Working guidance for UK festivals updated
Working guidance for UK festival organisers has been updated to provide ‘support and strategic direction’ in the planning of events until the results of the government’s Events Research Programme (ERP) and reviews on social distancing and Covid-Status Certification later this summer.
The new interim briefing builds upon planning considerations published last year on the Purple Guide website, which covered eight key themes and Covid-19 safety measures including medical and welfare arrangements, crowd considerations and specific mitigation measures.
As well as providing direction until the conclusions of the ERP, the briefing note has been developed to:
- Consider the primary scenarios and operational issues that may arise when planning and delivering an event during Covid restrictions and beyond.
- Provide an understanding of the risks in operational areas to support a proportionate and measured approach in planning.
- Outline practical, operational steps that may be considered to deliver safe events in accordance with relevant legislation of the day.
- Support event organisers and multi-agency partners to fully understand the risk of independent activities to wider public health.
The document has again been produced in conjunction with leading practitioners from the festival industry including the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF); the Association of Festival Organisers (AFO); the Events Industry Forum (EIF), and Attitude Is Everything.
“[This guidance] is an important step in ensuring that festivals can return safely”
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and Public Health England (PHE) also provided input on the development of the guidance, which has been co-authored by Emma Parkinson (Coventry University) and Jennifer Mackley (Mackley Projects and Events Ltd).
“This interim guidance briefing provides strategic direction to festival organisers and includes practical mitigation measures to help them continue to plan for this summer and beyond,” says Paul Reed, CEO of AIF.
“I’d like to thank Emma Parkinson and Jennifer Mackley in particular for their work, and colleagues from across the festival sector and within DCMS and PHE for their contributions to this important step in ensuring that festivals can return safely”.
Steve Heap, general secretary of AFO, added: “Having lost almost all of the industry’s 2020 events, festival organisers are very keen to stage whatever is safely possible over the remainder of this year’s season. To do that, clear guidance is needed. The publication of this document, free to all on the Purple Guide website, provides that guidance, written by experienced festival managers with the leadership of AIF.”
Jim Winship, secretary of the EIF, added: “Festivals form an important part of the outdoor event economy and also contribute significantly to social wellbeing. They also take many forms and this guidance should help to enable at least some festivals to go ahead this summer.”
The guidance is live on The Purple Guide site here.
Additionally, the group is hosting a webinar with various contributors outlining the briefing note and taking questions. Details will be announced shortly on the AIF website here.
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UK festivals benefit from substantial CRF grants
Glastonbury, Boomtown Fair and Cheltenham Jazz Festival have been awarded substantial grants in round two of the UK government’s £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund (CRF2).
The 2,700 recipients of the CRF2 were announced last Friday by culture secretary Oliver Dowden, who said Glastonbury’s £900,000 grant would help the festival stage two smaller events this year, including the recently announced Live at Worthy Farm, and would help sustain it until 2022.
Boomtown was awarded £991,000, which the organisers say will secure the future of the festival, and Cheltenham Jazz Festival was awarded £290,000.
We’re grateful to have been offered an award from the Culture Recovery Fund. After losing millions from the cancellation of our last two Festivals, this grant will make a significant difference in helping to secure our future. @ace_southwest @DCMS @ace_national #HereForCulture
— Glastonbury Festival (@glastonbury) April 2, 2021
Other festivals to benefit in the latest round of the CRF are Sea Change Festival (£126,000), Standon Calling (£418,465), Y Not Festival (£120,000), Towersey Festival £104,000), Bestival and Camp Bestival founder Rob da Banks’ Sunday Best Recordings Ltd (£92,000), Noisily Festival (£78,000), Strawberries and Creem (£75,000) and Nozstock (£32,000).
The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), confirmed that 70% of the members who applied for a grant in CRF2 have been offered funding, which amounts to over £5.5m with an average grant of almost £126,000.
“We thank the Treasury, DCMS and Arts Council England for this lifeline, and for investing in some of this summer’s independent festivals, enabling them to survive and continue planning in the short term,” says Paul Reed, CEO at AIF.
Thanks to the funding we’ve received from the government’s #CultureRecoveryFund we’re all set to build on our digital…
“AIF worked tirelessly to ensure that festivals were eligible for the fund in the first place, and to support and service members at every step – sharing information, engaging funding specialists, organising online sessions and working around the clock to support applications.
“This latest government support is invaluable. However, as with the first round, it is important to note that this money did not reach the entire sector, that it will only support some festivals until the end of June and that hurdles remain before festivals are able to plan with confidence – not least the absence of a government intervention on insurance. It is also critically important that the Events Research Programme explores challenges and mitigations around all types of events including festivals.”
Among the grassroots venues to receive grants from the CRF2 are Hull’s The New Adelphi Club (£30,000), The Louisiana in Bristol (£63,000), Cambridge Junction (£248,083), Brudenell Social Club (£213,853) in Leeds and London’s Troubadour (£272,828).
Music Venue Trust (MVT) strategic director, Beverley Whitrick, says: “MVT has worked hard to support eligible grassroots music venues in their applications to this fund and we are delighted that members of the Music Venues Alliance (MVA) have now been awarded almost £16million in support.
“This represents an 80% success rate for MVA members, many of whom had never applied for public funding prior to this pandemic. This money is aimed at securing venues until the end of June 2021.”
Music Venue Trust represents over 900 venues across the UK.
Other successful applicants of the CRF2 include event industry suppliers and service providers such as A&J Big Tops Limited (£545,000), AB Lighting (£79,000) and Symphotech (£60,000).
The CRF was increased by £300m earlier this year as part of chancellor Rishi Sunak’s March budget.
For the full list of recipients, visit the Arts Council England website.
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UK stars weigh in on ‘final countdown’ for insurance
UK superstars have joined the chorus of industry experts and trade associations calling on the UK government to commit to underwriting cancellation costs of events such as music festivals and tours, to enable the restart of the live entertainment sector from this summer.
Jools Holland, Depeche Mode, Johnny Marr, Sir Cliff Richard, Robert Plant, Roger Daltrey, Amy McDonald, The Chemical Brothers, Frank Turner and Judas Priest are among those who have weighed in on the ongoing petition for a government-backed insurance scheme, similar to those launched in Norway, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Belgium.
The industry’s call-to-action comes days before chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to unveil the Budget. Alongside a government-backed insurance pot, the industry is also urging the chancellor to grant extensions on the 5% VAT rate on ticket sales; employment support; and business rates relief for shuttered venues.
The industry deems event cancellation insurance the ‘last remaining barrier’ to planning events this summer after British prime minister Boris Johnson announced a ‘cautious’ reopening roadmap that could allow festivals to take place after 21 June, but says the window of opportunity for this summer ‘will slam shut very shortly’.
“With the cut-off point for many organisers at the end of the month, this really is the final countdown for many businesses”
Paul Reed, AIF CEO, says: “The prime minister has set out a roadmap and a ‘no earlier than’ date for festivals, and audiences have responded, demonstrating a huge appetite to be back in the fields this summer. But we need government interventions on insurance and VAT before the end of this month when festivals will need to decide whether they can commit to serious amounts of upfront capital.
“Now that we have a ‘no earlier than’ date, insurance is the last remaining barrier to planning. We know that government is aware of the insurance issue and AIF has provided evidence and data to support the case. Having injected huge consumer confidence, government should intervene at this stage and ensure that our culture-defining independent festivals can mobilise and plan for this summer. With the cut-off point for many organisers at the end of the month, this really is the final countdown for many businesses.”
AIF, whose members include Boomtown Fair, Shambala, Boardmasters, End of the Road and Bluedot, recently conducted a member survey in which 92.5% of respondents confirmed they cannot stage events without insurance and described insurance measures as ‘vital’ not optional.
“The window of opportunity for this summer will slam shut very shortly. The government needs to act now”
Tim Thornhill, director of Tysers Entertainment and Sport Division, is working closely with the live entertainment insurance industry and live music industry umbrella organisation Live, to urge the government to work with industry to find a solution.
Thornhill comments: “The government has successfully created a scheme that has enabled the film and television industries to get back to work. Now they need to do the same for the live events industry. But the window of opportunity for this summer will slam shut very shortly. The government needs to act now.
“The live events industry is a massive employer and a significant generator of economic activity. Music alone employs over 200,000 people, with music tourism contributing £4.7bn to the UK economy*. The new YouGov survey shows that demand is there – they will buy tickets and spend on accommodation, food and drink. The government can unlock this boost to the economy at no cost to themselves, just a commitment to help underwrite the cost of cancellations should they occur.”
“This cover will allow our business to function as soon as it is safe for us to do so”
Jools Holland comments: “The solution to this problem could be simple – and what’s more, it doesn’t involve the government paying out money now. Maybe not even in the future, unless Covid strikes again. All we need from the government is the commitment to help if necessary.”
Roger Daltrey CBE comments: “The music business and arts have been enormously affected by the Covid-19 virus, with the ongoing health issues plus the problems thrown up by the government’s essential decision to close our places of work. The government however needs to understand how our industry functions. Promoters, especially those with festivals, bands and any touring acts have enormous outlays before commencing a tour, so insurance for these costs is paramount.
“Insurance companies will no longer cover these costs for Covid-19, which will render much of our business unviable as no promoter can risk setting up an event or tour without this cover. All we ask of our government is to put in place an insurance policy that, in the event of this situation happening again, will cover these costs. As it may be 100 years to the next pandemic it is extremely unlikely that this will involve the government paying out any money, but this cover will allow our business to function as soon as it is safe for us to do so.”
“We have seen the impact on the many people who help make the live shows happen”
The Chemical Brothers comments: “Like many other people we have had to put a lot of work on hold in the last year, and we have seen the impact on the many people who help make the live shows happen. Thousands of jobs have already been lost across the UK live music industry, with many more at risk. The UK government has already provided a financially backed scheme for the film industry, which has allowed production to resume. All we ask is that the same approach be taken to help those in the live events industry, which needs the support too and provides so much to the UK economically as well as culturally.”
Sir Cliff Richard comments: “The live events industry has suffered hugely as a result of the pandemic and has been shut down for nearly a year. Venues, performers and crew have all been badly affected. People’s jobs and income have vanished almost overnight. OUR BUSINESS BRINGS INSPIRATION AND HAPPINESS INTO PEOPLE’S LIVES. WE CAN MAKE THEM SMILE WHEN THEY ARE SAD AND WE CAN HELP THEM SING WHEN THEY HAVE NOTHING TO SING ABOUT! We need the government to help us plan for when it is safe to resume OUR business.”
“The industry is facing near catastrophe without adequate government support”
Amy MacDonald comments: “When people attend a gig they buy a ticket, turn up and enjoy the show. What they don’t always understand is the months of preparation that went on behind the scenes to get to that particular point. Thousands of emails and phone calls, meetings, site visits and not to mention huge amounts of money spent to just get to a point where the tickets are on sale. Another important aspect of preparing for a show is the need to ensure the event but it’s now impossible to get any insurance to cover these shows.
“As we have seen from the recent cancellation of Glastonbury, the live industry cannot even plan to start up again because it is too much of a risk without any insurance. The live industry has been put on hold for nearly a year and with no date for a return and no chance to even plan a return, the industry is facing near catastrophe without adequate government support. Nobody wants to live in a world without live music.”
“Can the PM tell us why he won’t help an industry that contributes billions to the UK economy each year?”
Robert Plant comments: “We all desperately want the UK live industry back on its feet again, so we can enjoy our favourite bands or sports event. Yet without insurance to cover these events, these things can’t happen. So please, can the PM tell us why he won’t help an industry that contributes billions to the UK economy each year?
“We’re not asking for any money, just a commitment to help if Covid ever strikes again. We don’t want a hand-out, we just need a hand up.. to help us get back on the stage. I’ve spent 55 years performing in halls, clubs, theatres and concerts halls across the UK. Now we’re in unchartered waters, soon there will be nowhere left to play. So I’m lending my voice to this campaign in the hope that the government will see sense and lend support before many of our beloved music venues disappear forever.”
Harvey Goldsmith CBE, promoter, comments: “As promoters and producers of live concerts we cannot produce tours without insurance against Covid. We are the risk takers and often have to pay considerable sums upfront to be able to create the tour. If the government at any time decide it is unsafe to continue, or commence a tour, we must be able to take insurance to protect us, as any normal business would expect. If no insurance is available our business will collapse.”
“The single most powerful measure the government could take is to underwrite any losses from Covid-19 cancellations”
Philip McIntyre, promoter, comments: “I would like to support your campaign to have the government underwrite any losses suffered from Covid 19 cancellations whilst the pandemic is still prevalent. My company is in the top five of all live entertainment groups in the UK we are obviously keen to start operating again but we worry about uninsured risk. Now we have a plan to come out of lockdown the single most powerful measure the government could take is to underwrite any losses from Covid-19 cancellations after June this year.
“This would give the risk takers so much confidence they the live arts would return to normal by December this year. If there are claims they would more than likely be on a regional basis and not onerous and the business generated in town and city centres would more than cover them in my estimation the government would be in profit 12 months ahead of a no action situation.”
Frank Turner comments: “It cannot be exaggerated, the devastation caused in my industry by the pandemic. We’re doing what we can to hang on and plan for a better future. An insurance plan will help us survive and come back quicker, and it doesn’t involve the government paying out any extra money now (or possibly ever). It would make an enormous difference.”
“Every effort is made to reduce the costs of a cancelled concert including trying to reschedule a date”
Johnny Marr comments: “The solution to getting music back up safely is easy and it doesn’t involve the government committing money now. All we need from the government is the commitment to help if necessary with an insurance scheme backed by them, and that will get our crews and suppliers back working. The government would only have to pay out in the worst case.”
Barrie Marshall MBE, promoter, comments: “The tremendous work of the NHS and the vaccination programme means that live events can start soon, this gives us hope that we can begin to share those magical moments and wonderful concerts once again. However, we need the government to help us by providing financial backing in the form of an insurance fund. This is needed to cover the costs of an event if it must be cancelled as a result of a Covid outbreak. Every effort is made to reduce the costs of a cancelled concert including trying to reschedule a date in the future but there are some circumstances where this is not possible.”
“We help to get our industry back on track and to help restart live events in a safe, effective way once it’s possible to do so”
John Giddings, promoter, comments: “Our industry has been hit immeasurably over the past year and we need to get it back up and running again. The government has got to help!”
Judas Priest comments: “The world has been more or less brought to its knees because of Covid-19 in this past year. It has affected so many people and businesses in all walks of life in so many ways. Our industry, the entertainment industry (which is a multi-billion dollar business), is suffering massively. It isn’t just affecting us – a band who want to get back out on the road, performing to our fans around the world – but it is affecting mainly our crew (and all the other crews), the venues and their staff, cleaners, security, caterers, local crew, bus drivers, truck drivers, lighting and video personnel, stage set designers and stage set builders. The list is endless.
“We need help, for the venues to be able to put on shows and the artists to be able to perform we all need to get tour insurance that will cover Covid-19 so shows can go ahead. Now we have the vaccine things should be on the way up but we need your help urgently, please!”
Depeche Mode comments: “With the live music industry in the UK shut down for over a year, our crew, our fans, venues, and everyone else who makes shows possible has been badly affected. Jobs and income have vanished almost overnight, and fans and artists alike have been left wondering when live shows will be possible again. We need the government to help us get our industry back on track and to help restart live events in a safe, effective way once it’s possible to do so.”
Government-backed insurance funds will be explored at ILMC during Insurance: The Big Update, while lessons that can be learned from 2020’s lost festival summer will be discussed during Festival Forum: Reboot & Reset.
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Unsung Heroes 2020: 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.
UK festival industry warns of ‘wipeout’ at DCMS inquiry
Key stakeholders in the UK’s festival industry today gave evidence at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Select Committee’s inquiry into safeguarding the future of the sector, which has been ‘decimated’ due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The inquiry heard from Sacha Lord, co-founder, Parklife and The Warehouse Project and nighttime economy advisor for Greater Manchester; Anna Wade, communications and strategy director, Boomtown Fair; Steve Heap, general secretary, Association of Festival Organisers (AOF); Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, chief executive, UK Music and Paul Reed, chief executive, Association of Independent Festivals (AIF).
The witnesses gave evidence on a number of challenges facing the sector and conveyed the urgent need for further government support to avoid a ‘total wipeout’ of the festival ecosystem.
Among the participants’ key demands was an indicative date for a full return to live; a government-backed coronavirus cancellation scheme; a three-year extension of the VAT reduction and an extension for business rates relief.
“If organisers don’t have certainty, confidence and some sense of financial security, there’ll be major cancellations within weeks”
Indicative date for full return to live
Participants unanimously agreed that one of the most pressing requirements from the government is an indicative date for festivals to return to full scale and without social distancing, which would allow organisers to either proceed with their events or cancel.
AIF’s Reed said: “Right now is when organisers have to make key decisions. If they don’t have certainty, confidence and some sense of financial security for summer events, then there’ll be major cancellations within weeks.”
UK Music’s Njoku-Goodwin said: “We have a vaccine on the way. It’s being rolled out and there’s a timetable for that. The public target for ministers has been two million vaccines every week and if we know our testing capacity and the testing situation is going to be at a certain point by a certain time, we should be able to have some sort of roadmap for live. If you’ve got that sort of data and information, there should be a way to calculate or make some sort of political determination or judgement for an indicative date for a return.”
Boomtown’s Wade said: “There’s a challenging road in front of us but not impossible. We need the government to understand our timeline because we can’t roll something out quickly – it’s a very very complex operation to put on festivals. Normality might resume but that doesn’t necessarily give us a green light.”
“Insurance is the first key in the door that will unlock everything else”
Government-backed insurance scheme
Citing insurance schemes rolled out in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, UK Music’s Njoku-Goodwin expressed concerns that the UK would be at a competitive disadvantage if the government doesn’t prevail with our own scheme: “I think the real danger here is that if we see a lot of countries – particularly in Europe or close to home – protecting their festival seasons, you could have a sort of a talent transfer. We don’t want to have a situation where musicians, crews, technicians and people who should be working in and supporting the UK festival scene are looking to the continent thinking ‘actually if there’s going to be live music happening there in 2021, that’s where we are going to be’.”
AIF’s Reed reiterated the need for a government-backed insurance scheme, adding that none of AIF’s member festivals will be able to go ahead in 2021 without it: “Without government intervention, festivals will simply cancel early and on mass. It’s still too early to tell in a binary sense whether the season is on or off, but for the larger festivals, [the decision of whether or not to cancel] will come by the end of this month and for some of the smaller ones it’s March but they are all reaching a point at which they will need to commit that upfront capital and make a determination on the event for this year.”
Addressing the government’s claims that an insurance plan should be the final hurdle for event organisers, Boomtown’s Wade said: “Insurance is the first key in the door that will unlock everything else. Then we can commit to things and start getting a bit more confidence back in the industry.”
“If festivals don’t take place in 2021, the vast majority of the ecosystem could disappear”
Consequences of a cancelled 2021 festival season
Boomtown’s Wade said: “It’s unlikely that we’ll be able to weather the storm of no events happening in 2021. Most festival organisers only hold one event and that is the one opportunity in the year. Without that, we don’t have a company essentially.”
AIF’s Reed said the loss for the taxpayer will be ‘significant’ in the 2021 festival season is cancelled: “If you look at the overall contribution of festivals to the UK economy, you’re looking at £1.7 bn GVA and 85,000 jobs. The live music industry in general, I believe, generates about £1.6 bn in VAT receipts and a significant portion of that will be generated by festivals.”
Sacha Lord, co-founder, Parklife and The Warehouse Project reinforced that point, adding: “The UK has got one of the biggest festival markets, globally, and we’re proud that music is one of our biggest exports. If festivals don’t take place in 2021, I think the vast majority of the ecosystem could disappear.”
“If events like [Boomtown Fair] can’t run, there’s going to be this big knock-on effect”
The wider economic impact of a disappearing festival sector
Lord said: “Let’s not forget everything that happens on the outside of the perimeter. When Parklife takes place on that one weekend it brings £16 million into the local economy. Every single year we have the Parklife Foundation, which raises on average about 100–120,000 pounds for local community causes. So there’s a bigger picture here and we need to look at the whole ecology. The supply chain will be wiped out if we have another year like 2020.”
Boomtown’s Wade said: “If events like ours can’t run, there’s going to be this big knock-on effect because we then can’t invest in local services people and skills. Festivals are like mini-cities so the supply chains, infrastructure and the services that we use are vast and countless.”
“Testing and pilots are two of the pillars. The other pillar would be industry mitigations”
Testing and safety precautions
AIF’s Reed said: “It’s difficult at this stage to see testing as the only solution to facilitate festivals. I think testing and pilots are two of the pillars, alongside vaccine development and rollout and of course treatment. But the other pillar would be industry mitigations, which is why we have a festivals working group which is cross-industry and that is working with the DCMS and Public Health England, to look at specific guidance and planning assumptions. [Those aspects] will contribute to a proposition for how festivals can safely return and instil that confidence in customers.”
UK Music’s Njoku-Goodwin said: “We don’t want to come back before it’s safe. It’s why we’re engaging in testing to make sure that we can find ways to make sure that no infections are brought into events spaces. And it’s one of the reasons we’re asking for an indicative date from the government because having government be clear on a date when we believe it’s safe to be able to hold events without social distancing and at scale will help with the public confidence.”
Steve Heap, general secretary, AOF, said: “The customer confidence, I think, is one of the biggest hurdles we have to overcome. Our ticket sales are virtually at zero. There are one or two festivals are managing okay to sell, but the customers are no longer prepared to release the funds for the tickets because they’re just not sure the event will go ahead until we get to such a point that we can say they will.”
To coincide with today’s hearing, UK Music today published a new report, titled Let The Music Play: Save Our Summer 2021 report, which outlines a strategy to restart the live music industry when it is safe.
IFF puts finishing touches to biggest programme yet
The Interactive Festival Forum (iFF) has announced two Soapbox Sessions panels for the event taking place on 2 and 3 September.
The first 55-minute session will invite five industry experts to deliver quick-fire presentations on a range of specialist topics including agency roster analysis, socially distanced events and mental health.
Soapbox Sessions: Five in 55 will see ROSTR co-founder and CEO, Mark Williamson, present highlights from an analysis of 650+ agency rosters with ROSTR: The Agency World in Numbers.
Tim O’Brien – professor at Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics at the University of Manchester (the site of AIF member festival Bluedot) – will reprise a much-loved talk from a previous AIF Festival Congress with AIF presents: Sounds of Space.
Geoff Dixon will present exclusive new research on festivalgoers’ confidence about returning to live events over the next 12 months
In Soapbox Session Covid-19: You Are Here, Dr Mark Salter, consultant for global health at Public Health England, will update delegates on the latest international developments in the fight against Covid-19, including the search for a vaccine, as well as how public health authorities are planning for the months ahead.
Finally, Getting Back to Work: The Fan’s Perspective Vivid Interface will hear Geoff Dixon present exclusive new research on festivalgoers’ confidence about returning to live events over the next 12 months.
Another new addition to the conference schedule is The Lost Causes, a series of presentations from specialists covering diversity, accessibility, and mental health and welfare.
Attitude Is Everything‘s Gideon Feldman will deliver Accessibility: Building Back Better, Keychange‘s Francine Gorman will present Equality: Representation Matters and festival booker-turned-psychotherapist Tamsin Embleton will educate delegates on Mental Health: Minding the Gap.
Today’s announcement follows the news that CAA board member and London co-head Emma Banks, Paradigm’s head of global music, Marty Diamond, and FKP Scorpio MD Folkert Koopmans are joining the conference.
With just over one week to go until iFF, and with passes increasing in price on 1 September, secure your place and save money by registering here. Tickets are still just £50 inc. ALL fees.
Green Guardians: Communication and marketing
The Green Guardians Guide, spearheaded by the Green Events and Innovations Conference and IQ Magazine, is a new yearly initiative highlighting some of the work being done around the world to reduce the carbon footprint of the live entertainment business.
The inaugural list, which originally ran in IQ 90, features 60 entries across ten categories, selected by the Green Guardians committee, which includes representatives from some of the sector’s most respected bodies, such as A Greener Festival, Go Group, Green Music Initiative, Julie’s Bicycle and Vision:2025.
Following on from last week’s feature on the companies providing eco-friendly alternatives for powering live events, this edition of Green Guardians looks at PR and marketing initiatives helping live events become greener.
Activation, communication and marketing
TicketSellers pushes its sustainability agenda through its Eventree platform. The company builds all of its software in-house allowing it to incorporate new features to help its clients’ events to be greener, as well as engaging their audiences in sustainability initiatives. Its first carbon-balancing tool, for instance, was launched in 2009.
Clients Shambala, Boomtown, Nozstock, Noisily, Just So, Elderflower Fields, and mountain-bike fest GT Bicycles Malverns Classic have all benefited from the goodwill associated with engaging customers with the impact of their travel.
Eventree is TicketSellers’ crew management platform, accrediting tens of thousands of event workers each year. The system captures postcodes for requested vehicle passes and looks to present event organisers with comprehensive carbon footprint analysis for crew travel.
In 2018, the festivals who implemented the Eventree carbon calculator on their ticket page collectively balanced over half a million miles of travel carbon.
Festivals who implemented the Eventree carbon calculator collectively balanced over 0.5m miles of travel carbon
Frustrated by the volume of fake environmental claims and greenwashing, Enviral founder Joss Ford wanted to put great environmental and social brands in the spotlight so that other eco-minded consumers could purchase from them. Essentially, he wanted to create a PR agency that could help green businesses use their force for good, in order to evoke positive behaviour change and ultimately make whole industries better.
Ford advises potential clients to: “Make sure it’s genuine. A disingenuous purpose or greenwashing will only work to damage your brand, so if you’re going to talk the sustainability talk, then your festival better walk the walk.”
He adds:“If you’re looking to genuinely improve green credentials, then getting attendees involved with your initiatives will help them feel like they’re part of this positive change. For example, offer attendees the option to pay a few extra pounds for renewable power at the event. Initiatives such as this will help festival goers feel like they’re contributing to positive change.”
“A disingenuous purpose or greenwashing will only work to damage your brand”
Established by platinum-selling DJ and producer, Sam Feldt, the Heartfeldt Foundation uses its voice to make a positive impact at festivals and events including Coachella, Ultra Music Festival, ADE Green, IMS and A Greener Festival Awards.
Last year, the foundation produced Heartfeldt Neon Jungle, which took place during the Amsterdam Dance Event, with the aim of making it carbon neutral. Visitors to the event were asked about their method of transportation so that the amount of offset required could be calculated. Meanwhile, the venue removed single-use plastics in its food and beverage section, employed a liquid smoke machine as FX instead of C02, served healthy, non-alcoholic drinks, and brought in an entire jungle of plants.
Prior to the pandemic, Heartfeldt was busy with the production of a self-sustainable, pop-up touring concept, designed to positively contribute to the communities it visits, which will be rolled out as soon as touring restarts.
Over 60 UK festivals have committed to eliminating single-use plastic by 2022
Drastic on Plastic
Launched by the UK’s Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) in association with RAW Foundation to coincide with Earth Day in 2018, #DrasticOnPlastic saw more than 60 AIF member festival websites ‘wrapped in plastic’ for 24 hours to raise awareness of the devastating effects of single-use plastic.
Website visitors were faced with facts about the extent and impact of everyday plastic use, alongside links to RAW Foundation resources. One of the key messages was to promote re-use as opposed to single-use, and to illustrate the footprint of festivals, with 23,500 tonnes of waste generated and audiences consuming ten million plastic bottles annually. The campaign attracted global media attention across TV, radio and online, generating over 15m impressions on social media.
Crucially, all participating festivals committed to banning plastic straws on-site in 2018, as a minimum first step, and pledged to eliminate all single-use plastic at their events by 2021 (now 2022 in light of the Covid-19 crisis and festival reschedules).
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DCMS criticises “failure” of UK govt to support live
The UK’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee has stated that the government’s support package for cultural industries came “too late for many”, and has called for further urgent sector-specific measures.
In the ‘Impact of Covid-19 on DCMS Sectors’ report, the committee states that the government’s recent £1.57 billion support package for the arts, while welcome, “will not be enough to stop mass redundancies and the permanent closure of our cultural infrastructure”.
In addition to the support package, which came after an intense day of lobbying from the UK live industry, the committee calls for an extension to the government’s furlough scheme – currently set to expire at the end of October – until mass gatherings are permitted; continued workforce support measures, including enhanced measures for freelancers and small companies; clear “if conditional” timelines for when events will be able to reopen, with a date for stage five of the government’s plan to reopen events set by 1 August at the latest; and “technological solutions”, such as app-based testing and tracking systems, to allow audiences to return without social distancing.
The committee also recommends the creation of a long-term pandemic reinsurance scheme, ensuring cultural industries are covered by “adequate insurance” in the future, as well as “long-term structural support” to rebuild audience figures, including sector-specific tax reliefs and a value-added tax (VAT) cut for the sector for the next three years. The British government has currently cut VAT on event tickets to 5% until the end of the year.
As for the previously announced funding, the committee demands the government “publish eligibility criteria and application guidance as soon as possible”, as well as “ensur[ing] that the funding reaches recipients no later than October 2020”.
“To reduce uncertainty, the government must publish eligibility criteria as soon as possible”
The DCMS committee is calling for “sector-specific versions” of the current job retention and self-employed income support schemes to be implemented by October 2020 “at the latest” and kept open until income returns to “sustainable levels”. The committee notes that existing support schemes, such as the self-employed income support scheme and coronavirus business interruption loan scheme, do not cover many working in the live industry.
The report also points out that a large number of festivals, outdoor events and city centre venues have also been unable to access grants earmarked for the retail, hospitality and leisure industries, as the scheme requires businesses to occupy properties with a certain rateable value.
Using data gathered from across the live industry, the committe highlights the threats posed to the UK’s venues and festivals, with over 90% of grassroot music venues in Britain currently face permanent closure, as estimated by the Music Venue Trust (MVT), and the 23 UK arenas making up the National Arenas Association set to lose almost £235m in ticket sales over a six-month period.
As for the festival sector, the report state that: “The seasonality of the industry means that cancellations over spring and summer mean a complete loss of income for the year ahead, which could have devastating consequences for the SMEs and self-employed workers in the live events supply chain.”
The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) has previously stated that 92% of its member festivals are facing permanent collapse.
“We are witnessing the biggest threat to our cultural landscape in a generation,” comments DCMS committee chair Julian Knight.
“We are witnessing the biggest threat to our cultural landscape in a generation”
“The failure of the government to act quickly has jeopardised the future of institutions that are part of our national life and the livelihoods of those who work for them. Our report points to a department that has been treated as a ‘Cinderella’ by government when it comes to spending, despite the enormous contribution that the DCMS sectors make to the economy and job creation.
“We can see the damaging effect that has had on the robustness and ability of these areas to recover from the Covid crisis. We urge the government to act on our recommendations, to recognise the value these sectors provide and imagine how much bleaker the outcome for all without their survival.”
Representatives from across the UK live industry have welcomed the DCMS recommendations. UK Music acting CEO Tom Kiehl has called the document a “watershed report in the fight for survival for many companies and individuals working across the music industry.”
“We fully support the conclusions of today’s important report and want to send out thanks to the committee for recognising the value in our industry,” comments Phil Bowdery, chairman of the Concert Promoters Association and executive president of Live Nation.
“This report demonstrates that a sector-specific deal to support the industry, conditional timelines for reopening without social distancing and long-term structural support are going to be vital in ensuring the survival of the live music in the UK.
“We look forward to continuing to work with the government to ensure that the entire sector can be supported through this time.”
“This report demonstrates that a sector-specific deal to support the industry is going to be vital in ensuring the survival of the live music in the UK”
Mark Davyd, CEO of MVT, commends the recognition of the “urgency of short-term measures to prevent the catastrophic loss of vital infrastructure”, as well as more long-term measures aimed at “restor[ing] the sector to health and to future proof it against threats”.
From a production point of view, Andy Lenthall, general manager of the Production Services Association (PSA) says it is “hugely heartening” that the DCMS has recognised the “vital part” suppliers and technicians play in the cultural ecosystem.
AIF CEO Paul Reed similarly welcomes the findings of the report “which specifically acknowledges that the UK’s thriving festival and live events sector has been particularly badly hit by this crisis”.
“We’re particularly pleased to see that our recommendations for long-term relief, including extensions of existing employment support schemes and an extended VAT cut, have been taken onboard,” says Reed.
“We look forward to working further with DCMS to ensure that the festival sector, which generates £1.75bn for the UK economy and supports 85,000 jobs, can survive and continue to thrive into 2021 and beyond.”
The report is available to read in full here.
Photo: Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament (CC BY 3.0) (cropped)
This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.
UK to face “festival wasteland” without gov support
The UK’s Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) has warned that 92% of its 65 members could collapse under refund requests if the government does not take “meaningful action” to support them.
AIF festivals alone generate an estimated £386 million for the UK economy each year, with the wider British music business contributing £5.2 billion to the economy in 2018.
However, it is predicted that at least 90% of all UK festivals will not take place this summer, meaning the sector could be facing potential refunds of up £800m in total.
Glastonbury Festival was the first major UK event to call time on 2020, with AIF members Bluedot, Boomtown, Black Deer, Bloodstock, Cornbury, 2000 Trees and ArcTanGent among those to cancel.
Major live music conglomerates Live Nation and AEG have also made a number UK festival cancellations in recent weeks, with Live Nation-owned promoter Festival Republic most recently calling off its twin festivals Reading and Leeds.
Almost all (98.5%) of AIF’s 65 member festivals are not covered for coronavirus-related cancellations, with events reporting an average of £375,000 in non-recoupable costs for 2020.
A recent AIF survey has revealed that over half of those making up the independent festival sector in the UK could be facing redundancy from September 2020 onwards if no extra support is given.
“This is not a temporary shutdown of business – it is an entire year of income and trade wiped out”
The AIF, as part of the wider UK Live Music Group, is lobbying the government to ask for clear guidance on when large-scale events will be permitted again, as well as detailed information on what social distancing measures would be expected to ensure public safety.
The organisation has also asked for value-added tax (VAT) breaks on ticket sales for a minimum of 18 months; a continuation of all existing employment schemes; and acknowledgement of the distinction between retail and seasonal business in ongoing business support schemes.
“The government has not taken meaningful action to protect our sector,” says AIF CEO Paul Reed. “This is not a temporary shutdown of business – it is an entire year of income and trade wiped out. If support is not offered throughout the autumn, then the sector will face widespread job losses that will seriously inhibit its ability to deliver events in 2021.”
Reed adds that many independent festivals have “fallen between the cracks” of current support measures, with no AIF members gaining access to the government’s business interruption loans scheme.
“Next year’s festival season will hopefully offer much needed relief after a very difficult time for the country. But, for now, these independent businesses need to survive. Otherwise, every year from now could be a fallow year for independent festivals, for the emerging artists they provide a platform for, and the local economies across the UK that they generate income for.”
IQ’s next IQ Focus virtual panel, Festival Forum: Here Comes 21, features Rachael Greenfield, director of AIF member festival Bloodstock Open Air, along with Anders Wahren (Roskilde Festival), Jim King (AEG Presents), Stephan Thanscheidt (FKP Scorpio), and Mathieu Jaton (Montreux Jazz Festival).
European festivals in limbo as crisis continues
As Britain’s large summer events continue to fall away (with Goldenvoice UK’s All Points East and Live Nation’s Lovebox and Parklife the latest to cancel due to coronavirus concerns), members of several European festival associations are taking a different approach – biding their time while urging governments to provide greater clarity about the months ahead.
“The cancellation of Glastonbury was a surprise to a lot of people [in continental Europe] and, media-wise, a big pressure on everybody,” says Christof Huber, festival director of Switzerland’s OpenAir St Gallen and Summer Days Festival, and general secretary of Yourope, the European Festival Association.
Last week, two of the association’s members, Roskilde Festival (Denmark) and Open’er Festival (Poland), spearheaded the #FestivalsStandUnited campaign, which saw some of Europe’s biggest music festivals state that they intend to go ahead with their events this summer, and that in doing so they will “be a crucial part of the survival of this industry”.
More than 60 festivals – including events taking place in early June – put their names to an open letter entitled ‘Festivals Stand United Across Europe’, which was also signed by Yourope.
Paul Reed, CEO of the UK’s Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), says it’s widely expected the lockdown in Britain will go on beyond the current three-week period, with many festivals assuming 12 weeks of no public gatherings – a period that extends well into June (without even taking into account a two-week build).
“It’s impossible to build a festival when all the workers are in lockdown”
Reed says the views of AIF’s 65-strong membership are as diverse as the festivals themselves: “We have some members with events in August contemplating what they should do, but on the other hand we have festivals in July thinking they’re going to go ahead,” he explains, noting that there are “myriad considerations” around deciding to cancel or postpone.
Also weighing up his options is Patrick de Groote, artistic director of Belgian world music festival Sfinks Mixed (23–26 July) and secretary of the Forum of Worldwide Music Festivals (FWMW), who tells IQ: “We’re hearing that all April festivals [in Belgium] will be cancelled; in May, some yes, some no… We’re still waiting to be told, and everybody is preparing so we can be ready when we have more information.”
De Groote says one Dutch FWMW member has already made the decision to cancel, after concluding it could not be ready in time for June. “It’s impossible to build a festival when all the workers are in lockdown,” he says.
According to Reed, there are advantages in being ordered to cancel by authorities, as opposed to organisers pulling the plug themselves, particularly around artist fees (although he adds, encouragingly, that “most festivals are already working positively with agents” on that front).
“A lot of things are on hold right now,” adds de Groote, “including artist contracts. It’s hard to sign something when you don’t know if you’re going to be able to honour the contract.”
“Festivals can’t just pull the plug without knowing the situation in three months”
An additional issue for world music festivals like Sfinks, he continues, is that different parts of the world are at different stages with regards to coronavirus. “At Sfinks, we always have a lot of African and South American bands, and their countries are much earlier in this pandemic than Europe and North America,” he explains. “This year, we’ve booked [Malian duo] Amadou and Mariam and [US act] the Blind Boys of Alabama – the Blind Boys should be OK, but where will Mali be in a few months’ time?”
Huber says Yourope’s members are “all [still] working on our festivals”, and need “a few more weeks to monitor the situation” before deciding whether to go ahead as planned.
“We need a certain clarity about the policy of our governments and about any restrictions,” he adds. “Festivals can’t just decide to pull the plug without knowing what the situation will be in three months.”
Whatever the outcome of summer 2020, Reed emphasises than both fans and festivals must remain positive about the future. “It’s difficult to think about the recovery when people are in survival mode, but’s important to remember we will come out of this,” he concludes. “And when we do, people will need live music more than ever.”