With summer on the horizon, festival fever is well and truly here. While many of us begin to book events and talk about plans as the days get longer, events season is, in truth, a year-round business, and the behind the scenes work never stops.
Origin’s events calendar is filled with national food and drink events, sustainability talks, music festivals, and more as we head out on the road, sharing stories and world-class coffee with incredible venues across the UK. We sat down with Origin’s Events Manager, Aaron Sycamore, to talk about what it means to showcase exceptional coffee, support incredible events, and even run a few of our own.
It’s fair to say that leading any events demands a certain type of character. Being able to plan, predict challenges and problems, improvise, and work anywhere is essential—especially when you’re working from a compact coffee trailer in the middle of a field, with intermittent Wi-Fi and a queue of hot, possibly hungover people in very real need of coffee. Keeping the conversation and focus on a positive experience is key.
“Houghton Festival last year was a memorable experience,” Aaron says, laughing. “It was about 33c throughout the weekend, with dust flying everywhere, and a 24-hour music policy. The team held it together brilliantly though, serving up no end of iced coffee and plenty of great chat.”
There’s no denying that working an event can be a lot of fun, but it’s not without its difficulties, and a good team makes the world of difference. “It’s hard work, and tiring—you’re on your feet constantly, and if you’ve not lost your voice by the end of an event, it’s a miracle!” he says. “Staffing events can be tricky: luckily we have an amazing crew at Origin who are always up for working whilst doing their day jobs at the same time!”
Despite the hard work and the challenges, it’s obvious that Aaron wouldn’t have it any other way, and he’s been working tirelessly to grow a young part of the Origin brand experience.
“It’s easy to forget how much goes on behind the scenes in preparation for an event,” he says, between the post festival work of the St Ives Food Festival and the final preparations ahead of The Gralloch, a cycling event up in Scotland. “Most events only last a few days or even hours, but the work in the run up to any event can take months—and it doesn’t stop when that event gets underway.
“I think a lot of people assume that selling coffee makes you millions (probably because of the long queues at festivals) but making events financially viable is tough,” he continues. “The cost of everything is going up—but the price charged to the consumer in speciality coffee events is still low in comparison to other offerings. When you buy a flat white from us at an event, it’s the same price you’ll pay at any of our coffee shop locations. Yes, we need to make money at events: transport, wages—it all has to balance—but it’s about more than simply making money. At events we’re opening up new conversations all the time, sharing an experience, and presenting an opportunity to learn about speciality coffee.”
PASSION FOR COFFEE
Aaron began his career in events while studying at Southampton University. Teaming up with friends to set up an events company, he very quickly set to work organising events and festivals across the UK. “We managed to persuade the Southampton Archaeological Society to host a party in one of their underground vaults—that was pretty cool.” Aaron then went on to work with Red Bull, starting out in sales – which might explain his natural ability to hustle and stay calm – before joining their marketing team as a Culture Marketing Specialist. “I worked with an incredible team and learnt loads from working big events, including the Red Bull Music Festival and Culture Clash.”
Despite all the fun of heading up some big brand events, Aaron was keen to pursue his interest in coffee.
“Origin had been on my radar for a while,” he admits. “I’ve always been interested in learning more about coffee (and a few friends might say I’m addicted to caffeine), and a business with the B Corp certification, who takes their impact on the planet seriously, was a big sell for me. Honestly, the best part about my role isn’t about being at some of the biggest and best events around the UK—it’s the simple fact of being able to provide exceptional coffee to people when they really need it. Seeing the happiness on someone’s face when they’re handed a coffee at 7am, on their way to a 10-hour shift: it really doesn’t get better than that—and I know that feeling of needing that first cup of coffee when you’re working an event!”
NO DAYS THE SAME
Early starts are the biggest change to Aaron’s events background, but in an environment where no two days, let alone weeks, are ever the same, swapping mornings for nights allows a bit more consistency—a change he’s grateful for. “The early starts are completely the opposite from any other events I’ve worked in the past—but it does mean you get to enjoy the event once you’ve finished at the end of the day.”
An early start might be expected, but little else in the industry is standard. “Typical weeks don’t really exist in the events world,” Aaron says. “In the winter, my time is more focussed around planning, developing new kits and strategies, whereas in summer, it’s full pedal to the metal, getting the logistics and staffing in place for our busy calendar.”
From concept to execution, Aaron puts in a lot of hours to make sure that everything is considered. “Right up to the moment, you’re working to find staff willing to work the long hours and considering which coffee to brew, while at the same time you’re always thinking ahead, locking in dates for the next year, and thinking about what level of support will be needed.”
Thinking ahead is something that Origin is always doing—whether it’s sourcing coffee for the next season, looking to better our B Corp score and sustainable credentials, or planning our own events alongside supporting and attending others. Throughout the year we host coffee cupping sessions, enthusiast courses, led by our incredible trainers, and organise talks and evenings with some of the coffee producers we work with. “It’s always great to see our own, in-house events do so well: some of those first conversations begin in house and remind of us of how we can tell our story to wider audiences.”
“It’s still early days for Origin in the events arena,” Aaron says. “We’ve got loads we can do to expand and improve upon, so it’s a really exciting time. I'm always on the hunt for new events and festivals, and I’m really excited for some partnerships being built withing the sports and fitness industry.
"We're always looking for ways to be more sustainable and this year is no different as we work to make the right kind of impact when on the road. We'll be operating a no takeaway cups policy while at Shambala and Valley Fest, which feels like such a great small step that makes a big difference.
This year we have our new festival café, and it’s already been touring some of our favourite events. Seeing it come to life has been great—and I can’t wait to see more of our plans play out next year and beyond.”
If you have an event you want support with, please enquire here
WHERE TO FIND US THIS SUMMER
Find us at some of 2023’s top music, food, and sporting events, including:
- What: Falmouth Food Festival
- Where: Falmouth, Cornwall
- When: 26th – 28th May
- What: Great Estate
- Where: Scorrier, Redruth, Cornwall
- When: 2nd – 4th June
- What: Royal Cornwall Show
- Where: Wadebridge, Cornwall
- When: 8th – 10th June
- What: Festival of Nature
- Where: Bristol
- When: 17th – 18th June
- What: Valley Festival
- Where: Chew, Somerset
- When: 3rd – 6th August
- What: Houghton Festival
- Where: Norfolk
- When: 10th – 13th August
- What: Shambala Festival
- Where: Northamptonshire
- When: 24th – 27th August
- What: Raiders Gravel
- Where: Southwest Scotland
- When: 31st August – 4th September
- What: Bristol Coffee Festival
- Where: Bristol
- When: 9th September
- What: King’s Cup Gravel
- Where: Suffolk
- When: 15th – 17th September
- What: Manchester Coffee Festival
- Where: Manchester
- When: 18th – 19th November