Necessary Change

Fresh from its launch last month, Festival Vision 2025 is providing tangible, change-making resources to empower our industry to make ambitious and necessary changes.

Grande Finale fireworksVision 2025 aims to inspire and support a 50 per cent reduction in the environmental impacts of events by 2025. It’s an ambitious benchmark to set, especially when you think about the tentative, and in some cases, outright denialist government strategies in response to climate crisis. We’re now not in a position to dither and as an industry need to club together and make the shifts ourselves, from the ground up.

The currents are changing, with two thirds of UK outdoor events now having a sustainability coordinator on their team, and a third creating a public engagement campaign about the environment for their events in 2019. Things are moving in a positive direction but there’s a lot to contend with. The increase of nearly 50 per cent in audience numbers in the past five years presents a huge challenge in making emission reductions relative to this growing uptake. The impetus needs to be on scalable solutions, made by committed event producers, rolled out to audiences.

Greenfield music festivals have an indisputable impact. In the Show Must Go On Report (SMGO) 2020 it was reported that the industry generates 24,261 tonnes of CO2E per year and 25,800 tonnes of waste. There is a whole swathe of areas in which the festival industry can have huge impacts – from energy to waste management to artist and audience travel. Each of these stones need to be turned over in the planning process and Vision 2025 is an invitation to connect with folks around the event industry, see what they are doing and share in everyone’s successes.

Shambala Festival 2019

The great achievement of Vision 2025 – in compiling the open-access report, resources and industry pledge – is that it makes available a series of benchmarks and solutions to event organisers. Vision 2025 clearly presents where we’ve been and where we are at, giving everyone access to the facts and offering tools to visualise a future we want to get to as an industry.

Free knowledge hub
Our ops director and co-founder Chris Johnson is a lead author on the report and has headed up the Vision 2025 campaign, building on SMGO to create an evolving, up-to-date online resource. This knowledge hub is a growing free-to-use resource that features case studies, briefings and a supplier directory. Split into energy, waste, food, water, transport and governance, the SMGO report shows there is notable feasibility in creating meaningful actions in all of these areas.

Festivals are already making big steps in waste reduction initiatives, from reusable bar cup schemes to the Association of Independent Festival’s (AIF) Take Your Tent Home campaign. Having the infrastructure in place to enable good practice is achievable and replicable across events of various sizes. A huge component of this is cementing a cultural shift in audience and crew in helping effective capturing and sorting of materials to divert waste from landfill.

Moving away from fossil fuel use does present more obstacles, not least because of the slightly more difficult to capture data sets, including travel to and from sites, particularly from artists and audiences. As the report shows though, this is not insurmountable, with an expanding market offering options beyond diesel generators and travel carbon balancing from organisations like Ecolibrium (previously Energy Revolution).

Shambala Festival 2019

SMGO presents a series of achievable recommendations around food impact. It says events are in a position to “open new experiences and start conversations with audiences about the environmental impact of their dietary choices to inspire broader lifestyle shifts.” This impact can roll out to traders when they are required to meet ethical and environmental procurement guidelines set by each event.

In the area of travel impacts, small shifts in travel policies and incentives “can lead to carbon saving greater than the operational emissions of the industry”. The list goes on…

The achievements mapped by the SMGO report and Julie’s Bicycle benchmarks are a starting point. However, as the report states, even these strides forward are “short of the 35 per cent reduction required by 2020 under Climate Change Act carbon budgets.” We need to pull up our boot straps to get in line with these budgets and goals. We need to do this where other industries and governments are not making good on commitments such as the Paris Agreement or taking into account timeframes set out by the IPCC report.

As drivers of culture, festivals and outdoor events should be creating roadmaps towards a liveable future, not least because it protects our ability to continue putting these events on. Using Powerful Thinking’s Industry Green Survey 2019, the SMGO report finishes by looking at the barriers holding us back, offering ways to overcome them and commit to the pledge.

We all need to endeavour to play a leadership role, inspiring audiences, the wider festival industry and society to make positive change for the planet’s future. SMGO and Vision 2025 is offering the tools for us to do this, and Kambe Events is a proud supporter of the work gone into producing these resources. To end with the rallying cry in SMGO’s introduction: “It is a formidable task that is at once deeply ethical and creative. We can be daunted by it or we can choose to embrace it, taking it on with the full power of our inspiring and relentless UK festival community.”

All statistics taken from the SMGO report. This can be found on the Vision 2025 website

Festival Vision 2025 logo


Kate Burgess works as marketing assistant for Kambe Events, covering its events Shambala Festival and Starry Skies Camp. She joined the team in 2018 and runs Shambala’s Adventures In Utopia blog. Headed for a part-time Masters degree in cultural theory, Kate, like Kambe, is passionate about where culture, creativity and community can intersect to bring about more ecological, sustainable futures.

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