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General Secretary Writes – October 2021 Part 2

General Secretary Writes – October 2021 Part 2

Since I last wrote with my diary entries up to 8 October there has been quite a lot going on, but we should open by sadly noting the passing of Paddy Maloney, the Chieftains founder member.  Paddy Maloney was piper, whistle player, manager of band.  Born in 1938 he grew up in Donnycarney in the northern part of county Dublin.  He was born into a musical family and formed the Chieftains in 1962.  He learnt his piping from the master, Leo Rowsome. 

He will be greatly missed by, not just the Irish music aficionados around the world, but by the folk music world in general.

Steve Heap, General Secretary of AFO, said at his passing, “I am very saddened by this news.  Paddy Maloney was a gentleman of the music, a business-like manager of his band from the start, but most of all a devoted lifelong and passionate Irish musician.  He took traditional Irish music to all corners of the world, and not just to Irish communities, but to audiences who thought they didn’t like Irish music.  He and the Chieftains changed attitudes, his collaborations with all manner of other musical genre were astounding, surprising and borderless.  He very kindly helped me (Steve) out of a tricky spot when headlining a festival in the south of England in the 1970s.  Clearly not enough people had turned up and bought tickets and when given the option to take a small fee to cover his costs of travel and go home without playing, Paddy was heard to say, “Give us whatever you have, and we will get on with the playing”.  “Paddy Maloney, I owe you one”, said Steve.  And I expect there to be a mighty big piper-led band somewhere.

Robin Morton

It is with a similar sadness that we report the passing of Robin Morton, leading light of Scottish traditional music, producer, manager and founder member of Boys of the Lough.  Robin who has died aged 81 was for more than fifty years a leading figure in the Scottish folk music scene, both as a performer and a record producer and manager.

Director of Temple Records, Robin was a pioneer in the recording of several Scottish music people and was told that recording people singing in Gaelic was preposterous.  He went on to prove them wrong, it was very popular.  Temple’s longest recording relationship was of course with the Scottish based Battlefield Band with Robin producing their first album for Topic in 1977 and every record since, through all the many changes of the Band’s personnel he acted as their manager and guide for many years.

AFO News

May I bring your attention to AFO News, easily found on the AFO website.  The recent publication in late October has information about the Festival of Europe, Event Buyers Live and the UK Events Summit.  Three major events happening this winter.  Can I also bring to your attention the next AFO members online meeting is 4 November at 6.30pm, for any members wishing to attend please drop a line to [email protected] or complete this form https://form.jotform.com/212962385075360 - you will be very welcome.

Finally in News I will be flagging up the absolute necessity for AFO members to use the AFO logo in all of their publicity, Facebook, Twitter, websites etc. etc.  Be proud to be a member, it is through your collective membership that we are able to gather our strength and fight your corner.

Covid drove a coach and horses through the events industry.  It is reported that 90,000 cultural jobs have been lost due to the pandemic in the UK alone.  The night-time cultural economy has suffered an unbelievable setback.  NTIA (The Night-time Industries Association) which commissioned the report says it has found that the sector has been ravaged by the pandemic.  The report shows that for the first time the value of UK’s night-time cultural economy, which was 1.6% of GDP (£34.4bn) in 2019 has dropped considerably.  Leaders of NTIA are calling on the Chancellor to extend the 12.5% rate on VAT for hospitality and ticket sales in order to help get the venues back on their feet.  It is crucial that the Chancellor uses the upcoming budget to support this beleaguered sector.  We are calling for him to extend the 12.5% rate and include door sales in that reduced rate of VAT.  Our sector really cannot afford any additional burdens.

Festival’s VAT Rate

The same goes for the festival scene.  Through LIVE, and independently, AFO have written to the Chancellor asking in the first instance for the 5% to be retained until the end of 2023.  Failing that at the very least to drop back to 12.5% and not introduce full VAT for some years, giving our industry a chance to recover.

Planning 2022

As we approach the busy planning season for 2022 festivals may we remind you of one or two issues that were raised in 2019 and in the abortive 2020 and 2021.  First is a reminder about fire safety on camp sites and in venues.

It has been brought to our attention on more than one occasion that some members have insurance policies that do not include any use of fire anywhere on their site.  I strongly recommend that you check yours.  For instance, are you covered for campfires, lantern parades, torchlight processions, fireworks, Chinese lanterns (which incidentally you should not be using), fire eaters on stage, barbeques and many more?  Inclusion of fire safety in your policy can be achieved but at a premium cost.  Here at AFO we are currently researching through companies and users to achieve the best recommended underwriter.  So, in the first instance speak to one of the two AFO recommended brokers.  See Insurance Scheme on the AFO website

VAT on Trading

Some members will remember that over the last few years there have been many variations on the interpretation of VAT rules on trade stalls.  It could be said that if a trader arrives on a site and hires a piece of land then they are paying rent for it.  Rent is not VAT-able and so no VAT needs to be involved.  However, if the organiser provides power, water, labour assistance or any other equipment then the stall becomes VAT-able.  There have been several variations of this ruling and before making the decision to charge or not charge VAT you should check with your own financial advisor.

Is Site Crime More Likely?

2022, we hope, will be a bumper year for the festival scene.  With bumper years quite often come bumper difficulties and crime.  A safe policy for peoples’ equipment, artists’ musical instruments and your own festival equipment is really crucial.  Safety of you and your equipment and valuables is obviously very important.  You may have noticed the car parking arrangements change from time to time and this is mostly to do with safety.  It is recommended that valuables be locked in the boots of cars, on the other hand it would be better if customers didn’t bring the valuables in the first place.  Artists really must be given an opportunity to lock up safely all their valuable instruments and equipment in a backstage lock-up facility and should not be expected to carry them around the site or indeed leave them in tents, caravans etc.  You can rest assured from advice we have received from national police advisors to events that they are expecting 2022 to be a bumper year for the reporting of both petty and major theft on festival sites, due to the pandemic recovery period leading to financial shortage and the opportunities once again becoming available.

Oh no! Insurance

Regular readers of News will know that for over 18 months the live events industry have been working with government to provide an underwriting for an insurance scheme that will cover a pandemic.  The government recently announced that they had consulted with the insurance industry and formed an agreement for a re-insurance scheme.


Unfortunately, it already has been deemed not fit for purpose.  There are many hiccups, but I would suggest that it is important that you decide for yourself.  You can read the details by looking HERE

Research meeting To Come

I have a meeting with Andy Lenthall (ex of PSA) now working for Mondial and in particular looking at insights and research.  More on this when we have details.

19 October we had an AFO Key Advisors meeting to look at how we will make decisions about a Conference, now postponed for 5 and 6 November and provisionally set for 4 and 5 February 2022.  More details to follow.

On 20 and 21 I attended the Showman’s Show in Newbury which I strongly recommend everyone should attend at least once in their life.  Here many opportunities to meet with other organisers, see what is new in the equipment and supply business and attend conferences, panels and debates.  More details to follow.

In particular this year on Wednesday 20 October Vision: 2025 held an annual Conference.

More details to follow.

21 October whilst at the Showman’s I attended a LIVE meeting and a DCMS Festivals Sub-Group. More details to follow.

22 October the LIVE Green Environmental Group met. More details to follow.And now I shall be taking a few days off to go for a walk in the Lake District.  I will write again on my return.

Association of Festival Organisers (AFO): 22nd Oct 2021 12:21:00

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