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Merch, Brexit, Green Riders and Awards: GEI 11 report

The GEI team round up the highlights of the biggest-ever Green Events and Innovations Conference and A Greener Festival Awards

By IQ on 06 Mar 2019

The 2019 AGF Award winners

The 2019 AGF Award winners

image © Daisy Brasington

The 11th edition of the Greener Events and Innovations Conference (GEI) saw panels taking place in a new, much larger space to accommodate the record number of delegates in attendance. The event saw 200 people attend the day packed with presentations, workshops and activities.

With the focus firmly on the future of sustainability at festivals and events, the schedule featured four main panel debates interspersed with breakout sessions, round tables and even yoga!

To start the day, our delegates gathered for the Welcome Address from A Greener Festival directors Claire O’Neill and Ben Challis, followed swiftly by the first panel titled “The Essentials: Food… and Merch?!”. This section could even be considered two panels in one, which started with a discussion around best practice in choosing ethical merchandise for both festivals and artist promoters. Then, with a quick change of panelists, the conversation moved onto the topic of food, in particular the carbon emissions created by the meat and dairy industry, and providing crew and attendees alike with information and options to make a less environmentally impactful choice. Both DGTL Amsterdam and Eighth Plate opened up conversations around food waste and creating a circular system to minimise it. This session was supported by the NCASS.

During coffee breaks supported by Natural Event, breakout sessions Innovation Quick Fire Round showed low impact Snow Business as an SFX solution for events, Loowatt toilet solutions and a new Hydrogen Fuel Cell project led by Green Music Initiative.

The Green Artist Rider encourages artists, promoters and venues to minimise impact as much as they can by adopting a greener rider for their own shows

Our next panel; “Come Together, Right Now… Over Brexit” covered the imminent yet wildly uncertain future of Brexit and the impact it will have on our industry. All panelists agreed that we need to develop opportunities to collaborate, and create partnerships for purpose. This session saw frustrations around the uncertainty ahead aired, but Kierra Box from Friends of the Earth ensured that we focused on taking positive steps to safeguard our environmental efforts, and use our respective events as platforms to celebrate multiculturalism, and to inform and inspire change.

Lunchtime saw a number of smaller sessions hosted in our workshop rooms, including ‘IPM Yoga: Wellbeing for Delegates’, production notes on ‘Event Security & Safety Summaries’ and ‘The Green Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds’, and a round table on ‘Inspiring the Next Generation’. Ash Perrin of the Flying Seagull Project was particularly compelling in the latter; discussing his work with refugee children and how happiness matters: “I think kids should be kids and be able to play, no matter their environment or upbringing”.

One of the most heated debates of the day came in our first panel of the afternoon; “A Greener Tour: Is Green the New Rock n Roll?”. Touring shows by their very nature aren’t particularly environmentally friendly, with artists being flown around the world to perform, and their entourage and seemingly increasing equipment following suit. Coda Agency has partnered with A Greener Festival to launch their Green Artist Rider, which encourages artists, promoters, and venues to minimise impact as much as they can by adopting a greener rider for their own shows; for example ensuring venues do not use plastic bottles, ethical food purchasing and using local suppliers for equipment. Coda’s Alex Hardee celebrated the launch with a compelling and entertaining speech about all of our responsibility to take urgent action due to climate change.

Coda Agency and AGF launch Green Artist Rider

Pieter Smit represented the trucking industry presenting their latest work with HVO low carbon fuels and the Euro 6 emissions regulations from major Cities. The discussion became lively when the experts tried to pinpoint who should spearhead this, with most agreeing the artists themselves have the most power to ensure change, however some arguing that the major promoters need to take leadership on fundamental issues before asking artists to do so. Conclusions suggest it needs to be from all possible angles, and any statements made by artists should be supported with solid references.

In our final panel we tackled one of the biggest obstacles facing the festival industry which is the waste we leave behind. In “Circular Live – Campsites, Cups and Creativity”, supported by Pentatonic, our experts delved into the psychology behind discarding camping equipment and choosing green/premium campsite options, turning off the ‘plastic tap’, and new innovations in packaging. The panel all agreed that people do care about sustainability, but an overwhelming number of festival attendees are unaware that abandoning their tent and single use plastics are one and the same. We need to create the same uproar that there is behind plastic bottles and straws, and drive change by incentivisation. A festival is the perfect place to test a utopian, circular civilisation because it is temporary, and because the festival itself builds the infrastructure and therefore decides the rules.

The first-ever winner of the overall International Greener Festival Award was the very deserving DGTL Festival

The overwhelming feeling in the room when leaving this final panel was one of hope and determination for festivals and events to be pioneers in the circular economy.

To round off the day, delegates were invited upstairs for the awards ceremony, supported by RES and Video Illusions, which featured not only those events that had garnered an A Greener Festival Award for 2018 but also for the first time the announcement of the International AGF Awards winners for a range of categories including the Greener Transport Award, the Water & Sanitation Award and the first ever overall winner of the International Greener Festival Award, which went to the very deserving DGTL Festival. The awards were followed by a closing drinks party with the opportunity to network with both GEI delegates and those from IBM (held concurrently).

What a fantastic and inspiring eleventh year for the Green Events and Innovations Conference!

With thanks to Jessi Dimmock (Where’s My Tent?).


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