FestForums is a conference that unites leaders in the festival industry to participate and network. It was founded by Laurie Kirby and Stuart MacNaught. The next installation of FestForums will take place in Santa Barbara November 14th-16th.
In preparation for the next event and with the announcement of the first-ever TechTrenders program, a program to recognize women in technology and festivals, we talked with founder Laurie Kirby. Read on to learn more about her career, how FestForums was founded, and what she is most looking forward to at this year’s conference.
Festival Squad: Laurie, we are so excited to be partnering with you for TechTrenders. Can you tell our readers a little bit more about yourself and your background?
Laurie Kirby: I grew up in NJ. I went to Rutgers where my mother had gotten her doctorate as well. I was a theater arts major and an athlete- I played lacrosse. I became obsessed with history and changed my major. It led me to law school in Boston. I met my husband in Newport, RI and got married and had three children. I was a lawyer and practiced law in several large firms in Providence while my children were growing up so as to provide them with stability and security. We were a close family with lots of travel, sports, and fun. Then I left practicing law to run a film festival and life changed on a dime. It led to me moving to California and a whole new chapter of my life.
Festival Squad: Thats incredible. It seemed unplanned but now FestForums exists and is what you’re doing full time.What has been one of the most exciting moments of your career?
Laurie Kirby: I was general counsel for the senior LPGA and forming that for the senior women golfers was amazing. Closing a deal that preserved most of the land on block island as general counsel of the Audubon Society of RI. Hearing Peter Gabriel sing “In Your Eyes” and I was the only one in the room…Spending a day with Stephen Frye who loved my private club where he could smoke and tell stories… Hearing Harry Shearer doing every voice imaginable…Holding our first conference with my business partner Stu and realizing it was all ours! Interviewing Rita Coolidge. Hearing Kenny Loggins sing at our conference, eating dinner with Nick Nolte and having the crew from SNL perform has been a blast.
Festival Squad: How did FestForums come to fruition?
Laurie Kirby: On a napkin at SXSW with Stu. We always wanted to start a business together and our skills were complementary. He was in PR and advertising and I practiced law and ran festivals. Although, we now share a brain!
Festival Squad: What are you most looking forward to at the conference this year?
Laurie Kirby: Our Year of The Women lunch, our awards ceremony, some amazing live musicians like Dishwalla and lots of networking with new and old friends and colleagues.
Festival Squad: I know it’s been said before, but we are so excited to launch TechTrenders with you. Tell me more about what that program means to you. Why do you feel like it’s important?
Laurie Kirby: I was so excited when the proposal from Festival Squad crossed my desk. I have a daughter who is a very successful blogger and she couldn’t do it without technology! We need to shine a light on young women that are creating technology advances that benefit festivals, especially where safety is concerned.
Festival Squad: We’ve heard a bit about Tux.. the team mascot, whose pet is he?
Laurie Kirby: Tux is my Italian greyhound. He’s a character- petrified when I first got him and now he runs the show here. He’s a rescue and is about 1000 years old. Tux is a team sport- it takes a lot of love.
Festival Squad: Last question here! Do you prefer the beach or the mountains?
Laurie Kirby: Both- and that’s why I live in Santa Barbara. Although I have never been far from the beach (as I get claustrophobic if I can’t breathe ocean air). As I often say, I did the first 49 on the Atlantic and I’ll do the back 9 on the west coast!
The next FestForum conference will take place in Santa Barbara in November.
Interested in being a TechTrender and receiving free tickets to FestForums, recognition at the conference for your work and more?
TechTrenders is a program that recognizes women under the age of 35 who have a passion for music festivals and who have made noteworthy innovations or participations in the technology space. Those interested can apply here.