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General Secretary Writes - September 2020

So that’s about the end of the 2020 season

When I last wrote the details of my diary known as ‘General Secretary Writes’, we were in the middle of August with loads of festivals that should have happened and of course virtually none did.

We continue to talk with government through DCMS and UK Music amongst others to achieve best possible deals for festivals and that was continued on 12 August when we had a UK Live Group meeting discussing how the live music scene should approach government with reference to the end of furlough due in October.

AFO members met at 6.30 that evening and much of the same was discussed.

I hope these members zoom meetings are of some use (we have now left zoom and gone to ‘Go To’ meetings).  Around 20 to 25 members sign up each month and we always have plenty to talk about.

13 August - Some key members of the Advisory Group met again on zoom and looked at ideas for Conference and other issues to do with how AFO festivals will survive the winter.

18 August - Events Industry Forum (EIF) Board meeting took place where we discussed how the outdoor events industry might campaign to try and save our Eco System known as The Support Group.

19 August - Arts Council provided a webinar on how to get onto Grantium and then onto making applications.  I hope that was useful for some members.

25 August - AFO met online with the new editors of Mash Media (Access All Areas magazine).
This group are also responsible for the presentation of The Production Show which next year takes place 2 and 3 March at EXEL in Docklands, more on that later.

26 August - UK Music Full Group met and discussed the wider issues affecting the music industry, not least of which VAT reduction and the hope for an extension, PRS on streaming and the end of the furlough scheme.

27 August - (I should have been at Towersey Festival!) EIF board met with ex MPs to look at employing their services to help us lobby government for the whole industry.

29 August - SH and LH took part in the Home-made Towersey day. A great occasion.

1 September - UK Live Group met again to discuss more urgent issues regarding a shortage of support from the main UK Music Board and whether a separate Live Group organisation might be appropriate, this is still under review.

2 September - EIF Board Members met the chosen ex MP, Andrew Bingham, to lead the battles previously mentioned.

3 September - SH held a zoom meeting with Esther Coren who is looking at how universities might be able to help us with a major piece of AFO research into the festival industry.  We are now looking for the funding to cover this.

8 September - EIF full members meeting online where members were brought up to date with all the activities that the Board had been up to.  EIF now represents 28 different associations within the outdoor events industry.  All the suppliers that you, as festival organisers, deal with are members of associations and these people are represented at the EIF level.  This is a very powerful organisation; we currently hold the chair and find the vehicle very useful for the further benefit or the whole outdoor events industry.

9 September - UK Music met again to update on latest campaigns and activities.

10 September - AFO members zoom meeting SH brought everyone up to date with all the activities that have been going on and gave those attending an opportunity to talk about grant applications and other issues.  Here was the early concern for the 2021 early festival season.  More of that in a moment.

11 September - AFO Advisors meeting discussed an improvement and update of AFO quotes i.e. recommendations.  We now call this Talking Heads as we are hoping to be able to do most of them by video shots.  SH also talked about the UK Music work and the proposed split, including fees. SH also reported on links to Folk Expo, a very forward-thinking organisation looking at improving the lot of agents and artists in particular.  We also discussed AFO membership fees.  More of this will come out soon.

16 September - EIF Board meeting to discuss local authorities’ cancellation of events.  In particular the short notice given to Southampton Boat Show and the way that local authorities throughout the country are starting to ignore the government guidance and using their own thoughts and ideas on whether events should or should not go ahead. More of this as EIF challenge local authorities.

17 September - met with Rob from the festival Two Thousand Trees who is looking at trying to plant a million trees throughout the world in the next festival season.  More of this will appear on our AFO website.  I think AFO members could easily join in.  Later same day I attended the AIF AGM and witnessed discussions and information gathering.

18 September - EIF zoom meeting with the new consortium consisting of Andrew Bingham ex MP, Simon Hughes, Chair of BVEP and UK Music, linking with EIF to form a consortium to approach government in support of our eco system.  i.e. especially the parts of our business that have fallen through the funding cracks.

Lioux Heap and Simon Care from our Advisory Group attended the Beardy Folk Festival in Shropshire.  Their full report will feature later.  This was a very well organised, Covid-safe event and hopefully will be a good example of how festivals can move forward in this difficult time.

23 September - AFO will attend a DCMS Festivals Working Group look at the final version of the festivals addendum to the DCMS Guidance for running outdoor events in a Covid-safe way.

AFO has had discussions with Attitude is Everything and noted that from their research one in five people in the UK have some form of disability.  It is also noted that an enormous number of disabled people do not attend festivals because of the fear of them not being suitable or well enough equipped.  Several campaigns coming out of Attitude is Everything will help us find our way to capturing some of this untapped market.  At the same time as honouring our duty to provide better facilities for all.

The Purple Guide - as members will know the Purple Guide is an online document costing £25 a year but is invaluable to any festival organiser and being online it is constantly being updated.  New chapters on welfare and Covid-safe are appearing as we speak.

AFO also has good contact with Traditional Music Forum in Scotland and should anyone require a link to see their weekly blog drop me a line.  The issues in Scotland are not unlike those in England, the difference being Scottish traditional music is much better funded than that in England.

Early season cancellations have commenced.  It is very disturbing and worrying to see Ireby Festival have already decided to cancel their Cumbrian Festival at the start of the 2021 season (now 27 & 28 May 2022).  Festivals towards the end of May like Chippenham and Bearded Theory are on target and we hope that they will be able to stage their usual festival at the very least.

AFO encourages members to plan for a 2021 festival and also plan for a Covid-safe, perhaps reduced, version.

Finally, we have formed very good relations with events industry magazines such as Standout which is an amazing resource for supplier contacts.  In every edition usually 6 to 8 pages of good contacts of companies than can be used in festival management.  Access All Areas is another good publication, always full of good comment and interviews as well as from their publishers, Mash Media, The Production Show as mentioned in March 2021.  At this show AFO will host a panel of what we are calling grass roots festivals to discuss current issues yet to be decided.  Entry to the Production Show 2 and 3 March at EXEL London Docklands is free of charge.  Go on ‘The Production Show’ site for further details.

I should be able to write a blog in the middle of October with updates and latest information.  For now, get stuck into planning 2021.  The virus may well not be behind us yet, but we will survive and come back fighting.  Good Luck.

22 September 2020

Association of Festival Organisers (AFO): 24th Sep 2020 16:20:00

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