New Ideas

Resilient festival organisers create new style events, says AFO’s Steve Heap.

Gisburne Park pop-upThe Association of Festival Organisers (AFO) has always known its members are dedicated and resilient, but we really did not expect so many events to resurface in 2020.

It was generally thought the festival season was wiped out, with 95 per cent of the usual festivals postponing to 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

By the time we got to June there were sounds of new ideas coming through with some organisers not prepared to give up just yet. Clearly their normal festivals would have to change considerably to meet the DCMS/EIF guidance for outdoor events and that is what several have done to keep the interest of their regular audiences and try and keep their festival companies and the supply chain on board.

There have been successful events in Hampshire, Newcastle and, due to open soon, festivals in Shropshire and Berkshire. Gisburne Park Pop Up in Lancashire (see the last issue of Open Air Business) was one of the first, featuring as a fine example of versatility on BBC Breakfast TV and still going strong as a concert and video screen Covid-safe event.

In Berkshire, Jenna Ansell and her team at Medicine Festival have moved heaven and earth to make their festival safe for all. They have done more than the guidance requires, gaining the approval of the local licensing committee and proving to the safety advisory group and Public Health that they have a great, safe festival with unique happenings ready to deliver to a keen and enthusiastic audience. With the backing of Public Health England and DCMS, Medicine is proving that the festival scene can be revived in 2020.

Steve HeapCaroline Dinenage, Culture and Creative Industries Minister, said: “Festivals and events are an important part of our vibrant and globally successful music industry. While many have been postponed this summer, it is great to see some smaller festivals begin to take place with Covid safety measures in place.”

I am delighted to be proved wrong – the 2020 festival scene is not all dead, and I would encourage festival fans to give these new style events a try.


EIF Guide Updates

The Events Industry Forum (EIF) guide to keeping workers and audiences safe during Covid-19 has been updated and also includes addendums for agricultural shows and air displays. Visit


About the AFO

The Association of Festival Organisers (AFO) is a membershipgroup 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 gatheringof 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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