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AFO General Secretary Writes – April 2022

Hello members and all

My last General Secretary Writes took us up to about 18 March.  I will pick up later with what has been going on since then.

For now, here are a few news items.

Red Diesel.  We have talked about this quite a lot in recent months, but just as a reminder as we get started on the 2022 season, red diesel is no longer allowed in your generators, for those of you who use them.  We approached the Chancellor and the Treasury from a different angle to some organisations.  Instead of suggesting we should keep red diesel on our sites, we asked if it would be possible to have the fuel duty and VAT taken off any white diesel that we would be using or better still the taxes off alternative and biofuels.  When we heard the Chancellor’s Spring Statement it was quite clear that he had no intention of doing that.  So, we are now faced with white diesel at probably up to £1.80 and biofuels a good deal more because of those taxes.  He did take 5p per litre off the fuel duty which brought the price down for about a week, and then it appears to have gone up again.

So, for some of us in 2022 our fuel costs will double.  In order to make a positive action in light of this, use biofuels wherever you can, use wind, solar and batteries wherever possible.  And at least make our mark towards net zero, even if the Chancellor is capitalising by slapping fuel duty on the alternatives.  You could also write to your MP and ask them for a bit of support on the subject.

Secondary Ticketing.  Readers will have heard of a company called Viagogo.  You may not have heard of Fanfare Alliance; the latter is constantly revealing the dirty deeds of the former.

Recent correspondence from Adam Webb at Fanfare Alliance revealed that Warwick Festival and Shrewsbury both had Secondary Ticketing attacks on the Viagogo website.  This is where people claim to have literally dozens of valuable tickets for festivals that they are prepared to sell at an inflated price, giving the impression that the events are sold out and they are the only place that tickets are available.  Unfortunately, some people have fallen for it and purchased.

In the case of these two festivals the people conducting this vile behaviour are Mark Stanley from Northwich, Cheshire, and Matthew Bradbury from Audenshaw, Manchester.  Both people claim to be trading in secondary tickets for festivals so keep an eye out on your sales and if either of these two people wish to buy tickets from you just simply don’t sell to them, because they will sell them on at a vastly inflated price and so make their money.

This is just one example of secondary ticketing and using the site Viagogo.  Sandra at Shrewsbury, Dick at Warwick both know this is happening and are now well aware (another value of being a member of AFO).

Bread Trays.  Keep an eye out for bread trays.  A strange thing to say but as I have mentioned before in News and in other places, a company called Bakers Basco are very concerned that the bread trays that appear on your sites with especially temporary caterers are not getting back to where they belong.  If you happen to be a site that has some of these then contact Bakers Basco direct on helpline 08000 327323 or email [email protected].  They would be very pleased to hear from you and will arrange collection after your event.  Better still make sure your caterers pick up these trays at the end of the event and take them away, returning them to their rightful owners.  Most of all DO NOT put them in landfill skips or even plastics recycling.

SIC Codes.  Once again, an update on something I have mentioned before.

When approaching government, one of the first things they ask is what is your SIC Code, or in some cases NAICS.  Caroline Jackson working on behalf of BVEP is battling away to convince government that the outdoor events industry, which would include a lot of festivals, needs a proper code.  We are at the moment tied into the hospitality industry which does have its problems.

90020 currently classified as Support Activities to Performing Arts seems to be where festivals fit in.  But it would be much better if our industry had its own proper code which is a bit of an uphill battle which we will keep on.  The benefit is, of course, it we fit in to a government scheme to trade then they understand better who we are and where we fit into the trading and economic value to the UK.  More on this as it happens.

Covid not yet gone.  Members will be aware that the government have withdrawn all restrictions to do with Covid.  However, there are still millions of people catching the virus and being off work sick, or indeed not off sick but spreading the virus.  There are no restrictions from HM Government so we can work and run our events along those lines.

We learnt a lot during Covid, not least of which cleanliness, health and welfare at our festival events be they indoor or outdoor, more sanitation points, hand washing facilities and generally be a little more alert to the possibility of virus spread.

Pandemics come and go, one scientist told us that they tend to be in three-year cycles for some reason so look out 2025. 

With all that in mind DCMS have asked us for any anecdotal views on the current Covid Pass, i.e. it is being removed from NHS Guidance.  I see no reason why it should be kept, very few of us used it in the first place, so unless you know something I don’t I will let DCMS know that AFO has no objections to its withdrawal.

The War.  Whilst talking about DCMS I have a duty to point out to you that we are being asked by government not to book or acknowledge any Russian or Bela-Russian artists for our events whilst the war in Ukraine continues. 

Of course, like many of you I have a personal opinion on that statement which I will not discuss here.  On this occasion AFO is merely passing on the news.

Harassment and Bullying.  Fully paid-up members have access to resources on the AFO website and the most recent addition is AFO recommended policy on harassment, bullying and sexual harassment.  This statement has been collated from a variety of others but in particular adapted from work done by the Voluntary Arts Network in 2019 (now known as Creative Lives) and recently updated.  This piece of guidance and advice will help in both the office and the pre-festival workplace as well as at the event itself with staff, artists and customers.  Please read it.

Earth Day.  Did you celebrate Earth Day on 22 April?  There were several actions taken to raise the profile of sustainability and looking after our planet.  Here are a few words from AFO office.

“Should you need any further help or advice on taking action, a new contact on the block is Becky Young, [email protected] doing some good work”. 

Green Man Trust.  Readers will be familiar with the Green Man Festival over in South Wales, a sold out, well established and excellent event for all the family to which I know several members who get along there.

Green Man Trust recently announced that they were very excited to be part of a new commissioning programme that brings together our four nations, England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales to explore collaborations and new ways of working across the borders.  Catch up with that on Green Man Festival website at


At time of writing AFO had 119 fully paid-up festival members, three of whom run multiple events bringing us up to a total of 127 (also a further 20 who have yet to pay their renewal).  In addition to that we have 51 associate members who either run other types of events or are suppliers, and 31 individuals who work in the festival industry, bringing our total to a membership of 209.  And judging by the number of new festivals appearing on the calendar this year we continue to increase in size.  Our colleagues at AIF and BAFA are also increasing their numbers and so bringing together a powerful force of support for festivals throughout the country.

We will come together at our AFO Conference, face-to-face for the first time in three years, in a Midlands venue 4 & 5 November 2022.  Please put these dates in your diary NOW!  More on that soon.

And so to my diary.

22 March - In preparation for some very important EIF meetings I spent several hours preparing an update on AFO work to report.

23 March - was a, now occasional, DCMS Festivals Working Group meeting where we looked at the withdrawal of Covid restrictions and how Covid had affected the way we plan our festivals.  We were asked by DCMS to report to them on any facts or indeed hearsay regarding the Covid Pass, withdrawal of Covid Restrictions and the government’s insurance scheme, which of course I did.  And the rest of that week was tied up with early preparations for AFO Conference, looking at venues and considering agenda items.

29 March - met with a proposed Admin Assistant (part-time) for AFO and talked about the way that AFO operates.  More on that when confirmed.

Also met with BVEP Partners for a general catchup.

5 April - One Industry One Voice meeting, poorly attended but an interesting update and further discussions about the name change.  More on that soon.

6 April - met with Eddie Morton (ex of Bushburys) now running community projects in the West Midlands.  Some very interesting ideas which we are considering for AFO Conference.

Met with Kelly Lloyd-Watson working on behalf of Bakers Basco, see elsewhere in this news.

7 April - was a LIVE full meeting to introduce John Collins.  He is the new Chief Executive Officer replacing Greg Parmley (ILMC) who did a super job over the two years of Covid in getting LIVE moving.  Greg has now gone back to managing his own company and John Collins has taken over.  He is currently and enthusiastically meeting with as many members as possible face-to-face and already chairing meetings.

On the 7th we discussed Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and I reported that our group lead by Rebecca Stewart from Cambridge Folk Festival had merged into the LIVE EDI group lead by Jane Beese.  They were doing similar work and so this saves time and energy. 

Craig Stanley has done some magnificent work on behalf of LIVE to improve the situation regarding live touring of Europe since BREXIT.  Lots more information on that if you need it.  Customer confidence was also discussed which is equally causing problems across the festival industry.  A small group was working with Blakeneys to try and achieve the right wording to report this to HM Gov.

9 April - my horse fell at the second fence.

11 April - had a very useful meeting with Chris Carey who looks after research into the live music industry for LIVE.  We were particularly discussing how festivals would be represented in his “current state of the live music industry “paper, due out soon.  I was able to give Chris a great deal of detail about how AFO operates and its members.

12 April - took a rare journey to London for a variety of meetings, not least of which Colin Irwin, music journalist; John Collins, new LIVE CEO, and others.

16 April Easter - travelled to Britannia, in Bacup, Lancashire for a wonderful, traditional day with family.  Earworm still with me.

18 April – had half a day off and enjoyed live snooker at Crucible, thanks Joe.

19 April – One Industry One Voice met and finally confirmed change of name to The Power of Events.  This is now a group of event managers and organisations from the much wider events industry, including indoor and outdoor festivals of all kinds, conferences, exhibitions, everything from traction engine rallies to agricultural shows.

A very wide-ranging and useful group who will be doing lots of research into the whole events industry and keeping in touch with government to keep up that profile that we so richly deserve, gained during Covid.

21 April –The LIVE Executive meeting.  This is the 14 founder members of LIVE including AFO, where we discussed our new member The Association of British Orchestras (AVO) and a proposal that British Arts Festivals Association (BAFA) should join us.  There was an application from the Live Comedy Association, but there was a general feeling that more investigation of this body needs to be done before including them as we are principally a live music association and would not normally include literature and the spoken word.

How to fund LIVE and its now quite expensive running costs was discussed yet again.  I will be writing to all AFO members with an update on this subject soon but hope that those who can, will make however small, a contribution to the pot for keeping LIVE moving, as clearly it is not just an important but a vital lobbying association for our industry. 

LIVE Green gave a report on progress and looked at ways of the main LIVE administration office taking over the admin for the sub-groups like LIVE Green, European Touring, EDI and others.

VISA charges for those importing artists to festivals this year note that visa costs have increased, see HMRC website.  EDI language workshops facilitated by Roger at Black Lives in Music will be available.  Provisional date 6 June, more details when confirmed.  Members will be pleased to know that the government have now elected a minister for BREXIT opportunity.  Of course, we have left the European Union and are still trying to deal with the endless stream of difficulties that this has caused our industry and our lives.  At least there is now a minister who we can write to and explain our problems. 

We discussed DCMS Insurance Scheme, see elsewhere, and also whether there was a need for a Live Music APPG.  It was generally felt that the existing APPG for Music was enough, and we should be lobbying that body to make sure that live music was properly covered.  That sits alongside an APPG for acoustic, folk, and traditional music as well as APPG’s for theatre, jazz and events.  All of which have representation from AFO. 

5 May elections LIVE agreed a Manifesto for Live Music would be written and forwarded to all the councils holding elections to lobby locally. Our input was to request better support and uniformity from local authorities.

Also on 21 April we held our AFO members meeting and discussed Conference.  If you have any particular subjects you would like to raise for AFO Conference I will do my best to form a panel or find a speaker on that subject.  The door is wide open, let me know now. 

We also welcomed our guest speaker, Craig Mathie from Bournemouth7s Music and Sport Festival who gave us a short presentation of how Bournemouth7s came about and how it works.  A very interesting example of how to build a festival from small to bigger yet still manageable.

I gave the meeting an update of news from all quarters, and we agreed the next meeting will be 6.30pm on Thursday 16 June.  If you would like to attend, just drop me a line and I will make sure you have the link.  You would all be very welcome.

22 April – the LIVE Green Steering Group met and discussed first the fact that this was Earth Day and looked at how the work of LIVE Green would be funded.  John Langford brought the meeting up to date on various areas or work that LIVE Green are undertaking and referred to the Green Book which was an Arts Council funded guidance for theatres in how to be more sustainable.  Work is currently underway by Vision2025 on a Green Code of Good Practice for the outdoor events industry and will be published shortly. AFO has had input into this work.

25 April - is an EIF Board meeting to discuss and confirm structure and actions for the next twelve months. 

27 April - I will be meeting with AIE for our quarterly catch up on all things ACCESS.

29 April - I will attend the GEI Summit in London on the tail end of ILMC (which unfortunately I cannot attend). 

According to my diary the festival scene is well underway with events at Raunds, Wath, Walton on Thames, Ibiza, Upton on Severn, Filey and Bristol, amongst others.

We appear to have a festival season up and running.  If you are now planning yours, which I hope you are, good luck. 

I will be writing to you again in a few weeks’ time.  Should you have any issues that you need help with I am more than happy to hear from you by phone 01629 827014 or by email [email protected]

And finally. If you are now renewing your membership, and I hope you are, please remember the membership fees are now based on your licenced capacity, i.e. under 300 capacity remains at £90; 301-1000 is £120; 1001-3000 is £150; 3001-5000 is £200; 5000 and over is £300.

Please note that the £70 fee which some of you have recently paid was increased to £90 several years ago and since August 2021 has been increased as above.

If you pay via Stripe (set up when you joined as a member via the new website), your amount paid can be updated by the office.

If you pay via PayPal, your amount paid can be updated by the office.

If you pay via BACS, you need to amend the amount paid yourself – we cannot do this.

All annual subscriptions are due on the renewal 1 year after last payment and will be taken on a rolling basis unless you inform us otherwise.

Your fees are vital to the management and running of AFO.  We have a lot of costs and expenses, and we are continually fighting your corner and supporting you as can be seen within this letter.

Please note these new prices in your budgets you know it is worth it!! Stay with us.

We value your membership and I hope you value our work.

Association of Festival Organisers (AFO): 28th Apr 2022 11:27:00

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