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General Secretary Writes - June 2021

As always since I last wrote this blog there has been a lot of action; loads of meetings, discussions and even a few decisions.

For a start here is a little bit of general news.

General News
Someone asked the other day why they had been sent a proforma invoice, so I dug out a bit of information as this is a common occurrence these days.

What is a proforma invoice?
It is a document that you can give to a customer if they need an indication of price while you are still negotiating the exact terms or scope of a sale.  Like an estimate, a proforma invoice gives the customer a sense of what they might need to spend, but it is not a quotation and you are not obliged to provide the goods or services at the stated price.  It’s the kind of thing that helps the customer organise their budget.

However, a proforma invoice is for information only and the final amount may change and this should be made very clear.  It shouldn’t be added to your accounts and the amount should not appear as part of your sales or your list of debtors.

Musicians UK Touring
Not a direct effect on most of our festival members but for those who link to musicians trying to get back into Europe when allowed, LIVE are doing some great work through our colleague Craig Stanley.  Should you or others wish to contact LIVE email Greg Parmley at [email protected] re: Musicians European Touring After BREXIT. It should also be noted that the DCMS Select Committee have recently been conducting an investigation into why it is still a problem when BREXIT is now half a year behind us.

As readers of this column will have noticed, insurance, government backed or otherwise, is now impossible to get to cover issues connected to a pandemic and Covid in particular.
Tim Thornhill from Tysers has been leading the charge for several months now and pulling together facts, figures, information with which to challenge government. He is being supported by Julian Knight and the DCMS Select Committee and over 50 MPs who signed a letter to the Prime Minister to intervene in order to save large parts of the festival and events industry from yet another year of cancellations.

Just when we thought it was all over there was a chink in the armour of Treasury and the suggested action is to wait until after 14 June when the Prime Minister will make some announcements.  At time of writing there was a very strong rumour that the Cabinet had generally agreed that 21 June opening day COULD BE DELAYED FOR 3 TO 4 WEEKS in order to see how the new variants pan out (I blame the Greeks).

Supply and Supplier Shortage
This issue was flagged up in our news columns several months ago and it is now coming to the fore.  The problem is with mobile toilets, marquees, floors, security staff, generators etc. etc. going to test centres and vaccination centres throughout the country at much better prices than the events industry can pay, there is now beginning to show a shortage.  Many reports are coming into AFO office of toilet facilities shortage and certainly security staff. We are compiling a report at the moment so if you are experiencing any of this then do let us know straight away.

Meanwhile the Events Industry Forum (EIF) has put together notification of this direct to Boris Johnson and several members of the Cabinet to make sure that they understand that Covid and indeed BREXIT and its new immigration rules are causing some problems with equipment shortage and certainly staffing.  AFO has put its name to the letter.

Good Advice
Warwickshire and Coventry local authorities have put together their approach to festivities and events in 2021, a really interesting and valuable document, encouraging and guiding event organisers on how best to work with their SAG and how events are welcomed in the area.  Should anyone require a copy of this, contact AFO office.

AFO Members Meetings
These are held on a regular basis usually every two to three weeks.  Keep an eye out for emails to your office from ours telling you of the next date.

20 May our meeting welcomed Jonathan Lomax from the Blakeney Group.  This is the PR company who work directly for LIVE and Jonathan very kindly brought us all up to date on a whole range of Covid issues on the Roadmap – Covid-safe Certification (now probably dead and buried), and the Pilot schemes.  Members attending had the opportunity to ask questions and Jonathan was regarded by many after the meeting as being one of the best speakers we have ever had.

Our next meeting may well have passed by the time you read this.  (10 June with speaker Tim Thornhill from Tysers Insurance).
if you want to join in these meetings you are very welcome.  Free of charge, usually on Thursdays at 6.30pm and the next one being on Thursday 1 July.  Sign up by dropping a line to [email protected]

PRS on Streaming
Readers will remember from previous editions that PRS are now looking to licence streamed events whether they are live with streaming or just streaming. Without much discussion a figure of 10% has been announced by PRS as a licence fee for an interim period covering Covid pandemic.  They will then be reviewing this figure and are aiming at between 10-18%.

The 10% is of gross takings after VAT but commences with streaming that nets £1500 at least so if yours is free or indeed takes less than £1500 you won’t need a licence.  See PRS for Music website

At time of writing, we were still receiving comments from delegates who attended our February online, streamed Conference saying it was a great experience.  We did consider doing that again in November, however, there seems to be a general feel for the need to get face-to-face so on 5 and 6 November we will hold a face-to-face Conference in a venue in the Midlands.  If you have an opinion on face-to-face and/or streamed then do drop us a line.  We are also looking for subject matter that will be of interest to you, and of course, speakers.  The door is also open for showcase performance if you have anybody interested the list to choose from is already building.

I am not saying much about Covid here this time because we are all waiting with fingers crossed for Prime Minister announcements on 14 June with a view to actioning on 21 June. However, as previously mentioned, rumours are coming out of Whitehall that a delay of three to four weeks may well be possible.  More on this when it happens.

Climate Action Group for AFO
On 23 June @ 3pm, the new Climate for Action Group of AFO will meet and get started on a job much bigger than defeating Covid-19.
Guest speaker and AFO Advisory Group member, Chris Johnson (Shambala Festival) will give some of his 15 years' experience in this work.

The new AFO group will then set about plotting an achievable goal, a longer-term plan and forge links with similar groups on other event industry associations.

If, as you read this you did volunteer to be in the group and you haven't got the link for the meeting, please contact [email protected] now.

And so to my diary...
Since my last General Secretary Writes on 11 May I have attended regular LIVE meetings every Thursday.  These alternate between the Executive Group of which we are members and the General Group.  The former is normally about various issues of LIVE business and the latter usually has over 60 people from all around the live music industry including speakers and representatives from government departments so take it as read that if you have a query that you need me to raise on your behalf there will be a LIVE meeting on a Thursday coming soon.

13 May DCMS Select Committee met and were viewed on Parliament TV.  They were discussing the insurance issue in particular.  Same day was EIF meeting with Tom Rodden, Chief Scientific Officer to DCMS.  This gives an opportunity for AFO to join in with specific questions.  Tom as always was very open, informative and a valuable ally.

18 May I joined a Cabinet Office roundtable discussion chaired by Michael Gov, MP discussing the possibility of what used to be called the passport and soon became a Covid Status Certificate.  Lots of evidence was gathered from may quarters, however, it is rumoured that now the whole idea is slipping off the agenda.

19 May through EIF, AFO has been invited to meet with BERG, the Business Events Recovery Group and I am able to contribute of behalf of EIF and AFO to discussions around how festivals, events and business meetings will get back on the straight and narrow.

On the same day on behalf of AFO I chaired the EIF Board meeting and full members meeting where Covid current situation was of course top of the agenda.

20 May I attended the DCMS Festivals Working Group where the pilot schemes in particular on the agenda along with concerns about data collection.

Same day the regular LIVE meeting.

Also on 20 I chaired the AFO members meeting with a wide range of subjects covered with 23 members in attendance.

22 May for those of you who bought tickets for Glastonbury streaming, you may have enjoyed it or been disappointed by the technical hiccups.  I believe they were sorted soon after and we can now look forward to Glastonbury mini festivals later this year.  Funded by CRF support.

24 May attended the BVEP (Business Venues and Events Partnership).

26-27 May attended the Event Production Show at Farnborough Airport Exhibition and Conference Centre.  Mash Media, publishers of Access All Areas, took the very brave decision to stage this event as a Covid-safe face-to-face and did a fine job.  Although not as big as usual EPS was very well attended with a wide variety of trade stalls selling their wares and some excellent panels, discussions and presentations.  AFO took main stage with members Adam Slough, Peter Chegwyn, Sarah Bird and SH to discuss Grass Roots Festivals to a very appreciative audience.

The next major conference/exhibition will be Showman’s Show in October and I strongly recommend that you look out for publicity and attend.

2 June Met with UK CMA secretary Eric Stuart and colleagues to discuss shortages of staff, especially in the security industry.  See elsewhere earlier in this General Secretary Writes.

3 June LIVE meeting.

4 June met with the Local Government Association (LGA) Ian Leete and started to shape new relationship with him with a view to bringing together local authorities and others working in community settings to consider consistency across the UK in event management. More on this when the meetings finally come together.

7 June Some members of the AFO Advisory Group came together to discuss a variety of issues and in particular Conference, membership fees review and longer-term future of funding and the Three-Year Plan.  Very much appreciate the various members of the Advisory Group coming together to give their advice.

Also on 7 June, met with Festivals Working Group and DCMS late in the day to clarify the whole issue of data collection.  A full statement on this will be out soon, but in brief it is now required that the name and contact number of everyone on site be collected at a music festival in 2021 and quite possibly for another year on.

Just how this will be conducted will be in the statement, but rest assured a lot of discussion has taken place which has led to a relatively simple system whereas most festivals sell tickets in advance and therefore have already collected the data needed.  More on this soon.

8 June was a particularly busy day starting with BERG meeting at 10am, a Parliament session on social distancing at 11am and a Home Office meeting at 3.30pm.

10 June I will attend the regular LIVE meeting, join in the Voluntary Arts Network 30th Birthday Celebrations from 11am-5pm, view Parliament TV at 2.30pm, attend the DCMS Festivals Working Group at 3pm and chair an AFO members meeting with Tim Thornhill at 6.30pm.

And so the main festival season begins.  Maybe smaller, maybe postponed but there are green shoots coming through with strong focus on 2022 coming back with a bang.  I am sure you will join me in looking forward to it.


Association of Festival Organisers (AFO): 10th Jun 2021 15:51:00

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