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Working for and with festivals and events, supporting live arts

AFO Advisory Group

Since its formation in 1987 the AFO has gone from strength to strength. This has not happened without the constant and steady support of an Advisory Group made up mostly, in the first instance, of well-experienced festival organisers but now expanding its membership to encompass a new wave of young and enthusiastic organisers from festivals of all kinds. The AFO Advisory Group comes together by video calls and emails or by phone to help put together the Conference and to discuss crucial issues that threaten or indeed support our work as festival and event managers.

The current core AFO Advisory Group is as follows:

Adam Slough - Folk By The Oak

Adam Slough of JSL Productions has worked in the live music industry since leaving Newcastle University with a degree in Zoology in 1997. Adam is the founder and Director along with his wife and partner Caroline of the UK folk festival Folk by the Oak at Hatfield House. Other events include the long running (1997) Battle Proms Picnic Concert Series that takes place at stately homes across England including Blenheim Palace, Hatfield House, Highclere Castle, Burghley House and Ragley Hall. These picnic concerts aim to raise awareness of army charities and their work and has raised over £450,000 to date.


Bob Rushton - Derby Folk Festival

From a background in engineering, and making music as a hobby, joined The Newcranes as a full time musician in 1991. The 90s, were spent playing and working in music (crewing, merchandising, touring…) and then into a part time job in Derby’s Assembly Rooms working FOH. That developed into a number of full time roles, spanning more than 24 years – front door staff, stage door, porterage, duty management, casual stage technician, assistant technical manager, programme manager and venue manager! 2019 saw a return to freelance work – stage management, technical crew, arts administration, programming, virtual events and more. Director of Derby Folk Festival from inception to date. Proficient in a variety of areas from festival directing, to XLR soldering… Loves cycling.


Chris Johnson - Shambala Festival

Chris is co-founder, Operations Director and Sustainability Lead of pioneering festival Shambala, Chair of the UK’s outdoor event industry environmental steering group, Vision:2025, co-founder and CEO of live industry sustainable travel charity ecolibrium, sustainability consultant, columnist, speaker, and activist. He is driven by climate advocacy and combines a depth of experience and fierce optimism to lead and support climate action. 

Craig Mathie - Bournemouth 7s Festival

Having joined as its most junior team member in 2011, Craig is now Managing Director of the multi-award-winning Bournemouth 7s Festival, leading a small and dynamic team in planning and delivering the UK’s favourite sport and music festival. A passionate events man, he is a contributor to various regional and national events organisations, event operations consultant, judge for many of the UK’s leading events awards and prominent advocate for the broader events industry.

Dave Whatmore - The Hawth, Crawley

Manager of the 850 seat Hawth Theatre in West Sussex, Dave has over 30 years experience of programming live arts events across all genres. The Hawth is a major touring venue in the southeast attracting top West End musicals, headlining comedians and national and international classical orchestras and ballet companies as well as serving the needs of the local arts community. His extensive knowledge has led to his being asked to assist in the production of the original and the revised versions of The Event Safety Guide (the “Purple Guide”) as well as being consulted on a broad range of arts and entertainment activities.

Lioux Heap - Membership And Conference Co-ordinator 

Lioux has over 30 years experience of working at festivals and events. She has recently joined the team at Harmony Voyages and is also the Producer of All About Children at Towersey Festival, having also worked on pre-Festival accreditation for Artists, Trade, Catering, Volunteers and Box Office. Lioux also works with BBC Radio 2/7digital CreativeFolk on The PierMoonbeamsCambridge Folk Festival and was a Games Maker at the London 2012 Olympics

Madeline Spear - Shine On Digital

Madeline has over 22 years' experience in digital marketing and over the last 12 years has managed an online marketing agency - Shine On Digital. During this time she has enjoyed working with many music festivals and events companies including Costa del Folk, Keswick Jazz and Blues Festival and Harmony Voyages, and with the insight and knowledege gained she will now marketing the AFO online and offline. Madeline is a firm believer that to get the best out of social media, it needs to come out organically from the nature of the business. It's with this principle that she will drive the social marketing of the Association Of Festival Organisers. 


Mark Laurie - NCASS

Mark Laurie is Director of Stakeholders (Industry Partners & Government) at the Nationwide Caterers Association (NCASS). Founder of the Street Food Alliance, Co-founder of 8th Plate (festival food salvage) and the Digbeth Dining Club. He is a board member of the Events industry Forum, the Birmingham Food Council CIC and Digbeth Dining Club CIC and advisory board of Event 2025? He’s always happy to chat with members about festivals, food or sustainable events. 


Rowan Cannon - Wild Rumpus

Rowan Cannon is founder and director of award-winning arts organisation Wild Rumpus. Wild Rumpus deepen nature connectedness through a programme of projects including festivals, large-scale events, creative interventions, meaningful partnerships and sector development work. Wild Rumpus work Internationally from their exploratory creation space in an English Woodland. Rowan is the festival director of Just So Festival and Timber Festival, both produced by Wild Rumpus.

Simon Care - Musician

Simon Care is a professional musician, agent, tour programmer and festival organiser, He has worked for AFO at conferences and also briefly as membership secretary. He currently helps to programme Towersey Festival and also runs two other festivals, Moulton Village Festival and BanterFest. As a touring musician, he attends many festivals each year, and is regularly asked to advise festivals.

Steve Heap - General Secretary Of AFO

Steve has been the General Secretary of AFO since its formation in 1987. He is also the Director of Mrs Casey Music and was Director of Towersey Festival for 45 years, having retired after the 2019 Festival in August. He has over 55 years’ experience in the festival and events industry and is currently Chairman of the Events Industry Forum (EIF) and a contributor to The Purple Guide.