raise millions at a time where the whole industry was closed saying, look, trust us, we’ve got a really great plan here. There was no visuals. We had some stats on Bristol. We had a couple of pencil sketches, so that these investors, these people, had to believe in us and me. Primarily, it was me that was on the Zoom calls with them, and yeah, we managed to get the money, but it was building it to get open was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, because you we only got we got the amount of money we sort of needed. But obviously it’s probably never enough whenever you’re doing a project like this, but the longer it take you to build it, the more expensive it gets.

And so we were putting in the infrastructure and the creative it was all overlaid at the same time, just in this frantic rush to get it built, because Luke also had to go and do build Boomtown. At this point I’d got someone to fill my spot at Boomtown, so I could focus more on this. We were in a sort of rush to get it finished before Boomtown happens, we had a hard deadline, which we met, but, yeah, I’d never, I’d never want to do that again in that way, but that so, but it was, it was sort of incredible as well, like and all the people and the artists and the creatives and everything else that came in and the recruitment.

I mean we literally. I mean we’ve got about 60 people. I think that work here now. And, you know, just trying to recruit, I just and, like, build a logo, build a company name, build like, build a website, do everything, like, in this three, four month period to launch. And it was, it was pretty chaotic. We, I mean, we don’t even know if we’re going to sell any tickets.

We finally got our tickets on on sale, at the start of July. I mean, that’s three, four week lead, four week lead time before we open to sales.
Firstly, it’s an amazement park, no one knows what that is. There’s not really anything like us in the country. Like, no one’s heard of our company name. You know, we had no following, particularly on in socials or anything like but we sold some tickets. I mean, not enough to run the next month or whatever, but we’d sold some tickets, and then we launched and it, it just yeah, just they got traction straight away. And thank God. I mean, I look back on it and I just think, bloody hell. I mean, what absolute you know, we had unflinching faith that what we were doing was really good. Like we were like, we love it. We think it’s brilliant. It’s, you know. And fortunately, I suppose other folks seem to think the same.

Kelly Ballard 13:32
I think obviously your reputation goes ahead of you. And everybody in Bristol, in particular, I’m sure that’s ever been to a festival will know Boomtown.

Graham MacVoy 13:43
So I worked, I had my own event management company for 15 years or whatever, and I’ve worked for many festivals, some of the biggest shows in the UK and abroad, as part of the sort of senior management teams of delivering these events, in your delivery teams, and yeah, in 2017 Boomtown, Chris approached me to see like we want, could you come and work with us? And I mentioned, I actually said no couple of times, but then, yeah, I there was something just inside me, like from my own family, like the Bristol base, I wasn’t traveling as much and all sorts of other reasons. I suddenly, one night, changed my mind, and phoned up and said, is that still available that position and stuff? And so we chatted, and eventually, yeah, I came over and I started working with them, and it was really good.
It was like, finding your sort of tribe, a little bit like, you know, really creative coming from a really underground scene, like, sort of anti establishment. Basically Luke came from, you know, a very underground scene through the illegal raves and everything else. And effectively they made by making Boomtown in 2009 or whatever it was, they made illegal raves legal. He said, well let’s do this properly, and it grew quickly, and it grew fast.
The culture and the staff and the concepts and the ideas are still like on the edge. And, you know, it is quite a young person’s festival. And, you know, times we try to change it, and I think, but it, guess it is what it is. The youth of the future, aren’t they? And if you’re trying to pass on messages or educates, not the right word, but, like, inspire, influence. Yeah, influence or inspire, then that is a really good demographic that sort of 18 to 25 or whatever, to be able to work with and and it evolved, and we, we’ve tried different things.

Actually, I think, actually, over the last couple years with Boomtown and off topic a little here, but it they’ve, we’ve done a really nice job of and the team has done a really nice job of of tweaking how what the messaging is around that. Because you can’t preach, can’t tell people what to do. That’s that’s not, that’s not how it works. So the we’re finding a really nice balance there, and with Wake the Tiger, we always wanted to do an experience that was based around climate and community. Really, they were the sort of two, two pieces. And if you were to get everyone into an experience where you’re like the worlds, you know, dead or whatever. You know, it’s the end of the world. It’s not exactly inspiring. So how do you address that topic in a in a way that is engaging, that isn’t preaching? I mean, you could go through there and, to a certain extent, not realize that’s what it’s about as well. But if you read into it and a bit more, and obviously we there’s loads of the bits of the story, the narrative, the journey, the experience, we improve it every week. There’s new stuff going in, just actually, we’re doing some really cool upgrades at the moment, and a lot of it small stuff. We’ve obviously just done a massive one, but we won’t be doing we can’t do that all the time, but we were constantly improving it and tweaking it. And when we opened the box office was Meridia luxury homes. They were trying to sell luxury apartments in the in this rundown factory. Well, the stories evolved and

Kelly Ballard 17:35
Is that actually genuine, right? That’s the story, was it? Or is that one that you made up that’s, oh, right. I thought that was because it was, it was a paintworks, right?

Graham MacVoy 17:46
There was a paint factory, and we created this company, fake company, called Meridian luxury. Some people loved that, and some people literally were so confused. They said, I don’t want to buy a flat.

Kelly Ballard 18:02
Well, see, I’m already confused. Okay, no, I get it, because I love the concept, but carry on I’m sorry.

Graham MacVoy 18:07
So we’ve made that company’s gone bust. So now the box office is just the box office, but there is still their showroom there, and all sorts of other reasons. And we explain out through the start the concept that they’ve gone bust and but I suppose that’s a little learning about how do you transition someone into a world, at what point is it, in the pre-arrival email? Is it at the box office? Is it you get them on board, then you get them in and we keep we keep shifting it, not not all the time, but like to try and improve it. I think what we’re doing at the moment is a we’ve done sort of half of it, and probably got another week or two of just landing that bit.

I really like it, but I knew people will never people have never been before, won’t know people that come back. Some folk are going, oh, so what happened to the Meridia luxury home staff, because they used to do a thing at the start and said, well, then they’ve gone bust. They’re not there anymore. And some people are upset that they don’t get that more performance at the start. But other people felt it was quite awkward. So it’s quite hard to make the right thing for everyone. But ultimately, what we’re trying to do is find that that sweet spot, because onboarding and off boarding, I suppose, are your two, your two main bits. And we, we’re learning all the time. You know, we, we’ve done a lot of entertainment stuff, and we’d never run a permanent visitor attraction before. So we’re improving all the time and learning all the time. And, you know, sometimes we get stuff wrong and we change stuff and it hasn’t worked, and other times it’s a good success.

Kelly Ballard 19:48
In your first year, you had 190,000 visitors, so going from that kind of like, oh my God, to 190,000 visitors proved that, you’ve got something here. That whole concept, for me, I didn’t really appreciate it until I went to the website and I read the idea that, like you said, you’re going into this, you know, the end of the world, and it’s creativity that will bring us back to a better future.
I love that, because when you think about how business operates, how anything operates, and it’s creative ideas that will make the future, it’s not doing the same thing, and it’s like you say, in terms of young people and trying to inspire them into like, don’t accept, just and be creative, because that will be the change. Every new product that’s ever been really successful has been about creativity. And when people said no, they said, I don’t care. And then they pushed through, and it’s and I love that, because it’s so Bristol, but also the concept is so interesting and and I It reminds me a little bit of when the Eden Project started many years ago. And, you know, at the time, I was working for Westonbirt Arboretum, which was, you know, the Forestry Commission kind of baseline message was around conservation and sustainability. And I remember them opening it, and the way that they did it was unbelievable, you know, in this clay pit. And I mean, yes, they’ve got these beautiful domes that were magnificent and very iconic, but just the way they told the story of climate change, really, and how we need to think about that, and they just made everyone stop and think in a different way. And I think that’s something that you seem to be capturing,

Graham MacVoy 21:39
Certainly something we’re trying. I mean, it doesn’t matter what you do. It starts a creative idea. Doesn’t matter if it’s a bit of engineering, a new recipe, whatever. Like it said, there’s a spark, isn’t there in someone’s brain that comes up with that? And I think it’s encouraging that, and also encouraging how you look at the world, like and sort of just trying to take your brain out of, out of a box, you know, and like, just, just think about things differently, you know, and it you know.

I think, you know, without getting into politics, I think it’s a real shame that the funding for the arts has been so reduced over the few years, and the focus going into maths and science important thing except that. But, you know, that’s a very rigid framework, which works for lawyers, accountants, doctors, and many other really important roles in society. But it, it doesn’t work for for everyone. And actually, something that we’ve been talking about both my whole my, my wife’s an artist, and Luke, the creative director, is is about, you know, how are supported? For example, in France, they have artisan culture. So, you know, if you’re a baker or an artist or various other genres of professional and you’ve got, I think, I think you may need a degree or a qualification of a degree, whatever it might be, but if you’ve got that, then you you can claim the artisan equivalent of the dole, so you don’t need to find a job, but you get an income as an artisan. So an artist have a very basic, I’m sure it’s not much, but it would be, it seems that it’s not called the door in versus the Universal Credit, but you get that as be able to practice and create. And that provides a very small space, but at least a space for these creative people to to to think and to practice. And I think if you took, I mean, you’ll never be able to remove it from the world, but we’re making it as hard as possible for people.

It’s all about finding, you know, unicorns and like tech unicorns, who can, you know, and that’s creative as well coding. And I’m not I’m not saying anything’s bad. All I’m saying is, I think the space has been squeezed for creative thinking, and if we can find a way within our business of changing that, even in the small way, like, for example, we is something that we are working on at the moment with an amazing partner called, I just changed the name. I think it’s learning everywhere. But they might have just changed the name, just something similar. But they are group of teachers led by head, former head teacher, Bristol, old Bristol, big former head teacher in Bristol as well big school to create an education strategy our pack where, which we’re hoping to launch towards the end of the year, which effectively is just, it’s like assets you don’t even. To come here, to use the assets. I mean, obviously, you know, we would love for the for the kids to come here. It’s great for our business, but that the point of it is about trying to enhance creativity.

And with the funding cuts to the arts, and, quite frankly, the pressure and stress that is on teachers the I mean, yeah, just not enough, and how many hours they have to do, and all the rest of it is such a hard job and so undervalued. But if we can provide them with with assets which have been designed by teachers, senior teachers, that tie into the messaging and the art and the creativity that we do here as downloadable packs, and effectively, lesson packs to say, okay, cool, you need to touch. Take this art creative box in your syllabus. It’s ready to go. Just download this. And there’s activities and info packs, and we can interpret that it’s not telling them how to do it, but there’s the assets to be able to help deliver that and that. So that’s how we’re starting engaging with the skills

Graham MacVoy 26:51
I’ve had some friends come down as families where their maybe their 13 or 14 year old might be like, I don’t want to go and they get into it, like, they actually, they love it when they once they get here and they get into it because, you know, it’s not a standard visitor attraction. Because, I mean, yes, I mean, families are a big market, a big sector for us, like, but we also, we have a huge amount of adults that come so it’s not like a kid’s activity. Kids love it. Families love it, but adults also love it as well. I mean, I love it.

It’s just like, it’s a different it’s just a different space and and I think we’ve tried to, as we’ve developed, we respond to to feedback, basically. And folks in that adults can we love to there was just the kids running around on a Saturday morning or whatever it is, taking the edge out of it. So we created our after hours, which we do every other Friday, which is over 18 only. It’s the number’s a wee bit less. It’s just that you can get to sit in and you can sit and have a beer and stuff in the cafe at the end. And it is quite a nice, a nice vibe.

And that that sort of standard opening, but child pre 18 plus, and then if you want, like, like the super sized version that we do, like quarterly in world events, which are amazing, where we have bands, DJs in the cafe. We have performers, like throughout the park, like in acting, sort of roles, acting out characters and scenarios and like celebrations in the street, or we’ve had, you know, poetry readings in the past, like catwalks and all sorts of different stuff. And it’s, this is a night of celebration that ties into the seasons of Meridia.

So we’ve got our four seasons of saluna, sundust, duskfall and moonfrost. So there are four seasons, and they all mean different things. I think the saluna was about transformation, think, and sundust, one is about something else that I’ve forgotten, but I got told this morning at all forgotten. But so they’re all about different aspects of growth, really, and reflection. And they’re, again, it’s nothing’s ever preached or pressed on folk. It’s just all there subtly in the performance and in the art and in the messaging. And it really, it really chimes with me, like, I think it’s really powerful and enjoyable experiences, but it’s obviously, you know, I may or may not be the standard audience, so you need to make sure that you’re creating something that works, that will sell. Because you still, we still have to sell tickets and do stuff, but I are in world events, I don’t think, I just think, I just think they’re really good.


Kelly Ballard 29:46
Tell me, in terms of your, your events, you said they’re quarterly, those big events, is that an evening? Are you talking about?

Graham MacVoy 29:55
Like, yeah,it’s seven til one. We do them Friday night, seven to one quarterly, and the after hours as well. They’re 7pm to 11pm. We sell 500 – 600 tickets, something like that is they’re really, yeah, they’re really, yeah, they’re really fun and different and interesting. You get a really nice crowd as well, like, it’s, um, we get right, a really nice spread of age, I’d say probably from mid 20s through to, you know, 50s. You know, it’s a nice spread. And people come from different things. Some folk enjoy the whole night. Some people come just because they would want to see the performance and the experience. And it’s, well, it’s the ticket price is a bit higher than standard entry that you get. You’re getting quite a lot. And some people may leave before the band, or watch a bit of band and leave at 11 or half a living and, you know, so it varies, but it’s, um, I don’t there’s nothing else like it certainly in Bristol for these, these events. And I think that we, we make little videos and we get them out there, but it’s everyone should experience one, for sure. And I think it’s a great way to see the part. It’s the best way to see the park.

Kelly Ballard 31:15
I can imagine. So it’s great that you’ve got your licensed bar and you’ve got that experience for adults after hours. I think that’s, that’s a brilliant idea in terms of adults coming in, from a corporate perspective, I imagine it’d be a really good space for inspiration, like team building, that kind of, you know, are you seeing a lot of that. And what spaces have you got there?

Graham MacVoy 31:41
So we we’re just starting on that journey, really. We actually had, well, I think we did, we did our first corporate event, private hire event in December. We did our second big one last week. Actually, it was for Land Aid. It’s really great. They did it. They hired the play site to do a charity raffle. They raised about £20 grand. So it was really good, brilliant. But the, yeah, we’re getting load. We so we’ve only really just started getting our full we got photos finally last week so we can start promoting it a bit more. And I think as a it’s a really great private hires.

Basically, we obviously can cater up to five 600 people. We can cope with 5-600 people if you want catering, that probably brings the numbers down a bit, probably to 250, 300 but it’s an amazing space to do private events. But we were also just finishing our little breakout space, or the sort of conference or whatever separate room that you can set up at 60.

So you’ve got, if you didn’t want to hire the whole place, you could hire that room for a few hours, and then you could have a breakout and some food in the cafe, go around the experience for an hour, so you can sort of clear network or chat, or do all these other these other pieces.

So I think there’s a there’s a nice balance for for people to come but we’re getting a lot of a lot of inquiries about private hire, and I think I’m looking forward to seeing the hopefully we get a nice uplift around Christmas as well. So, but I say the one thing, I suppose, especially being in Bristol, I think in a bigger city might not be such a problem. There’s only so many companies that maybe have 300 plus employees. It’s not loads of them. There’s a few, for sure. But like so it’s there’s a balance we tried and didn’t get quite right last year. Well, you didn’t get it right, but trying to make packages, particularly over Christmas, or if you were a lot of companies with 20 to 50 employees, for example. So you might say, right, cool. Well, we’ll have multiple companies in doing their Christmas things. It’s all the same. So there’s different groups of tables, whatever. But you then need to try and make if you only got one or two companies in so there’s only 40 people. It’s a bit lights, a bit that atmosphere, I suppose. So it’s about us understanding and we’re managing that, because in the past, we’ve been quite late, whereas now we’re taking bookings already for Christmas. Yeah, you’ve got that lead time to manage that. And it’s actually looking I’m really excited about our festive period, or Christmas period this year, because I think it’s going to going to be really, really good.

Kelly Ballard 34:18
It’s not your normal kind of corporate experiences it, and I think it lends itself to kind of groups of friends as well. So it’s like a Christmas party for groups of friends.

Graham MacVoy 34:28
Yeah, that’s right, yeah, yeah. The other thing as well is that we don’t really want to do Christmas, certainly not in a standard way. We, we, I mean consumption, I think is over consumption, particularly, is a massive problem in the world. I think you look back to 1950s 60s, 70s, whatever you know, even glass milk bottles you put back out you know, everything closed that you fixed, all you know, not. Know, the world has changed, and there’s a lot of things that are obviously better, but as you went through the 80s, 90s, particularly into the 2000s fast fashion and throw away culture is got horrendous, yeah, and I think we don’t, we want to. We want to focus on the community aspect and the togetherness and love and family and but also, like, you know, when we do it when we when, if we do a Christmas overlay with some decorations and not, it’s not gonna be tinsel. It’s gonna be shoes with light bulbs in them, or, like, recycle, like milk cartons or whatever it’s gonna be, it’s going to be junk, and it’s going to look amazing, and it’s, you know, and so I think last year we had really managed to do it that we had said this Christmas tree made out of old books, which is the pile, but it looked like it was wicked. It was only just in the corner the bolts off. It was small. But we’re going to amplify that in a big way, across, not necessarily the whole part, but we’re also key spaces, because you don’t interact for the some of the other the other bits. But yeah, so I’m excited to get into that. We had a meeting with it yesterday.

Kelly Ballard 36:11
Actually, I love it. It’s really, I love your, you know, your ethos, and it’s genuine, and it goes like you were saying, goes throughout everything that you’re doing and and that’ll set you apart. And yeah, I think you’re not alone in feeling like that. And a lot of people will that will appeal to them. We don’t want that kind of Christmas experience. We do want to, I think Christmas is a time to get together with people, isn’t it? That’s the thing. It’s to connect. So it’s taking that part of it, rather than, it just seems that Christmas is that time, isn’t it? It’s, like I said, it’s, it’s when we in the UK celebrate that kind of experience. So it’s, how do you turn that on its head and find the essence of what it was without all the rest of the rubbish?

Graham MacVoy 36:56
Yeah? Like using rubbish then? So yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s interesting, isn’t it? It’s habit, it’s, it’s culture, it’s a lot of behavioral psychology that that we all exhibit everyone, like all of us, in our in our own world, like, you know, and you go to different countries, go to France, go to, you know, Egypt, go to America, it’s all different rules of engagement and culture of how you and so everybody’s different. And, yeah, I don’t think anyone’s right. We were chatting yesterday as well about a big part of the out of hers. The new bit was looking inside yourself and and the name as well weight the tiger is all about effectively waking that inner power and being the best that you can be. And that’s, that’s what the concept of the name is, and, but, and so I was chatting to Luke on this part yesterday. I was like, Well, I while that’s nice to say that’s the solution, it doesn’t quite work out. I believe that as well. I do believe we all need to be the best. Obviously, that’s, you know, be nice to each other, empathy, everything, all these other absolutely essential items. But if you take me being the best I could be, it would be about reducing my impact in the world, supporting my family, my friends, my colleagues, trying to be generous and listen to people. For example, you know, everybody might say they have the same things.

Maybe that’s, you know, maybe let’s take Donald Trump for a second. He might say, an extreme example I know about well known, his being the best he can be is not the same as me being the best that we can be. So if everyone’s the best that they can be, all you’re doing is effectively amplifying, potentially, the people that they’re already being, rather than changing them and say, well, because they might not agree with you and what the best thing is, and that’s where you get the conflict. So, so it’s about finding and human beings are complicated. There’s so many of us, and it’s trying to find a space that that that works. And I think you’ll sort community small. It happens in small communities.

You know, Bristol is quite a good example. It’s different. So it’s so community based in Bristol that there’s, there are communities in Bristol that work together and succeed. And I think, yeah, I don’t know. It’s obviously quite a big topic, not really sure I’m going with it, but it’s like, there’s, there’s a very complex issue. And ultimately, I think the thing that that galvanizes thought and direction is very unfortunately, disaster. And you can see that from the pandemic and the speed of the response, even though the equity wasn’t there still in the Western countries, and we ever got vaccines before other countries, or however it worked, but, but, you know, and the climate disaster, it is. It’s such a slow and gradual burn. But anyway, I mean, I can’t. Understand how anyone can deny it, because you see it with the changes the seasons, even timings of them are the the strength of the temperatures, of the rainfall and and so that that’s another thing that come in eventually, it will, it will, might happen. I mean it, you know, it certainly looks like we’re not doing enough to stop it.

So how do you galvanize people into going the right way. I It’s a mind boggling piece that I blows my mind, because I just that is so big, and even if cops can’t do it and all these other things, then you think, well, maybe we’ve got to come back down to communities. What to take it back to? What can, what can we do? And we, you know, we, we’ve got feelings of like this. This is what we believe, beliefs that creativity is going to be a important factor in this, and also trying to raise key issues through creativity. And I mean, that’s happened forever. The art is that the cutting edge of movements and and satire and whatever you know, all these other things so say, Okay, well, we need to, we need to look at, look at that space and and our plans for the future revolve even more heavily around that, not a bit darker and more dystopian messaging, necessarily a bit about how you create and how you inspire, and what, what materials you use, or what, what you make like, so that that’s what I think we can do. And obviously, like, you know, supporting causes, supporting the people that need support as well. Like we did a fundraiser for medical aid for Palestine in February, where we’ve we raised 14 grand for that just and we got the artist played for free, and the sound guys came in and we and it was a great night. And and that, that doesn’t mean to say that I don’t feel for everybody involved in that conflict, but you know that we, those were the people that were really in need that wow, that’s, well, it’s interesting. So many other people

Kelly Ballard 42:06
I know, well, what you’re saying and what you’re doing is inspiring. It’s a big effort and a big commitment from you and your management team to do this. It’s great that you’ve got this permanent space that you can express your creativity, I guess, and kind of try and try and change things.

I think there’s so much there. I can imagine, I can imagine guest speakers around this. I can imagine, you know, people coming to the site and, like, cultural kind of gatherings around what, you know, making a difference to places. I’ve interviewed a few people on the podcast around the importance of culture within a within a city, Gloucester. I spoke to somebody from Weston and how culture is, kind of, at the heart of bringing people back together and kind of regenerating town centres. And, you know, there’s, there’s so much connection with what you’re what you’re saying there.

But thank you. That’s really inspiring. So I just got a few last questions before, before we go, because I’m aware of the time, but I was so fascinating listening to you amazing. So just very quickly, your background, so you were, you’ve you had, this is an event management company, because you were involved in the BST, what they call it, the Hyde Park concerts. Is it site management that you were? Is your background? Tell me a bit a little bit about that.

Graham MacVoy 43:42
I got a degree in engineering. When I graduated in 1997 all I wanted to do was go snowboarding. So when I, when I left university, I went and lived in the Alps for 10 years, and I just snowboarded a lot, and loved it. But over that period, I started building jumps, and ended up building jumps for events around Europe, and doing some of my own events. I had an event in Iceland, we ran for six years, an event in Austria for three years. And so I built a massive snowboard event in Falvo square for Red Bull, like I did all sorts of stuff. And then when I moved back to the UK in 2005 I think it was obviously not quite as much snow here.
I started looking and started doing it some music festivals, and did some skate events originally. And then start quite quickly. Started with my coming from a place that was quite entrepreneurial, like in terms of the snowboarding, I had to find my own sponsors. Had to find my own for the events, for my snowboarding, for to create my own I’ve never had a job for anyone else. I always had to find my own money. So when I started working with promoters and festivals, I understood being a promoter. I understood running an event. So I ran like whole events, and BST music festivals.

I really enjoyed the site management as well, the design of all the layout I really enjoyed, like managing power and water, like this that comes out of my degree, I suppose, a little bit so on these bigger shows. Yeah, I would, I would go in as whether it was cream fields or Hyde Park or Bestival, as the sort of site management with my team and deliver, deliver those aspects of it. But that sort of, when I moved over to Boomtown, they got me into to look at that site aspect of that, and then I redesigned it, added new elements of organisation into that whole space, and then became the site and operations director, and then obviously, now I’ve moved onto to Wake the Tiger’s managing director. But I am still involved with Boomtown, and it’s a more strategic level now, but it works really well that, I mean, the Boomtown office is upstairs, so like, and we just run up and down, me and look between the two businesses, really, and, yeah, they learn from each other as well. Like, it’s just little bits. Like, especially Luke with his creative hat on, he pulls bits backwards and forwards. And it’s really interesting. There’s some incredible people work here in both businesses. Like, amazing, amazing brains.

Graham MacVoy 46:24
There’s lots of stories there, by the way, there’s a whole podcast on that journey.

Kelly Ballard 46:29
I’m going to come back to that, because I love it. I bet there are. What a pedigree of events, though, that you’ve been involved in that’s unbelievable. So tell me, what are your future plans for Wake the Tiger?

Graham MacVoy 46:42
Oh, well, we are ambitious for sure. I mean, we obviously want to keep trading in Bristol, stabilise that business, improve our efficiencies, get more, you know, more private events into the space. Keep developing the experience here and really just establishing ourselves as the main Bristol City Center, visitor attraction, you have to come and see which, in my opinion, we are. But obviously there’s some very big heritage competitors in the market. And yeah, I mean, definitely excited about looking at a second park somewhere, and starting to look at concepts of that got a really good concept. And yeah, so that’s quite exciting. So we definitely are stabilising and also starting to plan. That’s early days, and it takes, it takes a good few years to evolve that. So we’ll see how it goes. But exciting times, definitely.

Kelly Ballard 47:49
So where’s your favourite place to eat and drink in the West?

Graham MacVoy 47:57
Oh, wow. Well, my family situation is a, let’s say, not standard. So we I live in Dursley, which is just north of Bristol, and I come in and work here every day, but there’s only one restaurant my kids will go to in Dursley. So I would have to say it’s that is Della Casa. In Dursley is a fabulous Italian that we love going to.

Kelly Ballard 48:27
I love, love hearing about new places. Bella Casa in Dursley. We’ll have to check it out. Okay, sorry. Della casa with a D, yeah, cool, yeah, and outside of Wake the Tiger, where’s your favourite place to visit?

Graham MacVoy 48:45
As we all love as a family, going back to Tignes, where I used to live in France, going skiing, snowboarding, we didn’t make it this year, but we’ve done it for the last few years, and actually it’s great memories for me, my wife, we would that’s where we sort of were when we met the first five or six years and and the kids really like it, so we are going to go into Tignes.

Kelly Ballard 49:05
That’s lovely. What about in the West? I should have said that the Tignes is beautiful

Graham MacVoy 49:13
Where do I like going in the West? I Oh, man, there’s so many nice places. I love Pembrokeshire. I love Cornwall. I really love where I live. I love Dursley, like I live right on the edge of forests, and 40 yards outside of my house is the woods. I can go and walk for hours. And the South Downs Way, not South Downs Way, the Cotswold Way, South Downs is near Boomtown. Cotswold Way runs right past the house, really. And you can just go and walk in the woods. And I just think we’re so lucky when I drive up the road to my house. So it’s up this little lane that’s got trees all over it, like single track lane for about 100 meters. It’s like going through a portal into, like a holiday home, and like, there’s a few houses of cul de sac up there. It. It’s just, I really love it. I love my house, and I love the area around it, and I feel, I feel very lucky.

Kelly Ballard 50:09
That’s really nice. Not many people talk about Dursley, so it’s really nice to hear you say that. So thank you so much. I really appreciate everything that you’ve shared today, and I’m sure people will find it fascinating. But if people want to come to wake the tiger, tell me, when is it when? Tell everybody, when is it open? When can they experience it?

Graham MacVoy 50:31
So our website is You can buy tickets through there. We are open Monday, Wednesday to Sunday every week, but on school holidays, we’re open seven days a week. So it’s there. It’s generally open sort of 10 till six or even longer on a Saturday.

Kelly Ballard 50:47
That’s, that’s great, yeah, no, it’s

Graham MacVoy 50:50
What’s really cool is, we’ve got a really great deal of memberships at the moment, but we do membership so people want to come back as well. And it definitely got more than one visit in it, and it actually so it’s a really nice space, and that’s something new we’ve done this year. So it’s a particularly for people within Bristol. I think it’s, could be appealing.

Kelly Ballard 51:11
Yeah, definitely, definitely, you never know. On this podcast, lots of people come together and collaborate on projects. It sparks ideas and gets people in touch with people, but also we’re all visitors as well. So yeah, it’s good to see it from both sides.
So thanks very much, Graham.

My pleasure. Thanks for having me. I hope you enjoyed today’s episode.

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