Unorthodox Paradox 2024 – Important announcement!

This is gonna be a (very) long post, so if you have a normal attention span, here’s the short version:

If you haven’t yet bought tickets for UP2024, and you intend to come, then please buy them now. There will not be another, at least not in this format.

Longer version follows. So, we’ve been running this thing for 13 years now, and you’d think by this point that we might have learned a thing or two about how to make it all work – by which I mean, how to get people to actually buy tickets, and how not to lose loads of money, pretty much every year. Unfortunately, it seems not.

We’ve not made our lives easy along the way – starting off at a (beautiful) venue that was hundreds of miles from our anticipated target audience, and then over the years changing locations on a regular basis, as well as the weekend that we do it, trying to keep it fresh. It’s been enough to confuse / annoy even the most ardent follower of what we do. All done with the best intentions, of course, and sometimes because we had no choice, but the end result is still the same.

Just twice, in the 13 years (which equates to maybe 9 or 10 or 11 events, I’ve lost count) have we managed to break even or turn anything like a profit. In the other years, cumulatively, we have lost many thousands of pounds. The danger of being a promoter or running a business I guess, although after 5+ years if it’s not making money, then anyone with even half a ‘business’ brain (hint – that’s not me) would surely give it up as a bad idea. But not us, oh no. This has been what many might think of as being the most foolish of ongoing vanity project, especially considering that – by most people’s measurements – we haven’t really got a pot to piss in.

I have made several realisations regarding Unorthodox Paradox recently, and unfortunately none of them have been positive with regard to carrying it on in its present form. The main thing to realise is that it has never been intended to be a money-making exercise. It’s not a ‘business’. That said, we can’t afford for it to lose money either, so it’s a very delicate balance, especially for an event of this relatively small size, whereby the fixed costs just to put it on in the first place are still quite high, but the theoretical return from ticket sales are barely enough to cover those costs – even if you sell out.

So yeah, if it wasn’t set up to make money, then why exactly *do* we do it? Well, I like to see it – in theory, at least – as a social enterprise.

REALISATION 1 – As it says on the website, “The main reason we started Unorthodox Paradox was to give everyone a rare opportunity to REALLY get together with their friends”. As I turned 40, and major changes were happening in my life, I realised that I wasn’t seeing my friends anywhere near as much as I wanted to. This seems to be an unfortunate trope of getting older – especially when you choose to move into a rural setting, away from the vast majority of your social network – but one that I didn’t want to succumb to. My solution? Put on a fairly small ‘cosy’ and cheap event, that would run over a weekend, and allow myself and my friends, and a small number of like-minded individuals, to party hard in beautiful locations accompanied by mind-bending and wondrous music, and have a generally fabulous time together, making precious and rare memories. Sounds idyllic and lovely, eh? Well, I like to think that for many of the people that have attended, this has been exactly what has happened, and that in itself is a great thing. Hurrah! Unfortunately, that has rarely been how it works out for us. The minutiae of keeping the wheels on an event like this (in the absence of being able to afford to pay people to run every single aspect) mean that I actually get very little time to ‘socialise’ in any meaningful way with all the people that I dearly love who have made the effort to attend, the people who ‘get it’. If I do get any time, it’s generally late at night, by which time I am so tired / drunk that ‘meaningful’ conversation or interaction is wishful thinking at best. Hence, the very reason for doing it in the first place – at least from my own selfish perspective – is actually non-existent.

REALISATION 2 – this is a biggie, and maybe the most important of my ‘realisations’ as far as why the whole thing ‘works’ or ‘doesn’t work’. I don’t want to be (and never have wanted to be) a ‘promoter’, with all that entails. Jobs in marketing might work for some people if their sole interest is to earn money, but Bill Hicks had good stuff to say about that. I don’t want to try and sell stuff to people, or persuade them what they should spend their money on…especially in the 21st century, when what that actually means is spending even more time sat behind a computer, wrestling with inscrutable algorithms on social media that I already spend *way* too much time on. Fuck that. I want to be spending more time in fields, with people I love, listening to great music. Oh, the irony.

REALISATION 3 – the money. Sigh. I wish I didn’t have to think about this, but I do. I have never been driven by money, and what that means is that as I wander through my sixth decade, I have very little of it, and what I do have I need to make ‘work’ for me in some meaningful way. I have no pension, and my ‘career’ (or what laughably passes for one) is hardly what you would call secure. I’ve sunk a lot of money into Unorthodox Paradox over the last 13 years, in the hope that it might become – at least – self-sustaining. As I have come to realise, this will never happen at this scale, at least not running it the way I want to run it, and with the limitations that come with me being an unwilling promoter (as mentioned above). Let’s not even consider the amount of unpaid time that myself & Libby put into it every year *before it’s even started*, which is, frankly, ridiculous, and takes a lot of time away from us that we might actually spend earning money and, y’know, surviving, and just generally having fun.

So yeah, it’s a labour of love, and one that – sadly – I think has probably run its course, at least in its current iteration (more about that in a bit). However, the reality is that this year’s event is coming up in just a couple of weeks now. I always get the jitters about ticket sales at this point – we’ve never sold tickets quickly, let alone sold out quickly, on the couple of rare occasions that we have achieved that – but it’ll be fine whatever, a great party, it always is. I think that as we sold out last year, and had made changes that we thought would enable that to continue (like moving to a site that was relatively local to the majority of our ‘target audience’), I was maybe too relaxed about this year, and just assumed that we had ‘solved’ the equation, and that’d be us now, tickets selling relatively easily through word of mouth. That’s a lesson that I definitely should have learned from previous years – never take your foot off the gas, and never make assumptions.

Which all brings me neatly back to where I started. After *much* consideration, me & Libby have decided that we need to draw a line under Unorthodox Paradox, so this year’s event *will* be the last one, in the form that it currently is. We are considering options for doing even smaller (and hence less expensive / stressful) events, but I’ll leave those ponderings largely until UP2024 is out the way and the dust has settled. What it does mean, though, is that if you’ve ever wanted to come but haven’t quite got around to it, then this is your last chance to experience what is – undoubtedly – a MASSIVE DOSS, disproportionately MASSIVE to its relatively diminutive size. This isn’t some kind of shitehawk blag to get you to buy tickets, more like a ‘just so you know’, and you can’t after the fact say that we didn’t warn you. Even if we sell not one more ticket at this point, it’ll still be a cracking party…just a very expensive one, for us. You may have noticed that other, much larger, events have been dropping like flies as the ‘cost of living’ crisis impacts on everyone, but rest assured we’re not cancelling or making any changes to the plans we have for this year, we will have one final wondrous blowout, whatever the cost.

Believe it or not, there’s actually much more to say about this, the ins and outs, the stresses and joys, the REASONS. But I’ve got to get on with making sure that the last instalment of this beautiful twisted monster that we created is as brilliant as it deserves to be for all of you. So there you have it.

Tickets here, if you’re arsed –