A few weeks ago I caught up with the lovely, multi-talented James Cameron ( no not the director of Titanic or relative of the Prime Minister, David Cameron!). A few years ago, James and his brother, Dan started a festival in their ‘backyard’ (he lives in the countryside), combining their love of people, partying, philanthropy and playing music. Little did he know that the festival would grow to attracts thousands of people from across England and generate tens of thousands for charitable causes in the process.
Q: Tell us a bit about yourself, what do you do for a living (I loathe this question but have to ask!)?
I am a primary school teacher by profession, who plays a bit of music (he plays in several bands) and organises a festival. I also love to travel and explore different cultures. I was in South America for 6 months earlier this year and am pretty fond of the continent having visited several times before.
Q: Day job aside, what would you say is your ‘passion’? What excites you?
I love getting people to work together and using their various talents to make something happen. I feel most inspired and alive when I am creating something with people for the greater good whether that is music or events or fundraising.
Q: Tell us about Fieldview- how did it begin?
I’ve always loved organising parties from a young age. As I child I remember spending my pocket money booking a bouncy castle in my back garden and inviting my friends round. My parents were cool with it when most parents wouldn’t be.
Field View started in a similar way; it was basically an annual gathering / party with friends and grew from there. We started in 2007 with 7 bands 1 stage, 1 vendor, 1 day to tidy up with roughly 350 friends; it was relatively easy. Then it began to grow; in the following year we had almost double the number of people and managed to raise £1200 for Water Aid who were digging wells in drought ridden regions. By 2012 over 2000 people attended and we have to date, raised over £22,000 and donated the proceeds to both local and national charities. I never thought I would make any money from it. And when we did start I decided to give it away to charity, it jut felt wrong to make money from my friends.
Q: How do you decide what charities to give the proceeds to?
We donate to different charities each year. In the past we have given to a number of charities including Water Aid, the local parish church and Oxfam. It can be difficult to decide as there are so many worthwhile causes. Sometimes it might be a charity that has personally resonated with me or equally it could be an issue someone else has brought to my attention- It really just depends. I’ve learnt over the years that contributing to local causes is just as important as the global.
Q; I know that you are particularly passionate about climate change, reflected in your ongoing commitment to supporting one environmental charity year in, year out. Can you tell me more please?
About 4-5 years ago we began to charge for car parking. I was keen to somehow to mitigate the effects of pollution from driving. Carbon offsetting was also quite a prominent political issue in the media and in government so I decided I wanted the proceeds to go to an environmental charity.
After researching there were two potential charities which caught my attention, one of which was Cool Earth (www.coolearth.org), which works alongside indigenous communities in South America affected by deforestation. I liked the fact it was a small local charity based in the South West, with a small admin team reducing overheads. I was also quite impressed that they had Sir David Attenborough and Pamela Anderson amongst some of it’s patrons.
The charity has a personalised approach to allowing a donor to see exactly where their money has gone, which was a really attractive feature. For example, you receive a personal online account which provides a visual illustration of the impact your money has made. To date, we have generated enough funds to directly save 60 acres of rainforest in Peru from deforestation. I went to the rainforest a few years ago and was shocked at how quickly and badly it was being destroyed. I would like to visit again in the near future to check the current situation.
Q: Why do you think the festival has been so successful?
We weren’t intentionally trying to start something. We didn’t set out to have a festival that would grow. It began as a festival for our friends. I think this is a big part of its ‘success’. If we had set out to make a festival for profit we would have suffocated it before it began. We have approximately 80 committed volunteers who use a week’s holiday a year to come down and build the festival. We didn’t ask them to, it’s just something they do because I think they get as much out of it as we do. It’s a chance to have fun with people and build something that is rewarding. Our generation want to do something real and meaningful but many have mundane office jobs, this offers an opportunity to break free from the monotony.
Q: What has been some of the greatest lessons you have learnt as a result of Fieldview?
We weren’t prepared for Fieldview’s rapid growth. At one point it was so big, it felt like a slightly out of control freight train, and became physically and mentally draining for all those involved in organising it. We took a break when it got to this point. Now I have to come to realise it is fine if the festival is big; you just need to plan well, have a great team on board and make sure it is well financed.
At this point in my life I also realise it’s fine to make some money and reinvest it to make sure the festival can carry on. In the past I have been so against profit making my parents had to take out credit cards to pay for it! You need a balance; not all profit is evil it’s what you do with it that matters.
Q: What motivates you to ‘do good’?
I believe your resolve gets weathered when you get older. I had a set of ideals when I was 20; I was against making a profit, passionate about investing in my local community and committed to protecting the environment. These things remain unchanged.
Q: So what’s next for Mr Cameron?
My dream would be to put this altogether; record music that I love, live a sustainable lifestyle rather than whinging and criticising; grow my own food; have my own chickens; get rid of my own waste; generate my own energy…. My dream is to live out what I believe. I spent my 20s talking about it now it’s time to live it.
Q: Any other nuggets of wisdom you wish to share?
i believe that every action can have a positive impact. I just want to tell you one story of a couple who pretty much sum up all I am about and aspire to be.
There’s a couple in Forest Gate, East London who opened up a community cafe.The venue hosts the usual range of events such as gigs, art exhibitions as well as doing some incredible community outreach work like feeding the homeless and getting young (unemployed) people involved. The cafe brought a real focus to a community which wasn’t there previously, creating a real extended family vibe.
What’s particularly inspiring is that this couple recently put their house up for sale in order to invest the proceeds into the cafe. They were offered an extortionate amount of money by a property developer who wanted to purchase and turn it into a buy to let. The couple rejected this offer in favour of a much smaller figure from a a young family who were seeking to set up home. They have now downsized to a flat and have invested the extra capital into buying the cafe rather than renting, in order to continue to serve the local community.
They demonstrate that you can ‘do good’, help others and still maintain a good quality of life in the process. This is how I am aim to live.
Field View is a grassroots, not for profit weekend of happiness and adventures. It takes place in Chippenham, Wiltshire from August 6-9th. For more information visit: http://www.fieldviewfestival.co.uk