A New Festival World

The Association of Festival Organisers (AFO) is here for you, says chairman Steve Heap.

Cartoon of mountains at sunset
Photo: Getty Images

Since the devastating blow of festival cancellation in 2020 there has been an air of concern, sometimes despair, and very rarely any joyous moments. But as always, there is now talk in the festival industry of a different kind of festival world and a recovery.

Throughout this whole period the Association of Festival Organisers (AFO) office has never been so busy. Even at the height of the festival boom in the 1990s we never experience the sort of debate, correspondence or meetings at the level that we have been dealing with since March.

Most of the results from the work we have been doing on your behalf has been posted on the AFO website in General Secretary Writes or via emails, Facebook, Twitter and in some cases personal contact. There have also been some long telephone conversations.

We are certainly not looking for roses and medals. What we are looking for is reaction. We need to know that what we are doing is useful to you. The battles we have fought alongside colleagues from other associations and the meetings we have held with DCMS and other government departments have been, to say the least, interesting, quite revealing, educational and in some cases successful.

Recognition at government level for our festival industry is one of those successes, VAT dropping from 20% to 5% on ticket sales, first for just a few months and then, after a battle, extended to 31 March 2021 (and that one is not over yet).

We played our part in achieving £1.57bn for the cultural industries, a good deal of which will be landing on the doorstep of several festivals and support organisations in the near future. Round 2 is yet to come.

We have pointed our membership in the direction of Arts Council England Project Grants and, in the early days, individual charitable funds, which helped out musicians, techies, administrators and many more.

We have teamed up with other associations like AIF, PSA, EIF, BAFA, UK Live Music Group and others to help raise profile, funds and campaign on behalf of our wonderful industry. Throughout this period, we have considered how best to use our limited time, how we can best serve the needs of our membership and we have answered more questions than would fill a hardback novel.

We have also been involved with the newly published Covid guidance for music festivals – a live planning document which is updated regularly. Next summer may seem far away but, in terms of festival planning, it is right around the corner. UK festivals are a world leading industry and, with tools such as this in place, we are ready to re-emerge and stage Covid-safe and successful events in 2021. On behalf of AFO members, my thanks to colleagues at the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) for their work in developing this much needed guidance – see more below.


About the AFO
AFO membership is open to festival and event organisers, associates, suppliers and sole traders within the festival industry. We would be delighted to hear from you. If you need more information see our website www.festivalorganisers.org, drop us an email sh@festivalorganisers.co.uk or give us a call 01629 827014 and join in the recovery of the UK festival industry.


Updated Festival Guidance

Girl attending festivalNewly published guidance for music festivals around Covid-19 will assist organisers, safety advisory group members, local directors of public health and other industry parties in assessing risk levels and planning festivals based on a flexible, pragmatic and realistic approach to the current pandemic.

Published on 13 October, the document includes contributions from across the festival industry, working in collaboration with DCMS and Public Health England.

The planning framework is a live document and will be updated on a monthly basis. It has been developed by a coalition of industry bodies including the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) – whose Ops Group led on the document – the Association of Festival Organisers (AFO), the Events Industry Forum (EIF) and Attitude Is Everything.

Available for free on The Purple Guide website (www.thepurpleguide.co.uk) it outlines planning considerations with the purpose of supporting festival organisers as well as relevant authorities and agencies in taking a bespoke risk assessment approach, where events are able to follow government guidance and regulations.

It covers eight key themes and Covid-19 safety measures, including medical and welfare arrangements, crowd considerations, response plans, security, site adjustments, and specific mitigation measures.

As the guidance is updated regularly, members of the working group will run monthly webinars to update the festival sector and others. Agencies at a national level are being invited to provide input on an ongoing basis.

AIF CEO, Paul Reed, said: “Risk mitigation is what festival promoters do for a living, so the intent of this guidance is to outline Covid-19 specific planning considerations that will allow for bespoke risk assessment approaches in liaison with relevant authorities and agencies. I’d like to thank the AIF Ops Group for leading on this important piece of work and also DCMS, PHE officials and the wider festival industry for their invaluable contributions.”


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