How a City Challenge helped Bristol Walk Fest make strides

In April, Bristol Walk Fest partnered with the Careers Service to run a City Challenge, with the goal of getting input from student volunteers on ways to engage younger walkers with their events.

Bristol Walk Fest is an annual walking festival, with events taking place all over the city.  We chatted to Jennifer Graham, their 2023 Event Manager, about their experience.

Jen, can you tell us what Bristol Walk Fest is all about?  

Decolonising Bristol walk

Bristol Walk Fest began over a decade ago and is a celebration of all things walking. The free festival, which regularly attracts over 7,500 attendees year-on-year, showcases the best of Bristol for everyone to enjoy, either individually or with others. 

The festival takes place during May to coincide with Living Streets’ National Walking Month and offers a wide variety of walking activities, personal challenges, self-guided walking routes and discussion events. The (mostly free) walks and activities are for all backgrounds and levels of fitness.  

What were you hoping to get from the half-day City Challenge with our students?  

Typically, Bristol Walk Fest attracts an older audience so we wanted to get a different perspective by putting some questions to the students to discuss. As well as finding out how we could attract a younger audience, we wanted to get the students’ thoughts on how best to promote the event, and how to bring in funding and increase brand awareness. 

Did it meet your expectations?

We were so pleased with all the ideas the students came up with: they definitely exceeded expectations. The students put so much thought into their solutions and all the groups came up with really engaging and comprehensive presentations.  

The students all threw themselves into the challenge and we were impressed by the level of detail and thought that they put into their presentations.

They presented their ideas very well and gave us a lot to think about.

 Will you take any of their ideas forward?

TikTok! All the groups thought we could do more with social media – particularly by setting up a TikTok account, so that’s something we’ll definitely look to do for Walk Fest 2024.

We also want to engage more with the university by promoting Walk Fest to complimentary societies and groups and trying to link in with the Moves+ app, which most of the students said they use. Adding a QR code to our printed materials was a brilliant idea and something we can easily do next year.  

What longer-term impact has the City Challenge had on Bristol Walk Fest? 

We have already signed up to hear about next academic year’s internship programme as we think having a student on board will be a brilliant help to grow Walk Fest and engage a younger audience. It has also made us focus on how we might secure more sustainable funding going forward, in terms of sponsorship, partners and so forth.  

Could you sum up in three words what you thought of the City Challenge? 

Successful, thought-provoking. 

Want to make a difference to other Bristol non-profits next term?

Sign up for our mailing list and hear about future City Challenges. 

Through the City Challenges programme, you will develop skills such as group working, problem-solving, public speaking and presentation, innovation thinking and community engagement. They also count as hours towards your Bristol PLUS Award.