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General Secretary Writes - November 2021

Will we ever be the same again?  Covid, BREXIT, Insurance, it seems that the same subjects keep popping up over and over again.  However there has been some movement since I last wrote at the end of October, and I will come to my diary in a moment.

Event Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi and communications are something we have to think about when we are busily setting up our sites.  Only a few years ago it either didn’t matter or we only needed a minor signal.  Times have changed and by 2022 it is very likely that festival ticket sales will depend on a good Wi-Fi signal, certainly the customers will not be without their mobile phones, so Wi-Fi on sites has pushed its way up to the top of the priority list.  Check out a recent article in Standout Magazine in their series ‘A Word From’ – and look for Richard Ballard’s rant about Wi-Fi.  Really interesting article.


I knew we couldn’t get very far down this page without mentioning the dreaded Covid-19.  Regular readers will know that I attend LIVE meetings regularly, and they recently put out Covid-19 Mitigations Industry Best Practice.  An excellent and simple guide to how we might take control of our own industry and move forward with dealing with Covid and our events.  This Industry Best Practice has now been posted on the AFO website in Resources and can also be found on

Open Air Business

Some of you may be familiar with Open Air Business, an excellent magazine dealing specifically with glamping and alternative campsites.  Many of the companies now involved in glamping are overlapping into the festival scene and it is, for those who can afford it, a luxurious way of enjoying your festival as well as being a good money spinner for organisers.

I recently wrote an article about looking back over an AFO year for Open Air Business, I believe it will be published in January/February 2022.  Keep an eye on the website


With COP26 only just finished and a few promises made, we really must not let difficulties with Covid and/or financial constrains get in our way of sustainability.  There is no doubt at all that it must stay as a high priority if we are to play our part in the festival and events industry.  LIVE Green in conjunction with Tour Production Group (TPG) have recently put out a call to action on sustainability with the theme ‘The past eighteen months has given us the tour and production professionals time to reflect on the changes a music industry, like every industry, should be addressing.  In particular TPG believe passionately that action is required in the area of sustainability’ goes on to say, ‘many of you have been asking what you can do to make a real, meaningful impact on the environment’.  They go on to give a few tips.

This paper will be in the AFO website in AFO/Climate Action Group section shortly.

British Sign Language

Not something that many of us are familiar with.  However, at a recent members’ meeting we were privileged to have Marie Pascal from Performance Interpreting as our speaker.  Marie gave us a real insight into what can be done, what should be done and reminded us of what the law actually is.  Do look up British Sign Language (BSL) and consider how you will, at your 2022 festival, deal with those who are deaf or hard of hearing and whether you should be having somebody signing on at least some of your stages.  Marie is also booked to speak more fully at the AFO Conference on 5 February 2022.  More on that in the course of time. 

Meanwhile, can I leave this subject with a suggestion. In your dealings with your suppliers, your audiences, your artists and indeed each other, kindness can be seen by the blind and heard by the deaf.

And So, To My Diary

26 October I chaired an EIF meeting with the LGA (Local Government Association) and several other bodies interested in the subject of consistency through the licencing of the events industry.  There will be several more of those meetings in the near future as we work our way towards getting Purple Guide approved by the Primary Authority route.

More changes and updates are coming to Purple Guide chapters, as well as additional material on SAG and Sustainability.  The above meeting took place while I was having a few days off in the Lake District during which time we gave serious consideration to building an ark.  The Lakes overspilled onto roads in several areas.

When we got back on November 1 I attended a LIVE meeting in the morning, followed by an EIF full members meeting in the afternoon and a Climate Action Group AFO meeting in the evening.  All of which seems to be quite successful.

2 November I had a wonderful meeting with Colin Irwin to discuss book-writing and publishing, more of that when it happens.

Frances Line (Lloyd) – some of you who remember Folk on Friday might remember the producer was Frances Line, later to become Frances Lloyd when she married the presenter Jim Lloyd.  Jim now lives in Australia and is still fighting fit.  Frances, sadly, moved into a care home and recently passed away.  Her funeral was conducted by the Reverend Roger Royle, BBC Radio4, an old friend of the family.  Frances in her lifetime did some fantastic work for the minority music’s festival scene through her work at BBC Radio and will be sorely missed.

4 November I attended a full LIVE meeting with over 40 delegates from the music industry.  We discussed vaccine passports, Best Practice (now on the AFO Resources website), and I asked the question whether we thought government could be convinced that festival’s and events will look after their own house and keep things in good order.  Did we really need government rules and mitigations?  After some discussion the general feeling was that it is quite unlikely that certificates and passports will come in for England, although they are now in for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  It is possible that for England there will be different mitigations put in place.  However, as I write this a 4th wave of Covid-19 is sweeping Europe.  Who knows when it could hit the UK?

We went on to discuss the Insurance Scheme which everyone pretty much agreed was not fit for purpose – enough said. 

Craig Stanley from Marshall Arts gave a very detailed report on the negotiations he is having across Europe for live music touring, and he has just scored a particularly good win by convincing Spain that UK musicians would not be needing VISAs.

The Google/YouTube workshops (Reboot) which have now been available for a couple of weeks are ongoing.  Please attend these if you can.  See links in AFO News.

Members LIVE meeting 4 November in case anyone is interested the government’s Insurance Scheme (which most are not), there is now an FAQ sheet from DCMS in Resources on the AFO website (Members area).

AFO Members meet – 4 November
Previously mentioned Marie Pascal gave us a wonderful insight into how best to look after those customers who are hard of hearing or deaf.  And we strongly recommend that you visit British Sign Language website and Performance Interpreting.   

I reported on the NCASS Gas Safety new Code of Practice being developed as we speak and will be published when ready.


Maddie Spear reported on the Climate Action Group and invited more people to join.  There is no doubt at all that sustainability and climate action have got to be high on the agenda of planning in 2022.  AFO has access to plenty of resources to help members get this right.  The best way for you to become involved is to join the Action Group and you can do that by contacting Maddie direct [email protected]

The meeting looked at plans for the 2022 season with a general feeling that contrary to difficulties with Covid and BREXIT, we must plan for a full and comprehensive season in order to survive.

Finally, I reminded members to use the AFO logo wherever possible and to keep up to speed with the new membership fees and make good use of AFO services which are now considerable.

In any other business we reported volunteer jobs available at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.  The previously mentioned LIVE workshops with Google on YouTube called Reboot and we noted that the next online members meeting will be on 27 January 2022.

Was this too early to wish everyone a Happy Christmas? Who knows?

7 November I had my booster jab.  If you haven’t, I think you should.

9 November BVEP meeting discussed Insurance again, Covid Certificates and what was needed to boost tourist trade.  I was able to give a brief report on such things as the difficulties in the supply chain for the festival industry.

11 November LIVE Executive meeting where we discussed the Vaccine Passports, Insurance – still not heard of anyone who has actually taken it on, except for two exhibition companies – government are now going to review the Insurance Policy in the spring.  However, in the meantime BVEP and others from the events exhibition industry are meeting government to discuss the issues and problems (the brief report offers nothing new).

At this meeting LIVE funding was also discussed and some suggestions have been made which Gen Sec will now be discussing with the AFO Advisory Group.

15 November I delivered an Events and Festivals Industry Business lecture to over 120 students at Derby University.  A good place to recruit skilled volunteers for the festival season.  These people are keen to get into the events industry and are now willing to volunteer their services to learn more.  If anyone needs people of this calibre, then do get in touch with the AFO office.

16 November met with Bob Rushton, programmer for Derby Live who is assisting in settling a venue for the next AFO Conference (November postponed) which will now be 4 and 5 February 2022.  More on that when confirmed.

17 and 18 November I was unable to attend the BAFA Conference which was live in Harrogate, and I will ask for a report ready for next edition of General Secretary writes.

22 November I will deliver Part 2 of the Derby University lecture.

And for those of you not yet booked in, AFO member Ju Gosling is running her Together 2021 Conference online on Wednesday 24 November[email protected]

That’s all for now, I will be writing to you all again in the next two or three weeks.  Good luck with your planning and don’t hesitate to get in touch with AFO office if you have any questions, queries, information or indeed praise and champagne.

PS – as we got to print The Guardian newspaper has published an obituary for our friend Barry Coope written by Derek Schofield.


Steve Heap: 23rd Nov 2021 10:49:00

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