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General Secretary Writes - August 2020

I think I brought my diary up to date with you to somewhere in the middle of July.

I can tell you now that on 19 July we had a meet with Simon Care to discuss a few things about how AFO was handling the Covid crisis.  We also had a moment to check out the Albion Christmas Tour which may or may not occur and the Towersey At Home Day on 29 August.

20 July - I was invited to appear on BBC Breakfast from a socially distance site in Gisburne in Lancashire.  Here the organisers normally wedding planners have converted their outdoor space into a social distance and Covid-safe concert venue.  It looked to be working very well.  We didn’t actually see any concerts, but the BBC Team were keen to talk about how things were going as far as festivals were concerned.  I was able to plug AFO and you can see it here on Facebook

21 July - was a UK Music Live Group meeting once again discussing how the industry was going to survive this winter and the early stages of the grants that were about to come in from government.

24 July - the Events Industry Forum Board had a meeting to assess how the individual associations linked members of EIF were coping.  It wasn’t good news I’m afraid with several desperately short of work, companies having to lay people off and preparing for the end of furlough in October.

We went on later same day to a general members meeting which just reiterated more of the same.

It was decided that grants would not be issued at this point and that EIF would indulge in some of its own research on PR which is now underway.

25 July - had an excellent phone meeting with Folk Expo who seem to have taken over a good deal of the mantle previously held by EFDSS.  Everyone to their own.  They are certainly doing a lot of up-front profile work on behalf of the minority music.  Obviously, their Expo itself has been cancelled for this year but I believe plans are underway for a revisit in 2021.

28 July - I presented a half hour seminar for Event Management students with a company called Springboard who look after university students needing assistance.  The session seemed to go quite well.  I think we had about 25 students from 4 universities with 3 tutors, only one of which fell asleep.

I was talking almost entirely about the situation regarding Covid and the events industry. 

31 July  -for those of you who have to pay tax in two pieces, this was the date you should have done it.  That is your reminder.

3 August - a number of friends seem to have travelled to Devon to re-enact a few of the great traditions of Sidmouth Festival.  However, I am not sure what the locals would think about that.  We are all suffering the same problem, not able to run our festivals.  It is sad that these traditions are, for this year, on the back burner.  We will be back.

That same morning a small group of us from UK Live were able to meet to discuss internal politics and the way forward for the best options for UK Music in the live sector.

In the afternoon I represented AFO at the DCMS Working Group on getting festivals re-opened.

There is already the EIF/DCMS work on Outdoor Events Guidance.  This is to get the ball rolling on writing some special words for the re-opening of festivals.  At this point we must all be aware that we are now well into the early season festival planning cycle and festivals taking place in April and May will already be getting nervous.  I have heard of at least two that are not going to happen already.  If this Guidance can be published within the next few weeks, it might help people with their planning cycle, but I think it is generally felt that social distancing may well still be in place through into the spring.

On behalf of AFO I appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live late-night show with one or two other festival organisers including Fiona Stewart from Green Man to talk about the festival scene in general and how it was coping.  We both made positive noises about the future because we both firmly believe that if we don’t start planning 2021 now it won’t happen.  If Covid is still with us and we have to reschedule everything then that is what we will do but planning we must get on with.

4 August - the full UK Live Music Group met to review how festivals and events and live concerts would apply for the Arts Council funding that had come as part of the £1.57Bn grant.  UK Music have very kindly made arrangements with the assistance of Music Venues Trust to run webinars and have provided contacts for people who specialise in fund raising to be employed and help.  If you need any further help on this, you need to contact AFO office or see the Covid News on the website for contact details.

7 August - one of those aforementioned webinars takes place.

12 August - UK Live will meet again to review how the application process is actually working, having been up and running for 48 hours and later same day will be the AFO next members zoom meeting.

Throughout all of this around the office the Covid crisis is obviously the predominant factor and I am grateful to members for keeping me informed with their activities, their plans, their concerns, their questions and in some cases even the answers.  Much more on this appears on the AFO website under Covid-19.

And finally I can tell you that we are lobbying government to have an extension made to the VAT reduction carrying us at 5% through to the end of March 2021.  We are also asking government to make announcements to local authorities to properly use the already existing Guidance for Outdoor Events Re-Start.  The question of rollover licensing with local authorities is going well in some areas and not so well in others.  If you are having any issues with your licensing fees to local authorities ask for a rollover to 2021, then please do let us know.

Good luck with next few months of planning and do stay in touch.

Steve Heap: 11th Aug 2020 12:59:00

General Secretary Writes ... News

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