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General Secretary Writes - August 2021

If I was to say it has been slightly quieter for a few days I hope I am not tempting fate.

29 July I visited the last day of As You Like It, a small boutique concert festival near Stratford upon Avon (sold out, very successful), and helped dismantle the event over the next day.

3 August Arts Council open zoom meeting reference long-term strategy.  I have written up some notes from the meeting to forward AFO thoughts.

4 August I had a monthly catchup with Maddie Spear who is looking after AFO social media, News, website etc.  We reviewed what has been achieved over the last month or so and looked forward to the actions for the next week, which included a variation on the AFO logo for our two new focus groups, Diversity and the other one Climate Action.  Maddie is also setting up Facebook pages for both and once again if you have an interest in festival and AFO policy and action on either of the two subjects above then do get in touch and we will get you on the team. 

5 August Regular LIVE meeting where we discussed festivals getting restarted.  Some at full capacity in smaller capacities, but nevertheless, getting started.  There is very little left of the season, of course, but for those who are going ahead, good luck, and for the rest of us planning for 2022 is well underway.  I remember we did this a year ago thinking all would be well, this time I have much more confidence that by 2022 season, normal will have returned in some shape or form and we will be able to get our events up and running.  Times have certainly changed.

Later that morning the DCMS Festivals Focus Group met and looked at the latest government changes, the announcements about an insurance scheme, for which we have some concerns, ie. government went to press in a euphoric style without giving our industry much sight of the small print.  We now await much more details from DCMS before deciding whether this is good news or moderate news.  I suspect the premium costs will be taking most of this insurance out of our reach.  Keep an eye on these columns for information.

That evening we held our regular AFO members meeting where Emma from Underneath the Stars reported a great success for a slightly reduced South Yorkshire Festival. Full report in News on the website.  I gave updates on DCMS and government actions, in particular on Covid Passports, insurance, local authority liaison and overseas artists vis-à-vis BREXIT.  We talked about the sub-groups as described above and had a general discussion on how our industry was coping.  The next meeting for members and others will be at 6.30 on Thursday 2 September.

6 August An emergency meeting with DCMS Festivals Group on more detail reference insurance.  Not much more detail came through but what we have has been posted in the News and as I said previously, we await much more information before making decisions.

9 August Congratulations to Sidmouth for what appears to have been a very successful small event to keep the flag flying.  Reasonably good weather, plenty of people, excellent music and from what I hear on the grapevine lots of great new ideas for Sidmouth development in years to come.

The AFO Climate Action Group met, and we await notes.

10 August The long awaited EIF/LGA meeting took place.  Unfortunately, it was most unsatisfactory.  The meeting was hijacked by DCMS and they had invited several other event organisers and local authorities leading to the meeting becoming just another story telling session which was not its main purpose.  AFO and EIF will now take control of this meeting and reassemble in the near future with LGA and Department of Health and Social Care in particular.  Report in next News.

12 August The LIVE Group had a week off due to several members being on holiday.

Weekend of 13-15 August Lakefest at Eastnor castle, Herefordshire, I believe had a successful weekend.  Report to come.

In the next few days I will be attending the UK CMA Security and Crowd Control meeting on Monday 16.  An Attitude is Everything meeting on Tuesday 17.  A DCMS Festivals meeting on Wednesday 18.  LIVE Group on Thursday 19 and we appear to be getting busy again.

In Other News
See elsewhere in the News columns an excellent blog from Tim Benson, Chair of Powerful Thinking, looking at the reform of red diesel and other rebated fuels and how it will affect the events industry.  If you are on a greenfield site and use diesel generators this is very important for you.

Tramlines in Sheffield ran their festival to full capacity, brought together around 40 ,000 people and became a government test event.  Organisers reported a very successful festival with a lot of extra staff and equipment to deal with Covid issues which seems to have been done extremely successfully.  It just proves that it can be done.

A reminder
We are still under government control.  According to the Health Protection Corona Virus Restrictions in England No.3, the law regarding the above is still in place until September 27 when it can be reviewed and reinstated for a further few months. 

It means that local authorities still have the power to cancel non-Covid secure events in England.  You must bear this in mind when planning your festival either in the autumn and winter or indeed in the early stages of 2022 when we believe this law will still be in place.  The governments new Working Safely Guidance outlines some of the measures that event organisers in England should consider when organising an event in England.

Local authorities have been told that they cannot issue a blanket ban on events, but they can issue a “ direction”  if it is responding to a serious and imminent threat to public health, or it is necessary to prevent, protect against, control or provide a public health response in relation to the incidence or spread of Covid-19.

Also, the measures taken to cancel an event are proportionate to the situation.  Industry experts, including AFO, have called the last-minute change extremely unfair and especially as the events industry has been calling on government for several weeks for clarification.  Without much consultation at all government extended the power handed to local government from July 18 to September 27.  All event organisers are now being urged to enter into their early stages of planning with Public Health in their local area.  More guidance on working safely can be found at www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-covid-19-events-and-attractions

The actual updated Health Protection Restrictions can be found at www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2021/848/made  In your planning for your 2022 festival I strongly recommend having a look at this and speaking, not only with your local authority at the very earliest stage, but with your local Health Directors.

That is about it for now and I look forward to seeing some of you onscreen at the next members meeting on 2 September, sign up now at [email protected], and if you are doing one, good luck with your events this year.

Association of Festival Organisers (AFO): 16th Aug 2021 18:13:00

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