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AFO General Secretary Writes - September 2021 Part 2

Since I last wrote my diary back at the beginning of September, once again it has been a very busy time around the AFO office.  Here are a few snippets of information that has been gathered, along with my diary report.

In response to Business Rates proposals - government recently asked LIVE some very specific questions as part of their consultation on work towards longer term support.  For instance, government asked ‘Does the proposed package of measures represent a fair and balanced trade-off for taxpayers between new benefits and new requirements?  If not please detail what adjustments, you would like to see to ensure a balanced package of measures that would support a three-year cycle’ (of Business Rates).

LIVE responded ‘LIVE does not believe the proposed reforms represent a fair and balanced trade-off for ratepayers.  Our position is that business rates are a counter-intuitive tax on cultural development in fixed locations. The live music industry has a diverse range of fixed location venues that are used to hosting cultural activity and the current way of calculating their rates is already sufficient if often difficult and expensive  This particularly penalises grass roots music venues as well as large arenas and green field site festivals.’

The above is just an example of how LIVE is working for and on behalf of our industry.  Other details from this consultation are available if required.

9 September – our members meeting brought together 20 members who first of all introduced themselves to each other, as surprisingly quite a lot of members don’t know each other, and this helps with getting to know who is part of the AFO family.  We went on to receive reports from the two new sub-groups, Climate Action presented by Maddie Spear and Diversity Group presented by Rebecca (Fluff) Stewart.  General Secretary also gave updates on insurance, Covid voluntary mitigation, passports and vaccine, CRF funding and the DCMS Festivals Working Group.  We also discussed the change to membership fees which readers should now note on the AFO website the new rates and pay according to venue capacity.

Also on same day, the LIVE Group met and discussed insurance  (again) and noted yet another raft of festivals had been cancelled.  Principally because the insurance wasn’t available and even now it is proving to be extremely expensive and not financially practicable.

Craig Stanley reported to the meeting about the good work he is doing to improve live touring in Europe and the LIVE Green Group also reported - see elsewhere on AFO News for the LIVE Green Steering Group.

Festival Republic reported that they believe that a passport for double vaccination was going to be necessary in any festival season in the future, though at present the government have only got this in Plan B of their winter proposals.  More on this as and when it changes.

Who pays for Covid-19?

Readers will have also noticed that Covid-19 government costs would sooner or later have to be paid and the increase in National Insurance will go some way towards doing that.  Though it has to be said it appears on first reading that the lower paid will be paying the lion’s share.

Furlough End

Members should also note that the furlough scheme will be ending shortly and any employees that you have on furlough will need their wages reinstated by you, as it is unlikely that government will extend furlough beyond the end of September.

Government also announced their Covid autumn and winter plan as Plan A in which the Prime Minister stated that England has now one of the most free and open societies in Europe and their current plans are to keep it that way.  This would be known as Plan A.  However, if necessary Plan B may have to come into force and it is important to state here that potential measures would only apply to England.  For Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland see the devolved government websites.  The range of mitigations that could be implemented are mandatory vaccine only Covid status certification, sometimes known as passport.  Mandating face coverings and advising people to work from home where possible.

Whether you believe Plan A or Plan B is likely to come into force, both will have an effect on the festival and events industry, especially those with indoor autumn and winter events.  We will of course keep members up to date on delivery of decisions as to whether either of these plans will continue into the spring and the early festival season 2022.

Ecolibrium

Sustainability has been on our agenda for many, many years with COP coming up in Glasgow in November it is very high on the agenda yet again.  A recent article written by Ecolibrium’s communication manager, Bethan Riach, details how events managers can use the Ecolibrium Travel Carbon Calculator App.  A clear description and article appeared recently in Open Air Business magazine (Glamping specialists).  I recommend OpenAir Business as a magazine to subscribe to.  Bethan described the calculator as being an ideal way to work out the best possible way to balance the carbon costs of running festivals and events in regeneration, protection and tree planting.  See Ecolibrium website and/or www.openairbusiness.com

All changing government

In the recent Cabinet shakeup, the Culture Secretary whom we have been nurturing for the last two years, has been shifted and replaced by Nadine Dorries.  We know very little about her except that she is in favour of BREXIT and has in the past suggested VAT costing levels should be reviewed.  She is supported by a new Junior Minister called Julia Lopez who will be known as the Creative Industries Minister.

The shakeup will leave lots of knowledge lost as unfortunately the way government works is on the day of the reshuffle ministers and secretaries of state simply leave and new ones move in, with very little hand-over time.  We have of course written to both new ministers and requested early meetings.

Are Covid mitigations actually working?

In a recent report provided by AFO member Sue Torres (Wicked Events) she outlines the paperwork that went with demonstrating how the Big Feastival would operate.  Unfortunately, with her team on the ground that was just paperwork.  What actually happened was a great deal different.  Sue went on to describe her team’s activities at End of the Road festival.  If you would like to read what she has to say contact Sue direct at [email protected]

The National Police Co-ordination Centre

Known as NPoCC, they have recently sent us an Industry Post Event Submission Template.  We have this on file at AFO office, though I would be surprised if very many members felt it was necessary.  It is simply a way of reporting to the Police Coordination Centre any relevant activity during your festival or event.  And it helps them provide festivals with up-to-date information and advice on how best to avoid crimes on festival sites.  NPoCC are represented at the EIF meetings and offer valuable information on a regular basis.

Should members require copies of the Submission Template these are available from [email protected]

And finally, to my diary, which in my last report ended with a visit to Gate to Southwell Festival on 4 September.  An excellent event on a beautiful new site with plenty of room for expansion if that is what the organisers want.

7 September I attended an Attitude is Everything meeting with AIF and BAFA to look at how we three festival organisations could work on improving facilities next season for people with disabilities (see also AFO Diversity, Equality & Inclusion Steering Group).

9 September LIVE meeting already reported as was DCMS Festivals meeting and AFO members early evening meeting.

11 September I visited Bromyard Festival (thanks Lynne & Dick).  Comfortable on its own owned site with additional space in nearby farm fields, the sun was shining, there were plenty of people about enjoying the music, the atmosphere and for many the first trip out for two years.  A great event with a mammoth track record.

15 September joined a meeting with NCASS to discuss gas safety.  More on this, including an entry into our Code of Practice, to come.

16 September I decided not to attend the Glamping Show in NEC Birmingham due to other commitments with LIVE Executive meeting, previously reported, and BVEP in the afternoon.  The Glamping Show will be fully reported in OpenAir Business magazine in October.

22 September I attended the Musicians’ Union Regional AGM for East Midlands on behalf of festivals.

23 September I am attending a full LIVE meeting and will report in next diary.  As I will for the DCMS Festivals Group meeting this afternoon.

24 September I will attend LIVE Green meeting.  Then I meet with Mike Stevenson from Gate to Southwell management team reference Trading Criteria.

In the following two weeks I will have a whole host of various meetings on behalf of AFO and in particular the next members and others online meeting at 6.30pm on Thursday 30 September which you would be very welcome to attend.  Book via [email protected]

Finally, please note the first increase in membership fee for many years took place back on 1 August – reminder emails are being sent over the next few days updating you and asking for your assistance in making this happen via your Stripe, PayPal and BACS accounts with us.

I shall write again at the end of the month (only 13 weeks til Christmas!  Who said that?)

Association of Festival Organisers (AFO): 24th Sep 2021 18:47:00

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