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AIF’s equality, diversity and inclusion mission

The Association of Independent Festivals' Phoebe Rodwell-Carson details how the policy can have can have a uniquely positive impact

17 Nov 2023

At the end of last month, AIF launched a new Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Policy and Action plan. We did this primarily as part of our ongoing efforts to improve representation both within our organisation and across our membership.

But the initiative was also born from the belief that AIF festivals can have a uniquely positive impact on the sector, its talent pipeline and wider culture – one that we can’t necessarily expect from our major counterparts.

Major festivals tend to rely on star-studded line-ups and blockbuster artists to draw crowds from one year to the next. Independent festivals, on the other hand, particularly those under the AIF banner, are far more deeply rooted in, and therefore driven by, community. Both the independent festival community and the communities they serve.

AIF festival audiences don’t attend events simply because of a big name headliner, they identify with these events on a profound level. This means that AIF festivals have a hand in shaping the outlook, perspectives and philosophies of their attendees. Extrapolate further, and these independent festival organisers can be said to have an influence not only on their audience, but the festival sector and culture at large. With that in mind, we have both the ability and responsibility to drive the equality, diversity and inclusion agenda.

Several AIF members are already leading the charge. Festivals like Sound City, Mighty Hoopla, Continental Drifts, and End Of The Road Festival have consistently curated inclusive, balanced line-ups and embraced diversity in a number of key ways for many years now.

“Our commitment to EDI isn’t just a moral imperative; it makes good business sense”

What we hope to do with the new AIF EDI policy is formalise these efforts, providing our members with the necessary structure, resources, and tools to unify a positive collective impact. AIF’s EDI Action Plan provides a roadmap that will see both our organisation and our members collect better diversity data; improve training and accountability; uphold safety; and improve representation across the AIF membership, festival staff and line-ups.

Our Safer Spaces initiative has shown us the importance of combining awareness campaigns with tangible solutions. While raising awareness is vital, implementing practical measures is the next crucial step. The EDI Policy and Action Plan is precisely that – a concrete framework that moves beyond rhetoric to bring about meaningful change.

Our commitment to EDI isn’t just a moral imperative; it makes good business sense. People crave representation; they want to see themselves reflected in the entertainment they consume. By fostering diversity on stages and behind the scenes, we create a festival environment that resonates with a broader audience. This inclusivity isn’t just a ticket to greater profits; it’s an investment in the future of the music industry. By widening the talent pipeline, we discover the creative and professional stars of tomorrow, ensuring the longevity and vitality of our industry.

By promoting greater equality, diversity, and inclusion, we not only enrich the festival experience but also open our doors to a wider audience, embracing individuals from diverse backgrounds and perspectives.

Phoebe Rodwell-Carson is membership & operations coordinator of the UK’s Association of Independent Festivals (AIF).


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