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General Secretary Writes - Happy New Year - Welcome to 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]

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
There 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.

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 

Association of Festival Organisers (AFO): 16th Jan 2020 14:38:00

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