Covid-19 Comment: Event Sector

Industry stalwarts on the state of the event sector in light of Covid-19.

Jim Winship

Chairs sat in a social distancing formatSecretary of the Events Industry Forum

The Event Industry Forum (EIF) and the Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) have agreed guidance for restarting some elements of the UK’s £30.4 billion outdoor events industry.

New guidance, compiled by EIF in consultation with government departments, sets out how event organisers can restart some outdoor events this summer. It specifically lists different types of organised outdoor events that can now safely go ahead with Covid-19 secure planning in place, including outdoor performances, county shows and firework displays. The Culture Secretary has announced that performances outdoors can take place from 11 July with a socially distanced audience.

Jim WinshipThe guidelines drawn up by the EIF, with support from DCMS and representatives from across the events industry, will keep staff, performers and visitors safe at small-scale events this summer.

The outdoor event industry has welcomed the guidance as a positive step. “Our industry has been decimated by Covid-19 with most of the outdoor events planned for this summer and the autumn already cancelled. Nevertheless, publication of this guidance gives the green light which we hope will enable some smaller events to take place.

We hope this will just the first step on the road to recovery which will allow the outdoor event industry to return at full blast in 2021. The guidance can be found on the EIF website.


About the EIF

EIF logoThe Events Industry Forum (EIF) is an informal body which brings together event trade bodies, educational establishments and enforcement agencies twice a year to discuss issues of common interest. The Forum also publishes The Purple Guide which provides guidance for organising outdoor events and which was originally published by the Health & Safety Executive.


Steve Heap

Person wearing trainers
Photo: Getty Images

Chairman, Association Festival Organisers

Here at AFO we have 132 festival members and 129 of them have moved their events to 2021, and it’s that we are looking forward to.

When the lockdown began, we sat head in hands wondering how this could possibly happen to us. Whatever the cause, it is here and showing little sign of leaving us so the festival industry does what it knows best and is working out ways of survival. Some just used reserves of funds, others went for crowdfunding. Then the chancellor started making grants and support packages available. Would festivals and their organisers fit the bill? Not this time, so back to crowdfunding. Then he announced a package for the arts, which the PM had called “a very, very valuable sector”. Well we knew that being a £6 billion contributor to the UK economy. But don’t get excited, festivals were not mentioned in the text.

Steve HeapAFO and others started the biggest lobbying campaign of the year. We made progress and at time of writing we have MPs and culture ministers announcing their support.

We were asked by DCMS to submit a clear request on behalf of festivals, we did. To further the support for festival recognition, funding and get the real belief of our importance in the UK arts and entertainment scene, you could write to your own MP at Tell them how important your local festival is, not only to you but to the local economy and quality of life. The social impact the festival has and the real value the attendees put on its survival.

Without financial support we believe more than 30 per cent of the UK festival scene will not survive into 2021. Don’t let that be your local festival – act now.

See also our website for much more news on Covid-19 and its effect on the sector. Organisers of festivals are honest, conscientious and resilient people. We will do our best.


About the AFO

AFO logoThe Association of Festival Organisers (AFO) is a membership group of like-minded festival and event managers who believe in learning and teaching, sharing and networking to continuously improve the festival scene. Created in 1987 with a small gathering of people working in the community festival business, AFO now has 132 festival members who exchange ideas and support one another to help develop the sector.

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