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General Secretary Writes - 28 January 2021

January 2021 part 2

In my last blog to AFO on 12 January I thought I would be leaving it about a month before writing again.  However, things are changing daily so I thought I would come to you a little early 

  • With now only three weeks to go to AFO Conference Saturday 20 February 2021, I strongly recommend that you get onto the AFO website at and book now. Only £40 for members and it gives you access to any part of the agenda or the whole day, including live music, one-to-ones, panels, speakers and tons of networking.  Just like at a face-to-face conference that we would normally hold in November.

The full agenda will be up on the website any minute now, keep a look out. 

  • Tonight we have our members online meeting and welcome our guest speaker, the CEO of UK Music, Jamie Njoku-Goodwin.  More on that in notes to follow.
  • CRF 2 - as most of you will already know i.e., the £258M left in the pot for distribution has now closed. Those of you who were planning on applying, I hope you have done it.
    There were literally thousands of people applying in the second round so your chances are a little diminished, but if your application is strong, genuine, and honest then you have as good a chance as anybody else.  I wish you luck.  Whether you are successful or not, dropping a line to AFO office to let us know would be very valuable.  We gather such information to re-approach the Arts Council in view of further grant aid when it becomes available.
  • Between my last blog (12 January) and this one we have been posting loads of information up on the AFO website under NEWS. Keep up to speed with everything that is going on, not just in my writing but in general information from DCMS, other government departments, Arts Council England and the wider events industry.

My Diary

  • 12 January AFO was welcomed to a roundtable discussion with Caroline Dinenage MP.
    The meeting which was brought together by DCMS was an interesting discussion, including Caroline herself saying that she believed that summer festivals were probably still going to be a problem in 2021, but was unable to offer any start date due to the ever-changing climate of the pandemic. We have in the meantime consulted with scientists and advisers to DCMS asking them to give us some indication as to what percentage of the adult population would need to be vaccinated before government were prepared to start considering crowds of people in one place.

    This same meeting has an update on progress on the Venues Working Group led by Lucy Noble from the Royal Albert Hall and the various insurance proposals led mostly by Phil Bowdery from CPA.  Insurance to cover pandemics in the festival industry is a little closer to the finishing line than it was, but still some work to do.

Jacob from Attitude Is Everything asked about health passports and Caroline Dinenage said they were not yet available, but government had given it some consideration.  The Danish government are planning on putting one in place soon.  Greg Parmley asked the minister about the problems the music industry was having with BREXIT both incoming and outgoing musicians.  Caroline reported that the government were currently looking at the problem and would be continuing to consult with the music industry to find best ways forward. 

  • 13 January working with adviser David Agnew (Bury Met) we had a meeting with Arts Council advisers reference project funding for AFO. An application has now gone in.
  • 14 January a regular meeting with the LIVE Group where we discussed a wide variety of issues linked to venues, concerts, festivals vis-à-vis Covid.

Just after lunch it was time for another Lucy Stone webinar on how to apply for Cultural Recovery Fund 2.  For those of you who were applying I hope you were able to join in the webinar and learn how this whole business works (thanks to LIVE for arranging). 

At the end of that day, we had held the biggest AFO members online meet that we have had since starting.  A wide variety of subjects were discussed including the Symphotech webinars which were very well received, and should you want any more of this kind of training session now is a good time to tell us.

We also discussed Conference, CRF2, a start date for the festival industry (still elusive) and heard from John Potter at Folk East who has got the approval of his local SAG Group to run small events in 2021.  This is starting to pop up around the country.  It appears that local authorities are very keen to see events recommence on their patch. But of course, they have to be Covid-safe, our customers come first. 

  • 15 January Melvin Benn, Live Nation/Festival Republic, presented a webinar on Testing at Festival Sites and Pre-festival. Very well researched and very interesting piece of work which he is intending to pursue with a view to trying to get some major festivals back on the road towards the end of summer.
  • 18 January there was a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Events chaired by Theresa Villiers, MP. AFO was given the job of representing the Events Industry Forum at this meeting alongside several other organisers of associations linked to the festival industry. Theresa chaired the meeting herself and was very interested to hear about the further problems of the outdoor events industry in terms of funding, but in particular the insurance debate mentioned above which she intends to take away and discuss with the Secretary of State.
  • 19 January DCMS Festivals Working Group met to discuss the commissioning of Coventry University and two specialists to write details into the Festival Supplementary Guidance for the Running of Covid-safe Events. It was hoped when we first started out down the road of writing these that they would never be needed.  Unfortunately, it is looking very likely that they will, so when complete they will be available free of charge on the Purple Guide website, which should be by mid-February.  These guidance notes will help enormously with your planning for 2021 if you are going ahead with either a smaller version of your festival or even late season full festival.
  • 20 January AFO interviewed on BBC Radio4 reference the Covid effect on festivals.
  • 21 January regular LIVE Group meeting which once again looked at an update on the insurance issue, the fact that pilot shows had in the main been cancelled but were being rescheduled for later in the year and vaccinations and health passports. No set conclusions were reached but it is good to keep talking about these possible issues.  Music Venues Trust at this meeting presented a proposal for social investment and tax relief in music venues.  There was a lot of support for Mark Davyd’s proposal and we wish him luck in taking it forward to various government departments.

A BREXIT update was given by Craig Stanley who reminded us of the ups and downs of leaving EU vis-à-vis the music industry.  It was interesting to note that government have and will continue to put more money and information into rescuing the fishing industry, worth about £20Bn and not much into the music industry worth at least twice as much. 

Our friends at PSA are putting together a carnet document and workshop (paperwork to do with exporting musicians and equipment) sometime in the near future, watch this space. 


After BBC Radio4 and the Glastonbury website put out news that they were cancelling, we were inundated in the AFO office with media wanting comment.  I was invited onto a whole host of radio and television programmes and gave interviews to several newspapers, including The Times and The Independent. 

  • 22 January the Daily Telegraph were writing an article about under 18’s possibly being banned from music festivals because of the dangers of Covid spreading. AFO’s comment on this was ‘that will be a non-starter.  It sounded like trivial rubbish’ and commented no further.

BBC in the South West Spotlight programme interviewed General Secretary for their programme about how the effects of Glastonbury cancellation will be on other festivals in the region.  AFO commented that, ‘Sad as it is to see Glastonbury go, it should not be detrimental, in fact could possibly be of benefit to other festivals in the region’. 


Events Industry Forum board met followed by a members’ meeting.  Several issues of the wider events industry were discussed (AFO holds the Chair at present) and AFO asked for more research into how many people are actually involved in membership of associations. 

Also that day the LIVE Environmental Group met under the chairmanship of John Langdon (AEG) and heard how we must work closely with other groups looking into sustainability.  The key message being just because of Covid we shouldn’t take our eye off the ball of saving the planet.  The music industry was leading the way in 2019 and can pick up the baton and lead again in the future.  Stay in touch with such bodies as Powerful Thinking, Vision:2025, Julie’s Bicycle and Ecolibrium and join AFO Conference on 20 February for a full one-hour session led by experts in the field. 

  • 25 January the team that will present the AFO Conference met for checking through the agenda before it is ready for publishing. A few i’s to dot and t’s to cross and then it should be out.  I strongly recommend you joining us for Conference, it is an online 12-hour event, and you can join at any point for any of the sessions or the whole, including music and networking.
  • 26 January had meeting with Tysers Insurance Company leading the way on the pandemic insurance to give AFO’s point of view and some help and advice about grass roots festivals.
  • 28 January our regular LIVE Group meeting got the latest update on speculation on how long the lockdown will last and how we will go back into the tier system and of course how that will affect the planning cycle for festivals. It should be noted that we are now very much into the period of decision-making time, especially for early season festivals and mid-summer.  The later summer festivals are more likely to hang on until the end of March to see how the land lies.
  • 29 January will hold a zoom meeting with Jacob Adams from Attitude is Everything to pick up on how best festivals can handle accessibility. Full report on this soon.
  • For those of you who missed it Glastonbury have cancelled, and we posted information on the AFO website called Fallow and Furloughed.
  • A recent report in Access All Areas magazine suggested a lack of local authority support in the events industry would cause difficulties. The photograph accompanying this article was a major rock and pop festival, but in fact the article was about conferences, exhibitions, and the business industry.  This just further highlights the confusion that government and indeed the press have with the events industry as a whole.  One Industry One Voice is trying to correct this by bringing all branches of the events industry together, be it indoor, outdoor, or otherwise.
  • Access All Areas also recently reported on a project in Spain of successful non-socially distanced test concerts where 1000 people gathered in one space for a concert. They were all tested in advance, negative, they were all tested on exit, negative, and to date there have been no reports of any infections.  If Spain can do it why can’t the UK?
  • The AFO website in resources for members now carries the acronyms file. Throughout the Covid crisis there have been a good number of acronyms used and we felt it was time we started explaining what some of these things are.  Have a look at resources where I hope these may be useful.
  • In addition to that there are words being used that perhaps were not so popular in pre-Covid years. For instance, “cabotage” is effectively the right to operate transport by sea, air, rail and road in a specified region, something that is now affecting the import and export of music, trucks, equipment etc. etc.
  • “Escro account” - when a third party holds money on behalf of two other parties.
    For instance, if you sell your tickets through an agency they will hold your money in an escro account, effectively meaning they can’t spend it, and neither can you until you claim it back from them on production of the goods that the customer purchased. An escro account can sometimes deduct an agreed commission fee.

It is unlikely that another blog will be written prior to Conference on 20 February so don’t miss your chance to book and join in and the next blog of course will be a full report. 

PRS / Streaming

Just as we went to press – PRS unilaterally declared a new license fee for “streaming”.

We need a day or two to better understand the effect on AFO members but for now I can tell you I spent 3 years of meetings with PRS on LIVE Licensing fees and finally we had a fair and reasonable settlement. 

PRS for streaming have offered no consultation at all and will now be subjected to a barrage of correspondence from our industry. 

At this most difficult time of crisis, musicians and venues are struggling enough without the heavy, bullish hand of the giants kicking them whilst down.  More on this soon. 

I wish you every success with any planning you have in mind and always feel comfortable to contact AFO office if you need help. 

28 January 2021

Association of Festival Organisers (AFO): 28th Jan 2021 14:08:00

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