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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

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AFO General Secretary's Blog

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

Archive

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.

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