A quick catch up
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.
SHGeneral Secretary Writes ... News
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