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General Secretary Writes - 12 July onwards

Hello everyone

I hope you have enjoyed the hot spell and if you were running an event during that you got lucky.

As I write this the rain has returned, humidity is high but the prospects for the rest of the summer in terms of weather are reasonable.  There have of course been some heavy storms which have caused problems for festivals like Standon Calling, but in the main there have been some great successes.

In my diary 12 July, the Prime Minister made announcements about what the 19th reopening day was going to look like.  I am not sure if many people actually believed him but with some caution and a few variations it started to look better. 

15 July I met with AFO member Bob Rushton, Derby Live, to look at the potential venue for AFO Conference November 5 and 6.  It would be doing it a disservice to call it a marquee, even though it is canvas covered.  Hard walls, blackout inside it is really a small theatre, and a fantastically well-equipped venue it is.  All being well if we get through the next few weeks of Covid issues we will formally announce Conference to be held in Derby Market Square.  More on this later.

Also 15 July attended the regular LIVE Group meeting which discussed all issues of the potential 19 July opening.  Inbound and outbound artists difficulties caused by Covid and BREXIT and the good old insurance problem.

BVEP meeting on same day, unfortunately I had to give my apologies, I was tied up in discussions with DCMS.

17/18 July courtesy of Adam and Caroline Slough I attended Battle Proms on 17th and Folk by the Oak on 18th at Hatfield House.  A fantastic site, full of oak trees, wide open spaces, and a beautiful setting.  The Battle Proms, in the main, not really my bag personally, but from an infrastructure festival and crowd management point of view, an amazing affair.  Brilliant stewarding, car park attendance and a raft of toilet facilities to embarrass us all, never any queues and extremely well kept.  Congratulations to the team at JSL.

19 July was of course the big reopening day officially, and as you no doubt saw on television at one minute past midnight revellers were dancing in night clubs, enjoying music in various scenarios.  The effects of all that and what comes next will no doubt be seen later.

20 July was an interesting anniversary day.  The day that I appeared on a BBC Breakfast TV story from Gisburn Park near Clitheroe in 2020.  I remember there was talk of the virus causing us some problems through summer but with luck it would all be cleared up by Christmas.  And here we are, just over a year later still wrestling with our friend, Covid.

22 July Did I mention insurance?  At the LIVE Executive Group meeting it was decided that it is time the government had legal correspondence from us.  We have been talking to them since May 2020 about insurance and everyone has had enough of being put off.  So, legals were recruited and paid for by LIVE and the government have received the letter.  Word on the street is that they have sat up and noticed and we should hear from them shortly, don’t hold your breath!

We also discussed the old Covid passport.  It was never going to be called that of course.  Then it became Covid-Safe Certificate and then it became passport again, not quite sure what it is called now, but on August 16 government are going to tell us what might be needed for people to attend what they now call large or crowded events.  Who knows what that constitutes?  I would say that a small hall that holds 200 people and gets 200 people is a crowded event, but I doubt if that is how they will see it.  For some reason they will pitch the description at the much bigger festivals and outdoor events industry.  We will have to wait and see.

Chris Whitty, top-end government advisor, was quoted as being outraged by the way the politicians were allowed to adapt the scientific knowledge and adjust things to their liking.  We will have to see what August 16 brings us, but it is likely to be some kind of double vaccination proof, or a negative test within the previous 48 hours for, as I said above, larger, crowded events.

AFO is supporting Music Venues Trust in their on the ground fight; for instance, in Ramsgate there is a 200-seater club that is not allowed to do a variety of things, whereas the Wetherspoons Pub attracts over 8000 people every week and, without music, is allowed to have this as a crowded event.  Similarly, weddings will fall into the larger category and be open house.  However local authorities and indeed church wardens have still got power to make up their rules as they go along, as has been recently noted in Nottinghamshire where 130 people invited to a church wedding under Step 4 of the new rules were suddenly told that only 80 of them could go into the church and “they can’t sing!”.  The wedding went off smoothly, happily but a good number of people were somewhat dismayed at the way rules can be made up on the spot.  AFO is taking some action in this direction and writing to MPs, local government association and many others to try and get some kind of uniformity around how we are to proceed for the next year or two with Covid in the background.

Also on 22 July I attended the DCMS Festivals Working Group meeting where much of the announcements of 19 July were discussed.

26 July I was pleased to see the As You Like It Summer Garden Festival, a hotel-based, small event with Covid-safe entrance in place going ahead very smoothly.  Welcome Harmony Voyages to the UK outdoor events industry.

27 July I attended the BVEP Outdoor Events Working Group meeting.  However, I did question the need for yet another group studying the work of outdoor events in a Covid world.  I await response from Chairman Simon Hughes who readers may remember was also Chair of One Industry One Voice (which seems to have gone very quiet).

28 July will have a meeting with Luisa from INTK PR to see how their organisation and AFO can connect.  More on this in my next news.

29 July our regular LIVE meeting will no doubt be discussing the success of two more pilot festivals, Latitude and Tramlines, both seem to have gone off successfully even though considerable amounts of staff and budget were spent on making them Covid safe.  Congratulations to those that did the graft.

In other news
I am delighted to announce AFO has now formed two sub-groups for action on climate change.   First one called Climate Action Group (CAG) and the other Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Steering Group.  Both are in their early stages of forming a team and selecting Chairs.  More on this from the two groups when ready.  If you would like to be involved in AFO’s work in either of these two areas do come back to me and I will put you in touch with the right people. 

PM announces
In response to the Prime Minister’s announcements of 5 and 12 July, and the official opening of the world on the 19 July, AFO joined colleagues at EIF to write a short press release.  We noted that a great deal of the responsibility for how to handle events has now been handed down to membership organisations, events organisers and of course, the respective customers, i.e you can wear masks if you want to, you can be socially distanced if you want to, you can restrict entrance to your event to double-jabbed Covid-safe people or a 48-hour negative test.  None of which now falls under the legislation.

However, some of the rules that include the powers of local authorities and Directors of Public Health have been extended to the end of September.  So do be aware.  The guidance published on the Purple Guide website is still there and will soon be completely re-written and updated.  We are clearly not out of the woods yet, but Covid 19 is something we are going to have to learn to live with.  It may soon be downgraded from a pandemic to an epidemic, but we will have to keep up our guard.  Keep an eye on Purple Guide website and AFO News for information regarding changes as they happen.

National Market Traders Federation
I am very pleased to tell you that we have heard recently from Chief Executive, Joe Harrison, at the NMTF that they have been fighting long and hard for the last 18 months on behalf of market traders, and they report some successes but there have obviously been some hard times.  A very large number of their members trade regularly at festivals and events.  25% of the membership now solely trade at festivals and of course have had a hard time of it but are looking forward to getting back on their feet in 2022.  Should any AFO members in planning their 2022 festival need assistance reference market traders then NMTF is the place to look ([email protected]).

A summary
Covid rules post 19 July

As you know we are now in Step 4.  It is probably worth just reminding you of one or two key issues that have changed:

  • All remaining limits on social contact previously 6 people or 2 households indoors or 30 people outdoors were removed on 19 July and there will be no more restrictions on how many people can meet in any setting, indoors or outdoors.
  • All settings are now able to open including nightclubs and large events such as music concerts and festivals.  Sporting events can resume without any limit on attendance or social distancing requirement.
  • The legal requirements to wear face coverings are lifted in all settings.  To help reduce the spread of Covid, published guidance will continue to advise that wearing a face covering in large, crowded areas will still reduce the risk to yourself and others.
  • Social distancing rules, i.e., 2 meters or 1 meter with additional mitigation, were lifted on 19 July.  Everyone should now continue to consider the risks of close contact with others, particularly if you are clinically extremely vulnerable or not yet fully vaccinated.
  • Businesses are now encouraged to display QR Codes for customers to check in and using the NHS Covid-19 app to support NHS Test and Trace although it will no longer be a legal requirement, and this is likely to change again in the Autumn.

Much more of the above and details can be found on Government websites and in previous AFO News.

Another one bites the dust
Glastonbudget, an amazing tribute festival held near Leicester, should have happened in May but was unable to go ahead due to the Covid restrictions.  Confident that all will be well next year, Glastonbudget have announced they have moved their festival to the new 2022 Bank Holiday weekend and will run from 2-4 June.

Crew catering
If anyone is looking for a great, new crew caterer, I recently experienced the Saucery Menu.  Contact Alison Taylor, Watchcott, Nordan, Leominster, Herefordshire HR6 0AJ, 01568 614221, [email protected]   An excellent spread, very well delivered with a smile at a good price.

Arts Professional - Reflecting on Renewal and Recovery
I recommend Arts Professional as a great online source of information.  Not a great cost and in a recent edition published a really interesting article called Reflecting on Renewal and Recovery.  See their website

Take a Test
As gigs, festivals, small and large events start to recover and return, AFO is supporting Music Venue Trusts campaign called Take a Test.  They do it in France, they do it in Belgium, Live Nation support it and I believe AFO should too.  If you are setting out to an event, just take a test, report it to the NHS app and make sure you are negative before you leave.  If on the gate of the event they ask you to prove it then you can.  They may not ask, there is no regulation that says you should, but would it not be the moral thing to do?

In Belgium they have introduced what they call CST, specifically designed for large, live events.  It could be used to eliminate social distancing and mask wearing in Belgium from 13 August.  The Federal Government have launched Covid-safe Ticket, a domestic health pass which will certify the Covid-19 status of all attendees at major events.

On the other hand, there has been a mixed reaction to Covid passes in other parts of Europe.  Some have welcomed the moves as the quickest way to get back to normal, but there is also a demand for more clarity especially in the UK. 

UK government insists it will push ahead with plans for vaccination passes.  The Prime Minister announced this week that from September people will have to prove that they have had both vaccinations as a condition of entry to nightclubs, venues and other crowded, indoor settings (there we are again with this floppy word ‘crowded’).  Where does that leave outdoor events and sport?

Phil Bowdery, soon to be a speaker at an AFO members meeting and Chair of the Concert Promoters Association, said that with September only a few months away what the live music sector needs is urgent government clarity, details and guidelines.  Any proposals should be designed primarily to make venues as safe as possible which is why we are surprised that testing seems to have fallen away again.  The entire research programme which was supported by several live music organisations was based on testing.  Why do that if we still have no guidance on where testing will go next?  However, some artists are very concerned about the discrimination involved in proof of vaccination and/or of testing.

Eric Clapton for instance recently said he would refuse to play at any venue that required people to prove they had been vaccinated.  There may well be others.  You may have an opinion, if you have drop us a line at [email protected]

That’s all for now.  If you have news you would like to tell the world about then please send it to [email protected]

I will write from my diary again soon.

Good luck with your shows, festivals and businesses.  The light in this tunnel is a little brighter.


Steve Heap: 4th Aug 2021 17:53:00

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