It’s a shame to hear that CF management no longer consider the Live scene to be viable. I’m not sure I agree. I think the demand for CF-style events never really went away, but a bit of a disconnect seems to have developed between those organizing the Lives, and those attending the Lives.
Very few groups seem to operate the way CF does, experiencing the parks as a group, and I think that’s part of the reason that CF’s events have been so successful over the last two decades. There’s nothing quite like a series of Lives for bringing together a diverse bunch of people, and forming long term friendships with people you’d otherwise never have met. If this really is the end, then it’s going to leave a big hole in the community. The Lives really are about the people, first and foremost. Perks are nice, but have never been the be all and end all.
Through necessity, CF had to apply the brakes when COVID hit. In the aftermath, it feels like a lot of us more or less just kept going independently, and kept the spirit of CF going, whereas CF doesn’t seem to have really managed to capitalize and rebuild the momentum that we had pre-pandemic.
For me, part of the issue is the events in 2022. With a heavy focus on stagnant parks in the UK, single day events that couldn’t justify 5 hours of driving and an overnight stay, no events north of Staffordshire, and, after the last-minute cancellation of Blackpool, confirmation that GhosterForce was actually still going ahead was left a little too late IMO. I still think the single day event focus is going to be a problem if it continues; Are people really
going to do a single day Thorpe Live at the beginning of the season, and come all the way back again for a single day at Chessington at the end of the year, or are people going to add on an additional, unofficial day at the beginning of the season, get the Chessington “cred”, and then not bother going back? How is Project Exodus going to influence people's decisions?
The timing of event announcements probably isn’t doing you many favours, either. Maybe January was once early enough to figure out what the CF team would like to do, but times have changed. Other groups have already published schedules. Some of the people I know have already had to submit annual leave requests to guarantee they can get time off during peak season. Whilst CF is still figuring out the what, the where, and the why, many of us already have bucket lists, and have progressed to the who, when, and how.
If there are gatherings of CF-ers doing Madrid, Asterix (with or without Belgium), Sweden or Finland, I'd certainly be interested!
That’s probably a fair summary for many of us, although I think many of us either did Sweden last year, have committed ourselves to one of the other enthusiast events over there this year, or both.
Most importantly, I think, is the question of how to get people on-board with the Lives. If CF really is all about the people who attend the Lives, then the important questions to answer are really as follows: Who are these people, what are they doing, and why should anyone care?
Back when I started, it was easy to answer those questions. The forums were more active, and the Live scene was more prominently featured. Members were creating regular videos, and by the time you’d seen a few videos from the likes of Dan Farrell, Martyn Hoyer, Big John, Kaz, or jayjay, you had a pretty good idea of who was who, what you were getting involved in, and it was clearly awesome. Now? Not so much.
If you step back from the forums, the problem gets worse. YouTube is a clinical collection of high quality POVs and interviews, not a community. CF Twitter is packed full of IAPPA news and tweets showing things that faceless team members did by themselves last year, with barely a mention of any of the events that you ran or plan to run for the wider community. Discord never really got any traction. When viewed from outside the mindset of a forum regular, it’s actually quite jarring.
I reckon this is still salvageable, but only if the CF team is willing to get out ahead of the problem, and make Lives feel like a first class citizen again. If you want this to work, I’d start putting together a team now in preparation for 2024, keep a close eye on announcements of notable new attractions for next year, and be ready with a plan for what you’d like to offer next season before
2023 comes to a close.