Now heading into its teenage years, Bonnaroo has become an American music institution. And the festival’s home of Manchester, Tenn., has benefited greatly from its presence and influence. There are two slots saved at this year’s festival for Sonicbids artists, to be selected by Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne and Billboard Magazine. When you sign up, you’ll notice a $10 application fee. All that money goes to benefit the Bonnaroo Works Fund.
For five years the fund has provided more than $5 million to charities and community efforts in Manchester and the surrounding area. Since we've already been busy encouraging everyone to get their submissions in, it only seemed natural to catch up with the fund itself and get some information on its work. Nina Miller, director of the Bonnaroo Works Fund, spoke with us about the fund, what it does and who it helps.
Can you walk us through the history of the Bonnaroo Works Fund?
Although not formally established until 2009, Bonnaroo has provided substantial support to Manchester and Coffee County since the inception of the festival in 2002. Currently, in the process of filling for 501(c)(3) status, BWF is a component of the East Tennessee Foundation.
Tell us about the process by which charities are chosen for support.
Organizations apply for grants and applications are reviewed by the BWF Board of Directors. Our mission is to support national and local organizations that advance arts, education and environmental causes with a focus on sustainability and local reinvestment. So, we vet the organizations, look at the work they're doing as it conforms to our mission,what they've been able to accomplish and how meaningful our support will be to advancing the various programs and causes.
This year we received nearly 120 applications. Last year, [it was] about half that number and we supported over 20 organizations. This year we hope to double the number of organizations we support and the amount of support they receive. In all, since the inception of festival, over $5 million has been allocated to various causes and projects.
What are some visible, tangible benefits the Manchester area has gained due to Bonnaroo and the Fund?
There are so many examples in Manchester, it’s hard to name just a few. Off the top of my head, we’ve supported: the Manchester Arts Center, Manchester Municipal Arts Commission, Homework Hotline, the Coffee Schools Anti-Bullying Program, Coffee County Board of Education Anti-Drug program, Coffee County Manchester Library, the Westwood Middle School (Manchester) visual arts program, Parks Partners (Manchester), Junior Achievement of Middle Tennesee and the Land Trust of Middle Tennessee. And that’s just Manchester—and just for starters!
Bonnaroo seems to have a culture unique among festivals. How would you describe that culture, and how does the Fund reflect those ethics?
Exactly right. Bonnaroo stands apart in the festival world largely due to the sense of community that it fosters. Just as important as the music is the year-round lifestyle that the Bonnaroo Works Fund perpetuates and affirms. Central to that lifestyle is the concept of being part of something larger than yourself and giving back-- that's what the Bonnaroo Works Fund is all about.