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General Secretary Writes...

Our current priorities are:

  • Writing and collating new resource documents for publication on the AFO website
  • The review of the Purple Guide Subscribe to the Purple Guide
  • Constantly reviewing our AFO Code of Best Practice for Festivals
  • Staying in contact with the All Party Parliamentary Group supporting our events and other similar organisations in Government circles
  • Working closely with Britain for Events to establish a strong link between our events and the UK Tourist industry
  • Continuing to approach the media and raise awareness of festivals wherever possible
  • Organising the annual AFO Conference started in 1987
  • Working with members and others to further widen the membership of AFO to the benefit of all
  • Continuing to be a source of information gathering and dissemination and advice though email, telephone and personal meetings, so supporting the festival industry in the UK

General Secretary writes...

16th January 2020

Welcome to 2020 and a Happy New Year to you all.
Good luck with planning for the coming season.  We may well not have got rid of winter just yet but in our minds are the warmer summer days of festivals.

AFO website
Use the AFO website as much as you like but then a little bit more, because AFO is not high enough up the rankings so if you were to enter through Google or Bing you will find a great deal of information about prosthetic limbs and even art for offices before you get to The Association of Festival Organisers.  Use it as much as you possibly can to get us up there near the top.  One way to get in quicker is to search AFO Festivals.  We will see how that goes over the next few months.

Whilst thinking about the summer festivals you might like to send best wishes to Peter Chegwyn.
He used to run Gosport Folk Festival, then moved into larger events on a variety of sites and currently runs Wickham Festivals in Hampshire.  He has had a bit of a problem with his eyes in recent years and hopefully by the time you read this the surgeons will have conducted magic tricks and put his eyesight back in order.  I am sure he would be happy to hear from you - [email protected]

BREXIT
Way back in November at AFO Conference we tried to avoid the ‘B’ word (BREXIT).  Well, that is now all behind us, the general election saw to that.  By the end of January, we are supposed to have officially left Europe and moved on – I am not sure where to, but we will soon find out.  I believe the next twelve months will be about trade negotiations with the rest of the world, and indeed Europe.  Time will tell.  Whichever side you were on, we in the festival business will have to deal with the outcomes.  Please keep AFO informed of any issues that arise.

Booking Headline Acts
T
here was a time when the smaller folk and acoustic world had plenty of potential headline acts.
There doesn’t seem to be quite so many these days.  Someone said if you don’t book Show of Hands you haven’t got any headliners.  That used to be Watersons or Vin Garbutt.  For those of us who get involved with the edges of the rock and pop world, it is even harder.  Mostly due to CD sales dropping, artists and their managers are now looking for much higher fees for live performance.
The aforementioned Peter Chegwyn raised the issue, Joe Heap at Towersey has the same problem and you only need to look at the festivals that are big enough and can afford major artists from the fringes of rock and pop and acoustic world to see that retro is about as far as the budget will go.

With another hat on I sit with colleagues at UK Live Music and we discuss artists fees on many occasions.  I don’t think there will be much movement in the next few years until such time that our customers can’t afford high priced tickets and therefore, we can’t afford the artists, before anything will change.  I have no answers or solutions other than to book what you can afford and sell tickets at the price you think your customers will pay.  But most of all lean on the rather new idea that it is not so much who is on stage that attracts the audience, but more the atmosphere and the experience, perhaps focus your attention there.

AFO Conference
Talking of Conference, could you get a date in your diary for 6, 7 and 8 November in Birmingham with a reserve possible change of dates to 13, 14 and 15 November.  If you have an opinion on these dates, I would be grateful if you could drop me a line.  The venue is available on both and we have yet to settle the contract.  Birmingham will be our destination.  We are also looking for the subject matter that you would most like to see being addressed at this year’s Conference.  More on this another time.

Exhibitions
Before we get to Conference there are a couple of exhibitions that you might like to attend.  Try the Production Show.  Previously at Olympia now moved down into London docklands at Excel.  This takes place on 25 and 26 February.  That show might help you find the last few things you need for the 2020 festival season.  It is a good version, and indoors.  However, if you really want to plan ahead try the Showman’s Show 14 and 15 October on Newbury Showground, Berks,  just off the M4 at the junction of the A34.  You really should not miss this.  It is indoors and outdoors and the major gathering of festival organisers.

Warwick Folk Festival moves home
Over the last few years there seems to have been a trend to move home.  A few years ago, Towersey Festival moved from the village near Thame, Oxfordshire onto Thame Showground and in 2020 will move again to Claydon Estate just north of Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.  Also just announced is Warwick Folk Festival moving to a new location.  The 41st festival will take place at Castle Park adjacent to Warwick Castle.  Having been at Warwick school for many years, building works and local issues have squeezed the festival down so Dick Dixon and his team have found a new site and will already be well on with the planning.  Dick said, “We are looking forward to welcoming our festival goers to another great year on an exciting location, with beautiful views across the banks of the Avon”. The festival will have a busy programme with superb music, camping, workshops, singing, dancing and sessions.  Tickets go on sale 14 January so if you fancy Warwick 23-26 July 2020 head for Castle Park.

That is about all the early news we have to get 2020 underway. If you and your organising team are doing something special, do let us know.  We will include it in next time.


Good Luck with the new season – and don’t forget to use the new square AFO logo on all your publicity for your websites, your publications, your newsfeeds, social media, everywhere.  Be proud to be part of the team who will support you in managing your event.  Download it here 

Archive

10th December 2019

It was a busy summer ending roughly around the Bank Holiday weekend for the AFO office.
Early September became a clean and tidy up period with some office equipment and furniture moving to a new space.

By mid-September we were well into planning the AFO Conference for Stratford Manor mid-November and thinking about AFO plans for 2020 and 2021.

26 September
Travelled to Shipley in West Yorkshire to do an AFO workshop for young students looking at festival management.

3 October
Attended Live Music Group UK Music office, London to contribute to the overall 2019 festival music scene.

15 October
Represented AFO as an adjudicator at the Young Folk Award, Manchester BBC Radio2

16 October
Travelled to Showman’s Show, Newbury, making lots of AFO contacts and good networking.
Back in Manchester that evening for the Folk Awards.

29 October
Travelled to London to represent AFO at Powerful Thinking meeting which is about to merge with other green and sustainability groups into Vision 2025. A very successful meeting showing that the festival industry can lead the way in saving the planet and sustainability through events.

Early November
Final details for AFO Conference, settling agenda, communicating with speakers, panellists etc.
AFO Conference 8, 9 10 November.  See separate reports, slide presentations, notes etc. on website.

13 November
Attended BAFA Conference in London.  Various speakers from the world of classical and choral music.  SH presented with a Recognition for Good Work Award on behalf of AFO.  See separate story.

21 November
Presented an AFO workshop in Cardiff for Beyond the Border International Story Festival.

25 November|
Live Music Group, UK Music and environmental meeting in London.

2 December
Chaired the EIF board meeting in Birmingham, followed by the EIF Group meeting where representation from the Care Quality Commission made a presentation.  Further reports on that later.  Changes in first aid provision at venues and festivals likely.

Other plans for the future are an expansion of the support team, some changes in the Advisory Group and a restructuring of AFO membership drive and forward-thinking work.  More on this as it happens.

10th July 2019

Looking back to the beginning of June I was plotting which festivals I would want to visit.  There was an overriding feeling that ticket sales were a bit slow this year.  One or two sell-outs, like Shambala and Glastonbury of course, but there were many others from the smaller up to the middle size festivals reporting quite slow sales.  I think we unanimously put this down to the hopeless situation we find ourselves in regarding BREXIT and the indecision of our currently rather floppy government. (I never quite understand how 160 thousand conservative party members come to be electing our next Prime Minister to lead us out of this mire and back into some kind of sensibility, but there it is until such times as the rules change).

I do hope that by the time you read this ticket sales have picked up and the reasonably good summer weather (occasional showers) spurs people on to buying the tickets.

I visited the very successful Gate to Southwell on the weekend of 7-9 June.  The weather was pretty miserable, but the atmosphere of the event was upbeat and sparkling.  Mike Kirrage as the organiser was surprisingly very buoyant and smiling. 

Towards the end of June, I visited the Ashbourne Street Festival on my way home from Alan Bell (Fylde Festival) celebration of his life.  Sadly, Alan didn’t make it to his 85th Birthday (see previous News note).  The concerts were all sold out for the whole day and very successful they were.  All credit to Alan’s original booking and programming for his own event and the management from his wife Christine and son Jamie.  I was very pleased to be asked to introduce the artists for the final concert of the day. Alan was a long-standing friend and founder member of AFO.

Lioux Heap in the AFO office worked across that same day at the Oundle Food Festival applying much of what her experience of music festivals had to offer.  Another very successful event. 

Lioux went on to visit and work at Moonbeams Festival, on top of the Yorkshire Wolds, again a sold-out event that really has a special feel about it, with some stunning music heard.  I visited Timber in the National Forest near Ashby de la Zouch, organised and run on behalf of the National Forest by Wild Rumpus, also responsible for the Just So Festival.  Music stages do not headline this festival at all, it is hands-on and visual arts and plenty of it there was too.  All very carefully linked back to woodland, woods, working in wood and anything else you can think of to do with the nature of a forest.  Colourful, interesting, attractive and most of all uniquely different.  Rowan and Sarah now move to putting the final touches to the big children’s festival in Cheshire, Just So, on the weekend of 16-18 August.

On 13 July I will be visiting 2000 Trees Festival near Cheltenham, a first for me, report next time.
And then down to Larmer Tree for a couple of days, overlapping with Trowbridge and Stainsby.

During this period, I have also had meetings with Kevin Brennan, MP, regarding Business Rates on Greenfield Sites.  He has done a great deal of work on business rates on music venues and is now well briefed on the current situation regarding festivals.  Unlikely to be any action on this until the new parliament season commencing in the autumn. But should any festivals on greenfield sites be approached by the local authorities for a business rates situation either by other landlords or direct, I certainly need to know about it – we must gather the evidence to fight this off.

PRS – yes would you believe, it is rearing its head again!  We spent three years fighting the battle, arriving at an agreed figure, a percentage of 2.5 for most outdoor festivals with infrastructure. However, several members of the PRS team have not been properly briefed and are querying licence fees.  More on this as the evidence is gathered.  I hope we don’t have to fight this battle again.

Also watch out for PPL.  If you are approached by this organisation I would also like to know about it.  Evidence needs gathering.  We will continue to fight these issues on your behalf and at the same time put together an agenda for the Conference.  Put the dates in your diary now – 8, 9 and 10 November 2019 in Stratford upon Avon.  It is going to be a very busy, packed agenda for anybody connected to the festival scene. 

Sustainability – A word you may well be getting used to – whatever you do, do not become tired of it.  Until the earth is put back into some kind of sensible order for the next generation sustainability, recycling, green issues will feature.  And AFO will be at the front of the battle.  For now, I offer you a link from the organisation which became known as Extinction Rebellion published in Festival Insights.  The link is www.festivalinsights.com/2019/07/festivals-learn-extinction-rebellion well worth a read.
More of this at Conference.

I shall write again for you in later July.

SH

27th March 2019

FOR 2019 SEASON

You should by now be well into the planning of your festivals and events.  I hope ticket sales are going well and apart from a quick flurry of snow just a few days ago, spring seems to be heading our way, summer not far behind.  Good Luck with yours!

And finally, here is a challenge.  Would you help us with our publicity and marketing by describing your AFO in one sentence and drop me a line back as soon as you can.  Most of all be proud of your membership and use the AFO logo on your website, printed flyers, ads in mags and social media

 

25th March 2019

I attended the Open-Air Business (Glamping) Conference on behalf of AFO in Leicestershire.  Organised by the magazine Open Air Business, some of you will have seen at last year’s Conference, definitely a booming industry and if glamping isn’t part of your festival already, then it really should be.  It is demanded by potential customers and a money spinner for you.

Consider waste at your event, don’t just employ a company to take it away, go and see what they do with it.  They quite often welcome you to visit their plant.

Measure the amount of fuel you use on your site.  Site vehicles, generators etc.  If you do it this year you will then have bench mark for attempting to reduce it in future.

18th March 2019

I was in in the south of England talking to one or two potential sponsors for AFO Conference and moved on to a whole day of studying waste and recycling in Swindon and Devizes.  I will report accordingly and hopefully be recommending good companies to look after yours in a green 21st century way.

27th February 2019

A long telephone meeting with Jon Sloper, designer of the new AFO website.  If you haven’t looked at it in detail you are looking at some of it right now and you should search the rest where you will pick up lots of information and opportunities to market your own festivals and events.

And that brought an extremely busy February to an end.

As March opened I had a meeting with the organisers of the Festival Awards, probably the premier of the awarding business.  It could be said that there are now far too many of them but if only one had to stay this, and perhaps the Suppliers Award, should be the ones.
It gains a great deal of profile and is a very simple free nominating system.  If you have never nominated your festival for an award, you really should. The badge to be short listed is well worth having, even if you don’t win.  Watch this space for more info later in the year.

Continuing into March, I represented the Events Industry Forum (EIF) at a meeting at Bournemouth University to discuss our current major research opportunity.  More on this as the work develops.

26th February 2019

Attended the Production Show at Olympia where I get a view of new products, companies wanting to sell into our industry and will produce a separate newsletter with information.

Throughout January and February I had several calls from students as mentioned above and a variety of questions from members including insurance, PRS, how to start a festival, BREXIT, Conference and sponsorship.  We intend to prepare some early information on Conference and be on sale towards the end of March.

Membership of AFO continues to grow and plans for a training day later in this season are coming together.  Subject matter depends very much on membership telling us mostly what they require assistance with.

21st February 2019

Attended the Event Buyers Live (organised by Standout Magazine) where event organisers meet one-to-one with a variety of suppliers.  I ran a round table discussion on Festivals in the 21st Century.

20th February 2019

Attended Derby University, Buxton Campus Students Open Day where I do a presentation about the AFO and how we link into the Management Courses there.

18th February 2019

Attended Ron Rudd’s funeral.  Ron and his family have been stewarding at festivals throughout the UK for many years.  Sadly Ron has just died but leaves behind a tremendous legacy and a family who continue to volunteer at events.

13th February 2019

Visited Walking Arts Centre in search of a new Conference venue.  Have also been in touch with several other arts centres after the idea came from Sarah Bird at Wild Rumpus. Venue yet to be settled but date of Conference to put in your diaries is 8, 9 and 10 November 2019.

12th February 2019

Attended Oxford Brooke University to present an AFO A-Z for second and third year students on the Management Course.

8th February 2019

Met with S2VS ? This company provide electric powering points on festival and event sites for electric and hybrid cars.  They are about to join AFO and will present much more detail on the website.  Keep an eye on this.

7th February 2019

Presented an AFO Beginners Guide A-Z of Festival Management for the Broads Management Trust in Norwich.  These people look after the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads and are planning on running events.  Some of the people attending had some small experiences, but I am reliably informed that the whole workshop was very useful.

6th February 2019

Telephone interview with a student asking all the right questions in order to assist their dissertation.  This is something I do quite often and it is good to know that students can talk to us more senior festival organisers to improve their education.

31st January 2019

Attended the Show Must Go On and Powerful Thinking support group meeting in London.  Very useful gathering where thoughts of how we might continue to spread the word of sustainability in the festival and events industry for the next twelve months.  The Show Must Go On - Volume 2 will probably be publishes later this year.

Later in the evening attended the Festival Suppliers Awards dinner and presentations at the Hurlingham Club, a black tie affair, glitz and glamour but certainly helps to raise the profile for the industry and very well hosted by Annie Mack, Radio DJ.

26th January 2019

Attended Dancing England in Nottingham Play House.  An excellent show of english traditions first created by Phil Heaton and now further developed.  Looks like next year will be in the same place at about the same time.

22nd January 2019

I met with an insurance company - as we are always looking for the best possible deal.  We are currently with Graham Sykes Insurance (Nick Smith [email protected] Graham Sykes [email protected]) who AFO recommend.

7th January 2019

Although I kept in touch during the Christmas period, we were officially back in the office on 7 January dealing with a variety of admin issues, members calls and emails.

30th November -0001

It was a busy summer ending roughly around the Bank Holiday weekend for the AFO office.
Early September became a clean and tidy up period with some office equipment and furniture moving to a new space.

By mid-September we were well into planning the AFO Conference for Stratford Manor mid-November and thinking about AFO plans for 2020 and 2021.

26 September
Travelled to Shipley in West Yorkshire to do an AFO workshop for young students looking at festival management.

3 October
Attended Live Music Group UK Music office, London to contribute to the overall 2019 festival music scene.

15 October
Represented AFO as an adjudicator at the Young Folk Award, Manchester BBC Radio2

16 October
Travelled to Showman’s Show, Newbury, making lots of AFO contacts and good networking.
Back in Manchester that evening for the Folk Awards.

29 October
Travelled to London to represent AFO at Powerful Thinking meeting which is about to merge with other green and sustainability groups into Vision 2025. A very successful meeting showing that the festival industry can lead the way in saving the planet and sustainability through events.

Early November
Final details for AFO Conference, settling agenda, communicating with speakers, panellists etc.
AFO Conference 8, 9 10 November.  See separate reports, slide presentations, notes etc. on website.

13 November
Attended BAFA Conference in London.  Various speakers from the world of classical and choral music.  SH presented with a Recognition for Good Work Award on behalf of AFO.  See separate story.

21 November
Presenting an AFO workshop in Cardiff for Beyond the Border International Story Festival.

25 November
Live Music Group, UK Music and environmental meeting in London.

2 December
Chaired the EIF board meeting in Birmingham, followed by the EIF Group meeting where representation from the Care Quality Commission made a presentation.  Further reports on that later.  Changes in first aid provision at venues and festivals likely.

Other plans for the future are an expansion of the support team, some changes in the Advisory Group and a restructuring of AFO membership drive and forward-thinking work.  More on this as it happens.

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