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General Secretary Writes - The last few weeks

There has been a great deal going on since I last summarised the work we do on your behalf and I would like to bring you up to speed.  Some of this is included in emails sent out to members and other parts you will find in detail in the NEWS section on the AFO website

  • I can tell you that on 6 July I represented AFO in the EIF Board meeting to look at grant applications.  I am currently chair of EIF and was able to discuss for a short while how the Purple Guide Grant Funds could be distributed.  The Board decided on this occasion not to distribute any grants outside of our own circle and focus our attention on the next major piece of research on behalf of the whole industry.  More details on this will pop up soon.

Later same afternoon we had a full EIF meeting with a whole host of agenda items, mostly centred around COVID of course.For those interested full details can be accessed by dropping me an email.We then reassembled the Board to continue our discussions on how best to use Purple Guide Grant funds and came to the conclusion that we would employ Oxford Economics Research Group to look into the effects of COVID on the whole outdoor events industry and how best to help the industry get restarted.

  • On Wednesday 7 July AFO was invited to take a seat on the DCMS Working Group on Entertainment and Events.  Here we were not invited to speak but chipped in from time to time.  There are 60 people involved in this group  (hence the restriction on who speaks) and the debate was around guidance for outdoor events, more on this later, and getting the industry restarted.

Jim Winship on behalf of EIF was able to report that he and various EIF colleagues (me included) had written on behalf of DCMS the new Guidance for outdoor events.This is now available on the EIF website.Should you want to read the whole Guidance paper you will need to just register so that we can keep you informed with updates as they happen.Things are changing almost daily

Many other issues were discussed at this DCMS Group, not least of which whether any events could be possible, and this is where I was able to report that I knew of two or three events that were going to attempt to work with social distancing in the current year.

Later same day UK Music Live Group met to discuss how the general UK Music Board were reporting the concerns and issues of live music across the UK.There was some concern that the full UK Music Board was dominated somewhat by its funders, PRS and others, and it was generally felt that we will from time to time have to talk directly to DCMS and other government departments on behalf of Live Music.

  • 8 July Paul Reed, the General Manager of AIF, and I have been working closely together throughout this COVID period comparing notes, campaigning together where appropriate, working separately when not.  It has been a very valuable sharing experience and I will put it on record here to thank Paul for his open discussions.  On this occasion we decided we needed to put together some festival information to present to DCMS and so throughout this day in consultation with DCMS contacts we assembled a survey monkey.  That went out to all members and others.  The results of which were collated on Sunday 12 July and have been presented to DCMS today, 14 July.  Full details of how this was reported will be in my next news.

  • On Thursday 9 July I went live on Castledown FM in Wiltshire to talk about the effects of COVID-19 on the festival industry.  I was on air for about 15 minutes and had some very sensible questions which, in the main, I was answer and plugged AFO and its associate festivals.

  • Friday 10 July UK Music Live Group met at 9am to discuss progress on the previous meeting.

  • Sunday 12 July the afore-mentioned survey was collated over hours on Sunday afternoon.

  • 14 July is a UK Live zoom meeting to cover more general aspects of our Live Music work.

  • On 15 July I worked with Ich Mowatt at the Sounding Post to complete the NCASS subsidised AFO Conference publicity film, voice over and editing work.

  • On 16 July I hosted an AFO members zoom meeting at 6pm.

Other issues:

Tracking consumer sentiment – many thanks for some good work by Susan Tanner at NOEA who has very kindly been sharing lots of facts, figures, information during the COVID crisis.  Many of which have been reposted onto AFO and/or been the source of very valuable help and support.

This issue on tracking reminds us that:

  • The proportion of adults who fear the worst is still to come, or that things are going to remain the same, is stubbornly high.

  • The proportion who feel the worst has past has not yet exceeded a one in three and currently hovers around one in four.

  • Each week fewer of us expect normality to return this year.  This week though the proportion thinking it will never return increases again which of course is very concerning.

  • On average travel activists say that it will be three to four months before they next go on a day out to an attraction.  The lead times continue to drop but the curve flattened this week, indicating that we may be getting closer to a new normal in lead times.  Although not directly related to events this indication shows a public reluctance to return but with the beginnings of green shoots.

  • A new high in the proportion of adults who are struggling financially has been reported.  Families with children and those facing higher costs of living in London are amongst those most likely to be feeling the pinch.  Thanks to NOEA.

VAT cut – the best way to make sure we get this right is to look at   Also read , HMRC Public Notice 741A and take note of Cultural Exemption at
However in summary we have it on very good authority from the Secretary of State that this VAT cut on attractions includes festivals as long as they meet the necessary criteria within the VAT notices as described above.

  • The Chancellor announced on 10 July that VAT on ticket sales will be dropped from 20% to 5% for sales made in the period 15 July 2020 to 12 January 2021 inclusive.  i.e. you sell your ticket (and as many as you can) at the current price for your 2021 festival.  You pay 5% of that ticket value to HMRC in your VAT Return and you keep the balance to help support your festival through this difficult year.  See also

  • Of course, those of you with cultural exemption will not need to take any action at all as similarly those who are not registered for VAT.  This temporary reduced rate applies only to admission fees and does not apply to any other sales you may make.  For instance, trade, catering, separately sold souvenir programmes and brochures.

  • However, if the sale of the ticket includes some hospitality i.e. drink, food, welcome gift etc. then the whole of the package can be applied at 5%.

  • If the price of the admission ticket includes a souvenir programme (that could be purchased separately) it can be included in the 5%, however, if sold separately and if normally included in your VAT Return, it should remain at 20%.

I hope that is all very clear.  If you have any queries, there is a very simple route to finding the right answers at

This was a hard-fought battle lead by UK Music of which AFO is a member and we fought alongside others on your behalf.  You now have an opportunity to make clear extra funds by selling as many tickets as possible for your 2021 season.

I recently wrote a few words for AFO member Tally Wade for her magazine ‘OpenAir Business’.
Due for publication in the next week or so.  Included in those words is a call for anyone who wishes to write their own MP to talk about their own local festival.

You may well have seen in AFO News that Vision:2025 published their July Newsletter packed full of facts, figures, information examples and indeed an interview with yours truly on how sustainability must remain high up the agenda even in this very difficult COVID climate.

During DCMS discussions AFO forwarded a direct question to the Minister for Digital and Culture, Caroline Dinenage MP, clearly asking ‘Does the new £1.57bn fund and the VAT reduction include festivals?’ and the answer was quite clear ‘Festivals have not been ruled out’.  We have since asked for further clarification and received a reply from back bench MP Steve Brine who told us that he has asked the question of the Secretary of State and received a clear and definitive answer that festivals were included in the above.

There is plenty more going on in this extremely busy AFO office on your behalf and we are happy to receive any queries and questions for clarification and more information.  We hope that you are now able to move forward and start planning your 2021 festivals for a successful return next season.

Association of Festival Organisers (AFO): 17th Jul 2020 16:01:00

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