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General Secretary Writes - 10 June onwards

For those regular readers of GSW you might notice a slight change.  We are going to make these a weekly diary direct from me to you, so you are better informed as to what the AFO Office is doing on behalf of our industry.  If you need more detail of any of these points you will probably find it in AFO News on the website and if it is not there then drop a line to [email protected]
For now, my diary since my last GSW is:

10 June Our regular Thursday meeting with LIVE.  This one was the executive of 13 associations making decisions about structure of the organisation and ways forward.  At about the same time that day the Voluntary Arts Network were launching a name change to Creative People which we attended, supported, and congratulated new named the Organisation that is 30 years old.

2.30pm Parliament TV had a DCMS discussion on European Music Touring.  This is an ongoing issue and quite a problem for musicians from the UK trying to get back to the lucrative European tourist scene.

3pm the DCMS Festivals Working Group met with a whole host of issues, mostly centred around the Pilots, (ERPs) and Insurance. 

6.30pm we held an AFO Members meeting where the guest speaker was Tim Thornhill from Tysers Insurance bringing us up to date on the campaign to get government to underwrite.  The latest on this is that Caroline Dinenage, Minister for Culture, told us that the Sprint Group from DCMS had tabled a way forward to the Treasury Committee.  We await results.

14 June Step 4 was not announced and so 21 June unlocking date slipped by and was moved to 19 July.  There is a review of the status on 5 July with a possible reopening date being moved to 12 July if the country situation has improved (unlikely), however ministers continue to promote 19 July as reopening day, if no more than 10,000 cases are in hospital.

15 June The LIVE Group met to discuss the PM’s decision to move the reopening date and look at how we can act and move forward.

I attended the Caroline Dinenage roundtable that afternoon.  Several people there raised issues of concern that sport was moving forward and music events were not.  She was very sympathetic and took a lot of notes, answering some of the questions raised and finished the meeting by announcing the insurance possibility as above.

17 June Our regular LIVE meeting with the full group, now over 60 people.  We looked at ways forward and how we could put pressure on government to recognise the value of live music events.

That afternoon there was a BVEP meeting (Business Venues Events Partnership).  A very useful group to be part of, I represent EIF in this which in turn covers AFO.

22 June The LIVE Group met early morning for an emergency meeting on Legal Action.  Thanks to some good work by Stuart Galbraith from Kilimanjaro, large sums of funding had been raised to cover legal costs as the group voted to take legal action in order to achieve the report from the Phase 1 ERP.  We also discussed insurance and talked about questions in parliament where Nigel Huddleston MP, Under Secretary of State DCMS was answering dozens of questions from MPs, mostly about festivals and outdoor events with a few on sport.  He was ducking and diving throughout the whole procedure and made mention of cancellations like Black Deer, Kendal Calling and many others.  Andrew Gwynne, Labour MP, hit him with some extremely tough questions, which again he ducked and dived.  It was clear at this point that ministers at DCMS were avoiding taking live music events and festivals seriously and focussing on higher profile events like Euro football and Wimbledon.

23 June The AFO Climate Action Group met for the first time.  Many thanks to all those who volunteered and to Kelly for stepping up to the mark for admin.  The Group are planning to meet again shortly, discuss various issues, select a Chair, and start work on a strategy and some targets. 

Later same day Test and Trace was top of the agenda at a DCMS Festivals Working T&T sub-group.  This sub-group chaired by Paul Reed, AIF, pulled together everyone’s opinions of how we can move forward and have now presented a proposal back to DCMS of how we could work for what is left of the festival season. 

That day’s BERG meeting – I was unable to attend and sent my apologies, notes of the meeting are now available from me.

24 June The LIVE legal challenge was tabled in court and the result was quite swift, i.e. by Friday 25 June the ERP results were published.  Seems a shame that such a lot of people’s money has to be spent to achieve what is an honest government promise.

Vision 2025 and Julie’s Bicycle also presented a webinar especially for sustainability ideas for festivals.  This promoted and funded by LIVE (now available on YouTube)

DCMS Festivals Working Group met again to discuss current issues and the Legal Challenge.

25 June ERP Report published.  Unfortunately, still no guidance or direction.  So, we know how government felt about the tests but not what to do about it.  Hence, there is now ERP 2 and 3 by which time we will be rehearsing pantomimes. (Oh no, we are already in one).

28 June Test and Trace Festival Group met to look at the ERP Report and advise further on how Test and Trace plans were going and what the report meant for festivals.

29 June AFO admin team met to plan membership drive, changes to membership fees, Conference, publicity, social media, website and much more.  Watch this space for major advances.

1 July Regular LIVE meeting with the full group of 60.

Followed by DCMS Festivals Group at 11.30am and AFO Members at 6.30pm.

3 July I intend to visit Timber Festival in the National Forest.

In other news - sadly, there are a whole raft of festivals cancelled for a variety of reasons but most importantly the current rise of the Delta Variant and government NOT underwriting insurance.  Followed by lack of consistency amongst local authorities in the interpretation of government rules some of those that have gone include Warwick Folk Festival, Black Deer, Kendal Calling, Y Not, Truck, Cropredy, WOMAD, Abbotsbury and sadly, many more.  Another sad year without very many festivals.

Those that have achieved, Beardy in Shropshire, congratulations on a successful socially distanced festival.  Plans for the future are coming in from Shrewsbury, Towersey, Sidmouth, Wickham, FolkEast and many other members who are attempting smaller versions of their usual events.  Good Luck all and let’s look forward to a block-busting 2022.

EIF (which AFO chairs) has written to the Prime Minister about labour shortage in the events industry and awaits a reply.  They have also monitored the results from the first report of the Manchester Bombing Enquiry which has and will continue to have a serious affect on the indoor and outdoor industry.

The LIVE Group also put out two press releases. One on the recovery of the Industry and one talking of financial support from the government in view of the four-week delay to a reopening date.  More on these when we have results.

You could write here too!

If you would like to add to one of these diaries of news, please do by sending your words to [email protected].  You can send in any time as we will publish one per week.

For now, please keep an eye on AFO NEWS on the website where loads of information is delivered almost daily –

Association of Festival Organisers (AFO): 2nd Jul 2021 16:36:00

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