AIF to operate AFO as Steve Heap retires
The UK’s Association of Festival Organisers (AFO) will hand over operation to the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) following the retirement of general secretary Steve Heap.
Heap, who will step down at the beginning of April, has been AFO’s general secretary since its formation in 1987. The organisation currently represents 102 festival and event organisers, with events ranging from 500 to 25,000-plus capacity, while AIF represents 101 UK music festivals, ranging from 500 to 80,000-cap.
Together, the trade bodies will have a collective voice representing 202 festival promoters and events organisers across the UK.
“Since founding AFO in 1987, I have devoted a considerable amount of time, effort and love to the grassroots festival industry,” says Heap. “Members and I have worked together to build a stronger, well-recognised and sustainable future. Retiring from this desk now, after 38 years, is a big tug and I will leave all the ‘thank yous’ to my personal letters later.
“For now and the future, I am delighted to be giving the reins to John Rostron and the team at AIF, where I know AFO members will find support, knowledge, campaigning and unity in this world of festivals. AFO members are creative, conscientious, and resilient, and I believe will embrace this change of management with enthusiasm, leading on to a real recovery and strong, successful season in 2024.”
The AFO and AIF have come together many times in the past to fight for the combined interests of their members, with achievements including negotiating a new reduced festival tariff with PRS for Music; negotiating a reduction on VAT for tickets sales to 5% during Covid; lobbying government for financial support, and leading to the contribution of over a billion pounds from the Cultural Recovery Fund to a variety of arts organisations.
“The UK’s festival sector is depleting at a staggering rate in 2024 and, without government intervention, there is no guarantee that pressures will ease”
“Steve is a legend in the festival world and he’ll be greatly missed as he begins his retirement from AFO,” adds AIF CEO John Rostron. “I’m enormously pleased that his departing gesture is to entrust AFO to myself and the team at AIF. We’ll continue to support AFO members in the way they’ve become accustomed but also bring new opportunities and strength by having so many independent festivals together in one place.
“I’m pleased that I’ll still get time with Steve as he offers his wisdom and support to me and the members as he steps back to enjoy more time in the fields, and less time at a desk.”
Meanwhile, Devon’s Spring Classic festival has become the latest UK festival to cancel this year, with organisers citing spiralling costs.
“Spring Classic festival is the 14th UK festival to cancel, postpone or announce their closure entirely in 2024,” notes Rostron. “Again, reasons of soaring costs for a third consecutive year since the pandemic have meant this popular, well run event can no longer go ahead, despite plenty of personal investment from its organisers.
“The UK’s festival sector is depleting at a staggering rate in 2024 and, without government intervention, there is no guarantee that pressures will ease for promoters in years to come. We again urge people to visit fivepercentforfestivals.com, contact their MP and call for a three year VAT reduction on festival tickets to 5% in order to give festivals the economic respite they need to recover.”
Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.
Two more UK festivals cancelled
Two more UK festivals have announced they will no longer take place in 2024.
Connect Music Festival and 110 Above Festival join a growing list of UK festivals to have announced some form of cancellation already this year, including NASS Festival, Leopollooza, Long Division, Bluedot, Barn On The Farm and Splendour, as well as Nozstock The Hidden Valley, which says its 2024 edition will be its last.
Meanwhile, organisers of a third event – Norfolk’s Wild Fields – are battling to reconfigure the planned three-day camping event into a two-day city-based gathering. A collaboration between ATC Group and the team behind Norwich-based multi-venue festival Wild Paths, the 10,000-cap Wild Fields was set for Raynham Estate in North Norfolk from 15-18 August.
The festival was aiming to offer “a truly diverse range of festival performers,” having signed up to Keychange’s 50/50 pledge. Artists booked included Ezra Collective, SBTRKT, Los Bitchos and Nightmares on Wax.
However, festival director Ben Street tells IQ that the team are trying to salvage the festival and are awaiting licensing approval to move to a city park. A statement from Wild Fields reads, “As a team we’ve platformed some of the most exciting, progressive line-ups and sought to challenge convention, outdated attitudes and trends in the industry. Making these choices has never been easy but we’ve been tenacious and stuck to our values.”
DF Concerts says its Connect Music Festival, held at Edinburgh’s Royal Highland Showgrounds, will “take a break” in 2024.
“We’ve decided to take a break with Connect Music Festival in 2024 to take the time to build the next edition of the festival, to make sure it flourishes, evolves, and continues to offer wonderful experiences for all the fans,” says a statement shared on social media.
“Week by week, day by day, one by one these brilliant, vital independent music festivals are disappearing”
The 110 Above Festival, meanwhile, was scheduled for Gopsall Hall Farm, Leicestershire from 10-13 August, with acts such as Circa Waves, The Mysterines, Jack Garratt and Twin Atlantic.
“Having considered carefully and explored various options we have taken the tough decision to give 2024 a miss,” explain organisers. “The current economic climate means it would be reckless to plough on with such uncertainty and volatile costs – particularly for a fully independent festival like ours.
“We already had a feel for this in 2023 where conditions were challenging and the festival made a sizeable loss. This could have been much worse if it wasn’t for the amazing support from team members, contractors and supporters. What’s next? The break will give us a chance to re-group, and re-energise. We really want to keep 110 alive as it’s a passion that we see bring joy to so many.”
In response, UK trade body the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) is repeating calls for a three-year reduction in VAT on festival tickets from 20% to 5%.
“Week by week, day by day, one by one these brilliant, vital independent music festivals are disappearing,” says AIF CEO John Rostron. “With it, we lose the pipeline of talent development for artists and a space for audiences to find new music across the UK. Future headliners were made here.
“The costs of putting on these festivals has risen so much, way beyond the price of the ticket, and so independent festival promoters – already losing money – are having to call time.
“This is a long tail impact of Covid and of Brexit. If the UK wants to be a world leader in music, then the UK government needs to do as other countries across the world have done, and support the festival sector for a few years to make its recovery. Lower VAT on tickets to 5% for three years, and we’ll prevent more festivals having to say enough is enough and goodbye.”
A similar situation is unfolding in Australia, where at least six festivals have been called off since the beginning of this year, in what some executives are calling a crisis.
Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.
Standon Calling postponed to 2025
Organisers of the UK’s Standon Calling have cancelled this year’s festival, citing the “very challenging climate”.
The 18th edition of the award-winning Hertfordshire event was due to take place from 25-28 July, but has now been postponed to 24-27 July 2025.
In a message to ticket-holders, director Alex Trenchard says rising costs have made it “practically impossible” to deliver a “fully-formed” event this summer without putting the future of the independent festival at risk.
“Over the last few months of hard work planning our return this summer, it has become clear that the costs of running the event, already considerably higher over the last two years, have significantly increased again, making it practically impossible for us to deliver the fully-formed Standon Calling,” says Trenchard.
“The painful truth is that ploughing on in this very challenging climate could risk the future of the festival. We believe that the only sensible decision is to take a fallow year for the very first time in our history (other than during the height of Covid-19) and use this time to make the 18th Standon Calling one for the ages.”
A number of acts and caterers have complained they are still owed thousands of pounds from last year’s festival
The announcement comes just days after a number of acts and caterers complained they are still owed thousands of pounds from last year’s festival. Trenchard apologised for the “delay to a small number of payments” and said the team was “in the process of fulfilling these and contacting any remaining performers and suppliers”.
The 10,000-cap festival’s 2023 lineup included the likes of Years & Years, Self Esteem, Bloc Party, The Human League, Rick Astley, Melanie C and KT Tunstall.
Trenchard is appealing for people who have already booked tickets for 2024 to rollover their bookings to next year.
“As a way of saying thank you to everyone who chooses to rollover their full booking (which includes at least one Adult Weekend Ticket), we’ll add an additional Adult Weekend Ticket to the order so you can bring an extra friend on us,” he says. “You can also request a refund if you’d prefer.
Numerous other UK festivals have announced some form of cancellation already this year, including NASS Festival, Leopollooza, Long Division, Bluedot, Barn On The Farm and Nozstock The Hidden Valley, which will make its 2024 edition its last.
“”Festivals are being squeezed by the rise in supply chain costs, and the effects of closures and debt incurred during Covid”
“Sadly, the situation is not unique to us,” notes Trenchard. “So many festival teams work hard all year round to deliver unforgettable weekends of memories in the face of unprecedented financial challenges. Over the last few weeks, several other independent festivals have been postponed for similar reasons.”
In response to the postponement, Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) CEO John Rostron reiterated the need for government assistant. The trade body launched a new campaign last week, calling for a VAT reduction on festival tickets.
“Standon Calling is now the ninth UK festival to announce its closure or postponement in 2024, further demonstrating the crisis that our sector is facing and the need for urgent government intervention,” says Rostron. “Festivals are being squeezed by the rise in supply chain costs, and the effects of closures and debt incurred during Covid, meaning they are in a unique, perilous position that threatens the future of almost all but the very biggest operators in the UK.
“We launched the 5% For Festivals campaign at our Festival Congress this month, urging the Government to reduce VAT on festival ticket sales from 20% to 5% – an evidence-based, simple, sensible remedy that would ease the financial burden on promoters enough for them to return to health. We need this action now, and encourage the public to visit fivepercentforfestivals.com, write to their MPs and support events so their favourite festivals don’t make 2024 their last.”
Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.
Festivals ’24: Wireless, Release Athens, Longitude
Festival lineups from across Europe have continued to flood in for 2024, with the UK’s Wireless, Greece’s Release Athens and Ireland’s Longitude among the latest to confirm.
Nicki Minaj, Doja Cat, 21 Savage and J Hus head the first wave of acts for Wireless, which will take place at Finsbury Park, London from 12-14 July.
The bill also features special guest Future, plus Ice Spice, Sean Paul, Asake, Gunna, Rema, Tyla, Digga D, Vanessa Bling, Veeze, Ragz Originale, DJ Target and Remi Burgz. Sexyy Red, Fridayy, Skillibeng, Byron Messia, Shallipopi, Strandz, Kenny Allstar, Seani B, Uncle Waffles, Ruger, Teezo Touchdown, Nadia Jae and Snoochie Shy.
In Greece, concert series Release Athens has so far unveiled headliners The Offspring, Megadeth, Jain, Pulp, Thievery Corporation, Massive Attack, Duran Duran, Judas Priest and Behemoth between 9 June and 28 July. The Smile, Black Pumas, Blind Guardian, Telenova, Pestilence, Bruce Dickinson, Testament and Accept are also on the bill.
Set for Marlay Park, Dublin from 29-30 June, Longitude‘s first round of acts includes Central Cee, Doja Cat, Becky Hill, 21 Savage, Belters Only, blk., D-Block Europe, Sonny Fodera, Joel Corry, Jazzy and Kenya Grace.
Italy’s I-Days has headline shows with Metallica, Lana Del Rey, Green Day, Doja Cat, Tedua, Queens of the Stone Age, Bring Me the Horizon, Sum 41 and Stray Kids. The gigs, which will be staged in Milan between 29 May and 12 July, will also feature a supporting cast including Five Finger Death Punch, Ice Nine Kills, Nothing But Thieves, Hemlocke Springs, 21 Savage, Royal Blood, Yungblud, Bad Omens, Avril Lavigne and Simple Plan.
Jonas Brothers are the final headliner announced for the 20th anniversary of Rock in Rio Lisbon. The trio will play their first ever show in Portugal at the event alongside Scorpions, Ed Sheeran and Doja Cat over the weekends of 15-16 & 22-23 June. The likes of Camila Cabello, Jake Bugg, Evanescence, James, Lukas Graham, Ivete Sangalo and Callum Scott will also appear.
“It’s thrilling to announce such an incredible range of groundbreaking artists who are shaping the music scene in real time”
Spain’s Mad Cool has added The Killers, Måneskin, Rema, Tyla, Sexyy Red, Nia Archives, Alec Benjamin, 2ManyDJs, Claudia León, Dead Posey, Depresión Sonora, Lord Huron, Bar Italia, Andres Campo, Picture Parlour, Sea Girls, Nadye, Comandante Twin, Julia Sabaté, Choses Sauvages and Slix.
The acts join Pearl Jam, Motxila 21, Dua Lipa, The Smashing Pumpkins, Avril Lavigne, Keane, Janelle Monáe, Bring Me The Horizon, Garbage, Sum 41, Jessie Ware, Soccer Mommy, Greta Van Fleet, Larkin Poe, Rels B, Chinchilla and Jet Vesper on the lineup from 10-13 July.
Back in the UK, Reading & Leeds has announced more than 50 new artists for 2024 including Reneé Rapp, Fontaines D.C., Denzel Curry, Pendulum, Neck Deep and Nia Archives, who will join the six headliners, including UK festival exclusives Fred again.., Lana Del Rey and Blink-182, as well as Liam Gallagher, Catfish and the Bottlemen and Gerry Cinnamon. Organisers have also teased the launch of a new stage called The Chevron.
“It’s thrilling to announce such an incredible range of groundbreaking artists who are shaping the music scene in real time,” says Festival Republic MD Melvin Benn. “Reading & Leeds doesn’t stand still; our audience demands the best and our line up strives to reflect what people are currently listening to. We’re proud to always be at the cutting edge and keen eyes may have spotted another evolution for the show on the poster; ‘The Chevron’ – details of which will be revealed soon.”
K-pop superstars Stray Kids are the latest headliners announced for American Express presents BST Hyde Park in London on 14 July. Andrea Bocelli and Robbie Williams have previously been confirmed.
Completing Boardmasters‘ 2024 bill is Sam Fender, who headlines alongside Stormzy and Chase & Status in Newquay, Cornwall between 7-11 August. Other acts include Courteeners, Declan McKenna, Overmono, Kate Nash, Wunderhorse, Los Bitchos, Charlotte Plank, Newdad, Sprints, Redro, Flo Crowe & The Dilemmas, Girls Don’t Sync, Hedex & Eksman, Billy Gillies, Charlie Boon, 24hr Garage Girls, a Dick & Dom DnB set, Elkka, Syreeta, Kara and Pola & Bryson.
Family festival Camp Bestival lands in Lulworth Castle, Dorset from 25-28 July with artists such as Pete Tong, Paloma Faith, McFly, Orbital, Jake Shears, The Darkness, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Roger Sanchez. It will then be held at Weston Park, Shropshire between 15-18 August with a similar lineup including Faithless, Paloma Faith, Rick Astley, McFly, Orbital, Jake Shears, The Darkness and Level 42.
Elsewhere, following the announcement of Sheryl Crow as headliner, Black Deer Festival has bolstered its 2024 lineup with the likes of Seasick Steve, Hermanos Gutiérrez, The Shires, Courtney Barnett, The Staves and Villagers. Running from 14-16 June at Eridge Park, Kent, the UK’s festival for Americana will also showcase rising talent such as Dylan Gossett, Divorce, Michele Stodart, Prima Queen and Holly Macve.
“We really are at a critical point for the UK’s festival sector… UK festivals need time to recover and rebuild. They need help from our government”
Plus, the inaugural Plymouth Summer Sessions will star Tom Jones, Bryan Adams, Madness and Sting from 13-16 June, with support from Gabrielle, Cassyette, Lightning Seeds and Blondie, while Stirling Summer Sessions will welcome Busted and The Darkness on 28 June, with Tom Jones to perform on 30 June.
Meanwhile, UK trade body the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) has launched a new campaign for a VAT reduction on festival tickets, which it says would save many event promoters from closures in 2024.
The 5% For Festivals campaign seeks to inform festival-goers about the problems that music festival promoters have faced over the last five years, encouraging them to contact their MPs to lobby for a VAT reduction on tickets.
AIF research suggests that at least 36 festivals cancelled before they were due to take place in 2023, with six UK festivals having announced some form of cancellation already this year: NASS Festival, Leopollooza, Long Division, Bluedot, Barn On The Farm and Nozstock The Hidden Valley, which will make its 2024 edition its last.
“We really are at a critical point for the UK’s festival sector,” says AIF CEO John Rostron. “Five years ago, it would have been impossible to imagine that promoters would have to endure something as damaging as the Covid-19 pandemic – but many of them did, without passing the inevitable cost onto the consumer. To think that, since then, they have had to manage the effects of Brexit, war in Ukraine, inflation and an energy crisis is staggering.
“That festival-goers were able to enjoy some of the fantastic events they did in 2023 is testament to the resilience and passion of those promoters. But we lost 36 festivals last year, and with six festivals having postponed activity in 2024 or closed the gates for good, we are on track to see well over double the number of casualties this year.
“UK festivals need time to recover and rebuild. They need help from our government. A reduction in VAT on festival tickets from 20% to 5% for three years is an evidence-based, simple, sensible remedy that would ease the financial burden on promoters enough for them to return to health. We need this action now.”
MVT lobbies for £1 ticket levy after Moles closure
The Music Venue Trust (MVT) is lobbying the government for a compulsory £1 levy on tickets sold for UK live music events above 5,000 capacity after grassroots venue Moles in Bath was forced to shut down with immediate effect.
Moles opened in 1978 and has hosted early gigs by acts such as Ed Sheeran, The Killers, Fatboy Slim, Oasis, Blur, Radiohead, The Smiths and Idles. But all future events have been cancelled at the storied 220-cap venue after its owners filed for insolvency, citing rising costs and the cost-of-living crisis.
“Making the decision to close Moles was horrendous, but the cost-of-living crisis has crippled us,” says co-owner Tom Maddicott. “Massively increased costs of stock, utilities and rent compounded by our customers also feeling the impact of the crisis has made it impossible to continue.
“It’s obviously an incredibly difficult decision to have to take, for our team, the staff, the local community, and the artists that over the years have created such an incredible history of music. But the reality is that live music at grassroots level is no longer economically viable and we will not be the only grassroots music venue forced to close.”
“Venues like these all over the country are going out of business, whilst helping nurture the artists that will go on to generate millions for the broader music industry”
According to the MVT, more than 120 grassroots venues (15%) have closed and a further 84 are currently in crisis, while at least seven new arenas are currently planned in cities across the UK.
“Today is a very sad day for our sector,” says Mark Davyd, CEO and founder of the MVT. “Grassroots Music Venues like Moles – one of the best loved and most efficiently run venues in the country for almost 45 years – have done everything they can to keep afloat, investing every penny they can into trying to fulfil their commitment to live music.
“Venues like these all over the country are going out of business, whilst helping nurture the artists that will go on to generate millions for the broader music industry. Put bluntly, they have been badly let down by those who profit from their efforts.”
The MVT has long campaigned for the wider live music industry to financially back the grassroots music sector, proposing that every ticket sold at an arena and stadium should make a £1 contribution into its Pipeline Investment Fund. But despite support from the likes of Enter Shikari, promoter Cuffe & Taylor, venues Piece Hall and Swansea Arena, and ticketing companies Ticketmaster, Skiddle and Good Show, Davyd says the business-at-large has been far too slow to react.
“There needs to be a major shake-up of the live industry with the big players supporting the grassroots where it all begins to secure that pipeline of talent”
“Unless it gets serious about its responsibilities to encourage, nurture and develop the grassroots live sector the music industry as a whole will face a catastrophic failure of artist development,” adds Davyd. “In France all major live music events are required to pay 3.5% of each ticket sale into a fund to support grassroots artists and venues.
“We have today written to the government and to opposition parties to insist that, in the event that the music industry will not act voluntarily, a compulsory levy on every ticket sold for every live music event above 5,000 capacity that takes place in the UK must be introduced by legislation to prevent the devastation of the sector.”
Maddicott adds to the calls for broader support, comparing the situation with other industries.
“There needs to be a major shake-up of the live industry with the big players supporting the grassroots where it all begins to secure that pipeline of talent,” he says. “Football gets it with the Premier League investing millions in the grassroots game each year to bring through new players. The music industry needs to do the same before the entire grassroots sector collapses.”
“It is inevitable that there will be more closures if urgent action is not taken”
Elsewhere in the UK, organisers of independent festival Nozstock The Hidden Valley have announced its 2024 edition, set for 18-21 July, will be its last.
“After the losses incurred over Covid, straight into a cost-of-living crisis, the financial risk is becoming too great,” says a statement from the festival, which has been running for 26 years.
Association of Independent Festivals CEO John Rostron says it is “inevitable” that more events will fold without swift intervention.
“It’s incredibly sad to see Nozstock The Hidden Valley forced to close its gates for good as a direct result of the financial strain faced by many following significant Covid losses and an ongoing cost-of-living crisis,” says Rostron. “After almost three decades of great events, Nozstock has become a key fixture on the UK’s independent festival calendar, and this should serve as yet another alarm bell warning of the perilous situation that many in this cultural sector are facing.
“Already, neither NASS Festival and Leopallooza will return in 2024; Bluedot is on a hiatus after a difficult 2023 edition, and the award-winning Field Maneuvers has announced its 2024 festival will be its last in its current form.
“The impact of Covid and high supply chain costs means the squeeze on festivals is increasing. It is inevitable that there will be more closures if urgent action is not taken. We again call on the government to review VAT on music festival ticket sales and lower the rate to 5% for an extended period to help support the recovery of the festival sector.”
Superstruct-backed NASS Festival axed for 2024
The UK’s only professional action sport and music festival will not go ahead in 2024 due to rising costs and the cost-of-living crisis.
Operated by Vision Nine, NASS most recently took place in Shepton Mallett, near Bristol, in July, when it featured artists including Chase & Status, Wu-Tang Clan, Little Simz and Anne-Marie.
Live entertainment powerhouse Superstruct Entertainment acquired a stake in the 30,000-cap event last year.
“We’re gutted to announce that NASS will not be taking place in 2024,” says a statement from the festival team. “This decision has not been made lightly. Unfortunately, we have found ourselves impacted by both the cost-of-living crisis and the significant increase in operational costs to run a show like NASS. Regrettably, despite our best efforts, it’s just not economically feasible to continue.”
Vision Nine also produces Superstruct-owned surf and music festival Boardmasters.
“As a key gateway festival for many young people, its cancellation will have repercussions for the entire sector”
Established in 2008, NASS (National Adventure Sports Show) is a member of the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) and has welcomed acts such as Giggs, Rudimental, Stormzy, Public Enemy and Loyle Carner down the years.
AIF CEO John Rostron says its cancellation highlights both the continued financial pressure faced by festival operators, as well as “the urgent help many of them need to survive”.
“NASS is a particularly painful loss for the UK’s cultural landscape,” adds Rostron. “As a key gateway festival for many young people, its cancellation will have repercussions for the entire sector.
“This is further evidence of the compounding impact of both Covid and the cost-of-living crisis, which means many young people have missed out or not returned to the live event experience. This coupled with high supply chain costs means the squeeze on festivals is increasing, leaving many with no choice but to close.
“We again call on government to review VAT on music festival ticket sales and lower the rate to 5% for an extended period to help support the recovery of the festival sector.”
AIF launches APPG for independent festivals
The UK’s Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) has set up an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for independent festivals.
The APPG says it will look at the unique value independent festivals bring, as well as the pressures that they face. It will include conversations with the suppliers who work with the festival sector, plus the landowners who support festivals across the UK.
During its first year, the APPG will reflect on the challenges faced by the sector in 2023, and look into prevalent topics including environmental impacts and solutions, women’s safety, crime and drug use, and touring visas for musicians.
“It’s been a very busy summer this year and I’ve met with a number of MPs as I’ve visited festivals across the UK,” says John Rostron, CEO, AIF.
“Whether they are attending and supporting festivals in their constituency, speaking at events, or enjoying festivals for fun, we’ve had some great conversations about the importance and vibrancy of the independent festival sector, as well as the challenges that festivals are currently facing. The Festivals APPG will enable us to carry these conversations into Westminster and enable dialogue between MPs and festivals all year round.”
“The APPG will enable us to carry conversations into Westminster and enable dialogue between MPs and festivals”
The initial APPG members include chair Giles Watling MP (Conservative) and vice chairs Kevin Brennan MP (Labour), Alex Davies Jones MP (Labour), Pete Wishart MP (SNP), Rt Hon Damian Green MP (Conservative), Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP (Conservative), and Mark Fletcher MP (Conservative).
Watling adds: “I am delighted and honoured to be elected as chairman of the APPG for Festivals. Globally, Britain leads the way in celebrating humanity through festivals, as people come together to enjoy their passions. This APPG will be open to any and all forms of festival, from rock and pop to classical to literary. There are wellness festivals, food festivals, and so many more – it will be a privilege to represent all of them and highlight their importance to Britain’s cultural offer.”
Secretariat services will be provided by political consultancy Pepper Shackleton Wellard (PSW), which will organise the APPG events, and co-ordinate with supporters and officers.
AIF is also in conversation with the British Arts Festivals Association (BAFA), the leading network and development agency for UK arts festivals and AFO (Association of Festival Organisers) to support the APPG.
Increase in spiking reported at Danish festival
Danish heavy metal festival Copenhell says it is “deeply saddened” by a worrying increase in drug spiking at this year’s event.
VIP Booking reports that organisers were made aware of up to 10 people who unknowingly had substances slipped into their drinks in the festival’s large party tent ‘Biergarten’, adding the trend has also been detected across the wider nightlife scene.
Festival booker and director Jeppe Nissen tells Kulturmonitor the event will “take measures to combat” the development moving forward.
“We are deeply saddened by this and urge everyone to contact us directly if they have had any experiences with drugging or possess any information that can help identify the perpetrators,” says Nissen.
The 35,000-cap Copenhell took place in Copenhagen from 14-17 June and featured acts such as Guns N’ Roses, Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Pantera and Slipknot.
“We have not previously recorded any incidents of drugging at Copenhell, and it has not been a problem that we specifically addressed or warned our audience about,” adds Nissen. “But when we see seven to 10 cases, unfortunately, we cannot say that we have done enough in terms of prevention. It is definitely a problem we will address and take measures to combat.”
“We’re delighted to join forces on our mission to stamp out spiking with the Association of Independent Festivals”
Other Danish festivals such as Smukfest are calling for further dialogue on the subject, while trade body Dansk Live has vowed to address the issue.
Elsewhere, the UK’s Association of Independent Festival (AIF) has announced a partnership with LGBT+ anti-abuse charity Galop and anti-spiking charity Stamp Out Spiking to bolster its Safer Spaces Charter.
Stamp Out Spiking was established to tackle increasing incidents of spiking across the UK and worldwide. The charity exists to highlight the dangers of spiking, and offer effective and practical solutions to keep people safe in pubs, clubs, house parties, festivals and beyond.
“We’re delighted to join forces on our mission to stamp out spiking with the Association of Independent Festivals,” says Dawn Dines, CEO and founder of Stamp Out Spiking. “Working together will make such a difference in safeguarding men and women at festivals across the UK. Highlighting how these cowardly crimes are taking place, sharing key information on the typical signs and symptoms, will make it so much more difficult for perpetrators and ultimately safeguard festival goers.”
The partnerships have contributed to new Safer Spaces resources that directly addresses the needs of LGBT+ survivors of abuse, and the broader issue of spiking.
“It’s important for AIF to work towards creating safer and more inclusive spaces for everyone, and work with those who provide specialised support,” says AIF membership & operations coordinator Phoebe Rodwell-Carson. “We hope to build on this with as many festival organisers as possible, supporting them in upholding their duty of care towards music fans and festival staff, whilst ensuring we remain inclusive and open to all.”
AIF targets festival first-timers with new scheme
The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) has launched a new campaign and fund aimed at increasing access to festivals for people aged 18+ across the UK.
The First Festival Campaign is based on the fact that many people who turned 18 during the Covid pandemic missed out on their first festival experience due to lockdown.
Anyone in the UK who was/is 18 years of age between 1 September 2019 and 31 August 2023 can register interest in attending one of AIF’s member festivals via the First Festival website. Individuals and organisations are able to make donations to this campaign here.
Tickets will be released as funding targets are met, with eligible 18-year-olds on the waiting list able to buy a ticket for their chosen festival for just £18. Shambala, Kendal Calling, BlueDot, Nozstock: The Hidden Valley, End Of The Road and British Country Music Festival are among the initial sign ups.
“Everyone should have a first festival experience, and it should be a thrilling and vital part of every person’s journey into adulthood”
“I was speaking to some students recently who are set to graduate this year, and it became apparent that none of them had ever attended a festival,” says AIF CEO John Rostron. “It really hit me just what an impact Covid had on their lives. So we decided to do something about it. Everyone should have a first festival experience, and it should be a thrilling and vital part of every person’s journey into adulthood.
“So many of us have wonderful festival memories to share, and brilliant festival stories to tell. We’re hoping that there’ll be individuals and organisations who are able to spare some money to put into the fund to help people attend their first festivals this year.”
In launching the campaign, AIF has taken inspiration from European countries such as Germany, France, Spain and Italy where those turning 18 are given a voucher worth between €200 and €500 by their government to be spent on cultural events and activities.
The full list of festivals to have signed up includes 110 Above Presents: OTHR Festival; Above & Beyond Brighton Beach; Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival; BlueDot Festival; British Country Music Festival; Camp Wildfire Festival; Chase & Status Brighton Beach; Deva Fest; El Dorado; End of The Road Festival; Green Belt; Green Gathering; Kendal Calling; NASS Festival; Noisily; Nozstock: The Hidden Valley; PennFest; Readipop Festival; Rock Oyster; Shambala; Takedown Festival; UK Tech-Fest; Underneath The Stars Festival; Valley Fest; and We Out Here.
AIF festivals to attract 3.3m fans in 2023
The UK’s Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) has revealed its events are on course to attract a total audience of 3.3 million in 2023.
The trade body represents the interests of 105 UK music festivals, ranging from 500 to 80,000 capacity, including the likes of GreenBelt, El Dorado, Deershed, Valley Fest, End of The Road, Pitchfork London, Field Maneuvers and We Out Here.
Based on a survey of members carried out in April 2023, AIF festivals are heading for a collective gross revenue of £195 million this year, with a gross expenditure of £177m, while members will spend £36m on music talent.
The findings have been published in the organisation’s first ever Festival Forecast report, which provides economic forecasts for its membership, as well as detailing issues facing the sector and potential solutions, and will become a regular fixture in the music industry calendar.
“We wanted to better understand the collective impact and the collective issues that our festivals share”
“As the number of festivals joining AIF grows, we wanted to better understand the collective impact and the collective issues that our festivals share,” says AIF CEO John Rostron. “The AIF Festival Forecast is an important snapshot of where we are as an association of events at this time. It will inform our work over the coming months, and support policy makers and the wider sector in better understanding the vital role AIF festivals play in the music ecosystem.”
The AIF membership will stage 11,853 performances collectively this summer, with 74% of members featuring female headliners on their bill, and 15% having a 50/50 male/female headline split.
The report also identifies a number of key issues facing member festivals in 2023, along with concrete solutions that will be spearheaded by AIF. These include continued lobbying for a VAT reduction from 20% to 5% for festivals in the face of rising supply chain costs; and public facing campaigns for government support for young audiences affected by the cost of living crisis and Covid closures.
The 2023 edition of the Festival Forecast report can be found here.