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The Business Magazine July 2024
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From one to seven: CarFest goes large in Hampshire this year

The Business Magazine article image for: From one to seven: CarFest goes large in Hampshire this year
Anjna Raheja CarFest
4 June 2024
Anjna Raheja CarFest

We meet Anjna Raheja, Festival Director at CarFest 2024, which takes place at Laverstoke Farm in Hampshire from 23-25 August

By Nicky Godding, Editor

Since it was first launched by TV and radio producer and DJ Chris Evans in 2012, CarFest has become one of the UK’s best-known independent summer festivals. 

But don’t call it a motor festival. Over the years, its morphed into much more than that. It’s now seven festivals in one, and all with one over-riding objective: to raise money for charity.

And in that regard it’s been phenomenally successful. Last year alone CarFest raised more than £1 million for a range of charities, with the biggest beneficiary being BBC’s Children in Need. This year, alongside Children in Need, the charities include Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust, Young Epilepsy along with Hampshire-based hospice Naomi House and Jacksplace.

While the whole three-day event is overseen by Chris Evans himself, Festival Director is Anjna Raheja, who has been working on CarFest since 2019, when she first joined as Marketing Director.

“All our profits go to the charities we support, so every year we have to start from scratch,” she said. 

That was a challenge in 2020, when the Covid pandemic put paid to all events, and Anjna’s job was encouraging people to roll over tickets already purchased to the following year, rather than asking for a refund.  

“And when we opened again in 2021, we had to operate at reduced capacity because social distancing was still in place.”

But such is the regard for the festival that it’s survived and is thriving.

CarFest is thriving, and growing

So what’s this about seven festivals in one? Anjna explains.

“There’s the original CarFest, of course. This celebrates motoring excellence and car culture. Then there’s StarFest, which invites visitors into the worlds of TV, cinema, music, literature, comedy and fashion. SpaFest is all about wellbeing while AdventureFest encourages everyone to discover the great outdoors. KidsFest and FoodFest are pretty much self-explanatory, while RetroFest encourages everyone to enjoy reliving some of the greatest moments in history and pop culture.

“If you’re not into cars, or motoring – there are so many other things to enjoy over the weekend without even seeing a car.”

With CarFest up and running again at full capacity last year, Anjna is in the thick of preparations for this year’s event, which runs from 23-25 August.

“Last year was the happiest festival that I’ve ever worked on,” she said.

“For some years we ran two CarFests, the other was in the north of England, near Chester, but after we returned from the pandemic, we decided to concentrate on the original one at Laverstoke Farm in Hampshire.”


“It goes back to Chris’s original objective: to make money for charity. We were able to donate more to charity when we concentrated on just one event. It was just down to economics and practicalities, and as the spiritual home of Carfest is Laverstoke, and we have a track here, it feels right that the one festival should be in Hampshire.

But curating seven mini festivals in one is a challenge.

“We create content for each mini festival. If you’re only into food, we make sure you can spend the whole weekend enjoying all sorts of food and participating in interactive workshops if you want to. And many exhibitors will bring additional content which is all part of the ticket price, so you don’t have to spend extra money.”

The same goes of every themed mini-festival at CarFest. 

“Having bought tickets to Carfest we want everyone to know that they don't have to spend money to do activities. You can spend extra if you want to, but there’s loads to do within the price of the ticket.”

Ticket prices range from £87 for an adult Friday day ticket (£20 for a child), up to a premium weekend and camping which would set one person back £533 – but for that you enjoy private lounges, trackside viewing and all sorts of other benefits.

And then there’s the CarFest Royal Family ticket where 10 families can donate to the festival’s charities and spend the weekend with Chris Evans himself.

When a festival comes to town

When a festival comes to town, everyone in the locality knows. How much does the CarFest team engage with the community?

It helps that Anjna and her team now focus on Hampshire, rather than spreading themselves between two festivals.

“We’ve always aimed to work within the local community, but now we have more time to build better relationships in the area and use more local suppliers and contractors,” she said.

“We know we have a positive economic impact on the area – the local hotels, bed and breakfasts and pubs all benefit, but with that comes more people and cars so we reassure our neighbours and the local parish councils that we are behaving in a responsible way. 

“And they appreciate that that the local economy benefits.”

The locals also make the most of the festival on their doorstep. Half of CarFest’s audience comes from within 50 miles of Laverstoke. 

CarFest is now working with more corporate partners. This year paint manufacturer Dulux, which has its head office in Slough, is running an initiative to reward all staff. It is giving each employee a free CarFest ticket and offering a discount for their families.

“We’re creating a hospitality lounge just for them. It’s a lovely way for them to celebrate their staff and promote their business,” Anjna said.

The UK’s festival industry

To run a summer festival in the UK Chris, Anjna and all the team must be totally on top of their game. The cost of living affecting everyone’s discretionary spend and the Association of Independent Festivals, which represents the interests of more than 200 not-for-profit festivals, warned that more than 20 festivals have been cancelled so far this year, with promoters citing rapidly rising production costs as a key factor.

Anjna acknowledges it’s a tough market. “The reality is that if you're an independent festival organising one event only, it is very hard to make money. Corporations with deep pockets, such as Live Nations or IMG, can negotiate discounts across all their events, and that goes for headline acts too.

“As I’ve said, we start from scratch each year because we give all our profits away to charities, so we are reliant on visitors, exhibitors and sponsors to help us hit our bottom line.

“Everyone has to see the value in what we do, which is why we curate so much free content. We don’t take anything for granted and recognise that for a family of four attending for the weekend, it’s a big financial commitment.

“And we know the prices have risen for our suppliers and contractors, and they can’t swallow those costs and have to pass them on.

“We don’t have the same music budget as, for instance Reading or Leeds, Latitude or the Isle of Wight Festival because we have a responsibility to our charities. If I knew that, by spending two million pounds on music, I would get four million pounds worth of ticket revenue, I’d be doing it, but it doesn't work that way. 

“We are not a music festival, we are a family fundraising festival and can’t block book artists.”

Having said that, CarFest will welcome some pretty great acts this year, from Richard Ashcroft and Olly Murs to Sam Ryder and Beverley Knight, who is doing a full set, Jake Shears from Scissor Sisters to The Feeling and Scouting for Girls, to name just a few – there are many more.

Anjna continues: “Our festival team is made up of a core of around 10 of us, so we are as efficient as possible. We layer it up from January, bringing in content editors and crew closer to the weekend itself.” 

Being a Festival Director carries a lot of responsibility. What keeps Anjna awake the week before the festival?

“By that time the build will be finishing, the exhibitors and acts books and our crack operations team is in full control, so it’s pretty much the weather which we can’t control.

“The long-range weather forecast at the moment says it’s going to 24 degrees over the weekend. I’ll take that.

“Last year we were getting calls from other festivals around the country that they were seeing thunderstorms and hailstones, and we saw the clouds, but they passed us by. I certainly gave thanks for that.”

For Anjna, though, the weather might be unpredictable, but her reward is seeing the pleasure that CarFest gives to everyone who goes.

“I love the creativity because I'm working on the content side and making sure that there's lots of things to do. 

“I love the marketing because I'm a marketer through and through, but nothing gives me greater pleasure than standing next to Chris on the stage on Friday evening and seeing so many happy people – genuinely, genuinely happy people walking around the site.

“I know so many of them too because many have come for years and feel it’s theirs. 

“When I first started, people would tell me about how joyous Carfest was. And that sounded so cheesy – nothing is like that, but it is seriously one of the happiest places I've ever been – even when I’ve walked 100,000 steps around the site over the last few days of the build-up, had little sleep and am exhausted. 

“It gives me so much joy to see everyone together. And when our young charity ambassadors get up on stage [each charity chooses a young ambassador for the year to help people understand how their donations are spent during the year], that’s the time you’ll find me crying in the pit.

“Watching the connection that Chris and the audience has with them and the connection they have with the audience. I get very emotional because fundamentally we're a festival, but the festival is a force for good for everybody, and ultimately that’s what it's about. 

“Chris always reminds us that if we're not making money for charity, we're not doing this. So never ever forget that is our purpose and that runs through his blood. And we couldn't do it without that kind of inspiration.

“He’s a great leader, he's hugely funny, great fun to work with and gives his all.”


Nicky Godding is editor of The Business Magazine. Before her journalism career, she worked mainly in public relations moving into writing when she was invited to launch Retail Watch, a publication covering retail and real estate across Europe.

After some years of constant travelling, she tucked away her passport and concentrated on business writing, co-founding a successful regional business magazine. She has interviewed some of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs who have built multi-million-pound businesses and reported on many science and technology firsts.

She reports on the region’s thriving business economy from start-ups, family businesses and multi-million-pound corporations, to the professionals that support their growth and the institutions that educate the next generation of business leaders.

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