Industry Insights

Steve Heap, general secretary at The Association of Festival Organisers, gives his seasonal industry update.

Festival drawingThe safety and care of small children, youth and vulnerable adults is a key part of running events no matter how large or small and the Purple Guide is currently reviewing the chapter, led by Bev Langton (ex-children’s producer at Towersey Festival) along with partner Ray Langton (producer of children’s events at Sidmouth Festival). Safeguarding guidance is important to all of us – please make sure you have a copy of the Purple Guide and keep an eye on updates and changes since the pandemic.

Safer spaces at festivalsOur colleagues at AIF have conducted a great deal of work on guidance for safe spaces at festivals. Work that includes safeguarding, harassment, sexual harassment, spiking of drinks and even counterterrorism. Once again there will be major reviews of chapters in the Purple Guide covering these aspects of festival work. Members should always remember that such things as above can happen at small festivals as well as large ones and in answer to the question ‘has it happened at yours?’ the answer cannot be ‘no, it doesn’t happen’, because if it hasn’t been reported how do you know it didn’t? What you have to be is ready with some action if it does. LIVE and UK Music also campaign to keep gigs and festivals safe, and there is currently plenty of work out there to assist.

Jon Collins, CEO at LIVE, reported on the discussions we are all having with the Home Office regarding drink spiking and harassment. We have to accept that if we engage with government they will listen (most of the time) and ask questions back to us. Once they get the bit between their teeth, they are very hard to shake off. So, spiking and harassment have come to the fore. Luckily under Jon’s new leadership of LIVE these issues are being handled at a high level and, along with the overall recovery since the pandemic, Jon is leading the LIVE teams towards supporting and encouraging live music back to its rightful place.

Following the return of live music throughout the summer, counterterrorism police are working alongside the UK’s music festivals to ensure that the public remain safe and play a part in the wider security operation. Once again, don’t assume the Safe and Sound Campaign does not apply to you. There are some big steps that can be taken for festivals both large and small – get in touch for supporting posters and leaflet material if required.

appg logoAPPG Music elects new chair
We are delighted here at AFO to welcome Kevin Brennan MP as the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Music. Kevin has been a supporter of AFO and festivals in particular for some time, being a songwriter and musician himself as well as a full-time Labour MP for Cardiff West.

With more than 100 members in the group it is one of the largest in Westminster. It brings together MPs, Peers, and the music industry to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the sector, so AFO is in close contact with Kevin. As a Labour MP he was the former Shadow Culture Minister and a keen musician and songwriter. He has held an inaugural meeting and says that he is looking forward to working with all sectors, that includes you, of the UK’s world-leading music industry on a huge range of issues.

Co-chairs of the group were Conservative MP, Sir Greg Knight, and Labour MP Alex Sobel. The Musicians Union has already addressed the group and AFO will join others at the end of the festival season to do the same. The one thing we know is that we can depend on and trust Kevin to work on behalf of the live music and festival movement whenever he has the opportunity.

Kevin BrennanFuel has reminded us that prices of fuel at the pump are not all they appear. As prices go between £1.85 and £2.00 per litre, they point out that the actual wholesale price of petrol is 80.33p per litre with its bio-content contributing 12.31p, delivery costs 1.7p, the retailer’s profit margin 3.32p, fuel duty imposed by government 52.95p and VAT 30.12p. So when you next fill up and it hits £2.00, remember that most of the cost is tax.

This of, course, applies to the diesel power supply on your festival site. So AFO is challenging government to drop fuel duty on diesel used for generator supply and/or reduce the VAT to 5%, bringing it to a more sensible price. Better still, if government were to invest in research into biofuels and cut the VAT and fuel duty on those altogether, we would all be heading in the right direction. So please don’t blame the forecourt retailer, join the campaign for a cut in event and festival fuel duty.

I hope this is the last time I mention this absolutely awful insurance scheme created by the government for the festival and events industry. They now claim £170m worth of events were covered by the government insurance scheme. That may well be true, but safe to say that DCMS or anyone else in government has yet to point to a festival that actually took out the insurance policy and thought it was of any value. It was not fit for purpose and still isn’t, and it will come to an end in September 2022.

We make tomorrow logo

We Make Tomorrow Summit

I am delighted to report that the sustainability campaign group, Julies Bicycle, will be staging their summit ‘We Make Tomorrow’ ahead of COP27 in October. The event will take place at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre and be a full-day summit supported by Arts Council England’s Environmental Responsibility Programme and will be centred around climate leadership and justice. Watch out in AFO News for more details.


Steve HeapAbout the Author

Steve Heap is the General Secretary of the Association of Festival Organisers (AFO). AFO membership is open to festival and event organisers, associates, suppliers and sole traders within the festival industry. For more information visit, drop Steve an email at or give him a call on 01629 827014.


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