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Unsung Heroes 2020: Paul Reed

IQ's latest Unsung Hero is Paul Reed, CEO (and sole employee) of the UK's Association of Independent Festivals

By IQ on 05 Feb 2021

AIF chief Paul Reed says the extent of the cover available is limited

Paul Reed

Unsung Heroes 2020, published in IQ 95 just before Christmas, is a tribute to some of the organisations and individuals who have gone above and beyond to help others during a year unlike any other – be that through their efforts to protect the industry, or helping those who were in desperate need.

We turned to the readership and asked you to nominate worthy causes and personalities for consideration as the inaugural members of our Unsung Heroes awards. Now, IQ can reveal the dozen most-voted Unsung Heroes of 2020, continuing with Paul Reed of the AIF, who follows Sonorama Ribera’s Javier Ajenjo.

As chief executive of the UK’s Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), Paul Reed has been an invaluable resource for the association’s 75 member events as they battle for survival until mass gatherings can once again become a reality.

Reed has been running AIF single-handedly since April, but his drive and determination have seen him take on a multitude of tasks, winning him plaudits from numerous festivals and their organisers.

Reed’s work last year included:

  • Lobbying the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and presenting a detailed report and case for festival inclusion in the Culture Recovery Fund; supporting members through webinars; and appointing a funding consultant to assess each application. 71% of member applications were successful in their funding bids, resulting in more than £5.5m of support into the independent festival sector. Reed also submitted a report illustrating impact and where further intervention is needed. He is lobbying alongside the rest of the live industry for a provisional restart date, a government-backed reinsurance solution and further targeted financial support where required.
  • Following conversations between AIF, the DCMS select committee and relevant members of parliament, a select committee enquiry into the future of UK music festivals was recently announced and Reed responded to this and provided key points to members.
  • AIF’s Ops Group has led on festival guidance and planning considerations that were published on the Purple Guide website recently.

Reed has been running AIF single-handedly since April

  • Earlier in the crisis, he publicly called upon government for urgent clarity on a ‘mass gatherings’ ban following the announcement of the initial social distancing measures.
  • Launched an extensive media campaign highlighting the extent to which independent festivals are at risk (92% of members were facing potential collapse in May), the importance of audience rolling over tickets and the need for ongoing support from government. This gained impactful and extensive coverage in the media.
  • Proactively lobbied DCMS and the Treasury for measures to alleviate the sector, including clearly introducing a ban on gatherings, VAT deferments, further clarity on the eligibility of festivals for grants and business interruption loans. The UK Government subsequently introduced a categorical rolling ban on gatherings, introduced VAT deferral for businesses and confirmed a temporary 5% VAT cut for businesses including festival tickets, which has been extended to March 2021.
  • Briefed DCMS ministers and organised regular catch-up calls with senior officials at DMCS and liaised with the wider industry.
  • Organised countless specialist Zoom sessions for members, with lawyers, crisis communications experts, business management and accountancy advice.
  • Sent multiple updates to all members each week and provided them with bespoke advice and support throughout, responding around the clock to a high volume of enquiries.
  • Actively grew the AIF membership, announcing 17 new members at the organisation’s AGM in September. AIF now represents 75 festivals across the UK, with a collective capacity of more than one million.


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