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General Secretary Writes - November 2020

....and so the pandemic goes on!

Who would have thought back in March that this beast would survive ‘til Christmas and beyond? Who would have though virtually the whole 2020 festival season would be postponed?

Who would have thought our Festival industry would be so creative as to lead the way in getting festivals and events moving again? We are still amongst the few that have actually staged events. Congratulations to Peter Chegwyn, Beardy Dave, Josh at Medicine and a good few more. You have become the examples of resilience and skilled alternative management at DCMS.

The BIG boys in the festival world are still saying without the demise of social distancing they will not run festivals. I totally understand that and would agree that a vast crowd of people dancing shoulder to shoulder is not going to do much towards halting the spread of this vile disease. UNLESS of course the science comes up with some answers and is quick about it.

Of course, just as I was writing this they did. It looks like a vaccine could be moving in our direction very soon. For now, remain locked down, cautious and keep planning just in case.

Festivals really need 3 things to get moving properly again.

1. A vaccine for all (see above)
2. Or a very fast (10 mins) test
3. And most of all Public confidence

You could run your festival in 2021, it may have to be different and if you need to know how to adapt your event try reading how the London Marathon did it. (thanks to Standout magazine).

We could dwell on the above, do nothing until the science solves the problem or we could do some 2021 planning. I would suggest, as I have before… plan for both. It will not be cheap, it will not be easy, but the alternative is to do nothing and get caught ill prepared when the OK GREEN light comes on. I’ll leave that thought with you.

I can tell you that there is help out there. The events world is creative and resilient and AFO has lots of friends wanting to assist us.

WORKSHOP SYMPHOTECH is one such company, made up of some of the best Health and Safety specialists in the UK. They were fortunate to be granted funds in the CRF game and have committed to using some of that to help the industry get moving again. That is us !! and they have chosen members of AFO as the people to help.

More detail to come but hang onto Saturday 12 December for a COVID safety workshop called

"RECOVER AND RE-OPEN" is totally FREE for AFO members and includes support material, Q+A and even a follow up at AFO conference on 20 February 2021.

FUNDING I mentioned funding, so if you applied to CRF and was not granted you might try the new Local Authority discretionary grants. See AFO NEWS on website for details. Get in there quick.

SHOWMAN’S SHOW For those that are regulars down the A34 like me you will have missed that getting together feeling that always comes to us at this show. The Lance family (organisers) made the decision to take the year off because of… you know why… so they did do some stuff online, and the good news is they aim to be back next year so hold on for your October fix.

A CHANGE OF VIEW In school half term I took a break, well more of a move of office and change of scenery - we went to Keswick. The weather was interesting. If I tell you I met a chap called NOAH who said he was building an ARC, would that describe it? Still, we had the Billy Connolly script of great statements and spent time out in amongst the most beautiful colours, hills, mountains, lakes and walks plus I went to a pub for the first time since February.

LIVE Whilst in Keswick I took part in a UK MUSIC LIVE group online meeting. This gathering is now every Thursday morning and is a separate entity to UKM. It’s now called LIVE and represents the live music venues and entertainment world.

NEWS In other news since I last wrote - I joined a zoom meeting with Julian Knight MP, chair of DCMS select committee. He is very interested in how the outdoor events industry is coping with the pandemic and will keep in close contact to get the latest on Festivals and events. He is also planning a Festival Focus in the committee (see later). Evidence will be called for and AFO have already started to deliver, your chance is here to give evidence.

On Thursday 5 November, our now regular LIVE meeting brought up Covid-19 rules for music and other entertainment. There are loads, some are really obvious, others make you wonder! Rehearsals are classed as work where music sessions are not, some educational classes are allowed, others are not. If you are affected and need the detail go to GOV.UK and see Covid regulations. Performance without an audience can go ahead like Streaming and TV filming is also possible.

FURLOUGH The great news of course was the extension of Furlough to 31 March 2021. Of course, you may wonder why they would do that as a four-week lock down begins? Could it be they are planning to open up on 3 December for Christmas shopping then lock down again in January? THE CRACKS Once again several of our industries support staff are excluded from the funds, the cracks seem to be widening but new furlough is a clear example of how lobbying and protesting can change Government minds(welcome to the world of Marcus Rashford.) so if you have an opportunity to speak to your MP or the press grab it with both hands. Every little helps.

INSURANCE One thing we all know we need to run our festivals in 2021 is Covid insurance. Hang in for a while it is coming. There are two projects underway to put to HM treasury and already there is a recognition that along with other industries we can’t move forward without insurance. More on that as it happens. At 12noon the same day, 5/11, the DCMS festivals working group came together to agree the next steps in beefing up the festival's guidance. Just like The Purple Guide experts had to step up and agree to write more detail on how festivals could go ahead in the Covid climate. They did and the results will appear as an amended guidance soon on The Purple Guide website, where you will also find all the other guides, tips and ideas. Of course, if we are able to go ahead with Covid behind us then revert to the PG , but don’t hold yer breath.

AND NEXT Unfortunately I was unable to attend a Vision 2025 sustainability online workshop on 11 November. NET ZERO is the target and progress has been made. A new incumbent at the White House will help of course. The rest of the week was Powerful Thinking meeting, our regular LIVE group, and a meet with the new CEO of UK Music. All of which went well. Last night was an AFO members online meeting, which was very productive. Notes will be posted in 'Resources'. Today (Friday 13th) I have a zoom with Paul Scully MP to discuss small businesses and community and links to festivals and Covid. To finish Friday, I will chair the EIF members meeting where we will discover how our support industry are faring in today's planning cycle.

MUSIC A Queen tribute band should have been on in Matlock Bath on Saturday, sadly now postponed but music survives when MERRY HELL go online at 7pm on Sunday 15 November. About the same time Simon Care does his online slot so you could switch between the two for concert variety.

OR if you are in the area of Chester Zoo there might be the Wild Rumpus Lantern Festival but do check before setting out.

Now, just before I pressed send - DCMS announced the long awaited select committee enquiry into "the future of UK music festivals". This is the culmination of several months of lobbying and pressure to get the message over to MPs, DCMS and over government departments. The treasury needs the revenue that our industry delivers every year; the communities need the input to their local economy and jobs; the UK needs festivals for people to gather in the way that have for 1000's of years. We all need music. Now have your say, this is a one-off chance to wave the banner for the future of UK festivals. Read more here

That’s about it for now, there is of course tons going on and I hope some of the above is useful to you. There will be more at the AFO members meetings online and I will write again soon.

Did someone say Christmas? And before that the shortest day of the year on 21 December. Festivals not far off.

Stay Safe and Best Wishes. (by the time you read this Mr Trump might have actually admitted defeat!).

Association of Festival Organisers (AFO): 13th Nov 2020 09:50:00

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