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Notting Hill Carnival boss named new AIF chair

The UK’s Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) has named Notting Hill Carnival CEO Matthew Phillip as its new chair.

Phillip is the CEO of London’s leading Carnival development agency, Carnival Village Trust, which is dedicated to supporting and delivering an integrated programme of carnival arts.

In addition, Phillip is the CEO of Notting Hill Carnival Ltd, the organisation that manages Notting Hill Carnival, and MD of Mangrove Carnival Arts CIC.

“The AIF has shown itself to be an incredible champion for independent festival operators – no more so than in recent years, both during the pandemic and what is still now a very difficult time for promoters all over the country,” says Phillip. “It’s with great pride that I take on the role of AIF chair. I look forward to offering my experience and expertise to further the organisation’s great work and help it evolve to meet today’s challenges.”

“It remains a critical time for AIF as we emerge from the worst effects of the pandemic”

Phillip succeeds Jim Mawdsley, who has stepped down after a seven-year tenure.

At AIF, Philip will work alongside the organisation’s board, vice-chair Nick Morgan and CEO Paul Reed.

“Following a robust search for the right candidate, I’m delighted to welcome Matthew as the new chair of AIF,” says Reed. “Matthew brings a wealth of relevant experience in governance and leadership as the CEO of the globally renowned Notting Hill Carnival, among other important roles.

“It remains a critical time for AIF as we emerge from the worst effects of the pandemic. Our members are facing some very difficult trading conditions, and we have a renewed focus on climate action, audience welfare and diversity. AIF’s role as a collective voice and support network to our members remains vital and I look forward to working with Matthew to ensure that the organisation evolves and continues to be a powerful advocate for the independent festival sector.”

Reed recently spoke to IQ about the UK festival sector’s “incredibly challenging” summer.


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Over 100 UK festivals commit to tackling sexual violence

Over 100 UK festivals have backed the Association of Independent Festivals’ (AIF) Safer Spaces at Festivals campaign, which is aimed at tackling sexual violence at festivals.

Boomtown Fair, Boardmasters, Reading & Leeds, Bluedot, Parklife and Shambala are among the 105 signatories.

Originally launched in May 2017, the relaunched initiative sees festivals commit to an updated charter of best practice, developed with input and guidance from experts at Rape Crisis England and Wales, Good Night Out, Safe Gigs For Women, Girls Against and UN Women.

The Charter states that all allegations of sexual harassment, assault and violence will be taken seriously, acted upon promptly and investigated. This is supplemented by a commitment to clear, robust reporting and disclosure procedures, including how to report incidents onsite and post-event.

Festival policies will include relevant health guidance and connections to local services, and the campaign will feature advice on how to be an active bystander including the ‘5 D’s’ of Bystander Intervention devised by Right To Be (Direct, Delegate, Distract, Document and Delay).

“Festivals are microcosms of society and sexual violence is a problem that persists in our society”

In addition, the festivals will actively promote the principle of consent regarding sexual activity onsite at events, defining consent as “someone engaging in sexual activity if they agree by choice, and they have the freedom and capacity to make that choice” and reiterating that consent can be revoked at any time.

Participating festivals are sharing key messages on social media across a 24-hour period from 9 am today (16 May) and will also display key messages onsite this summer at events.

There will also be a resource hub linking to all partner organisations, up to date advice, guidance and best practice examples of what festivals are doing on the ground.

AIF membership & operations coordinator Phoebe Rodwell says: “The original Safer Spaces campaign has had a positive impact across festivals for music fans and festival staff alike. Festivals are microcosms of society and sexual violence is a problem that persists in our society. Our understanding and approaches to tackling the issue are evolving all the time. That’s why it’s important that we renew the Safer Spaces campaign in 2022 with up-to-date messaging, resources and practices, to prevent sexual violence and promote a survivor-led approach, helping festival organisers to fulfil their duty of care at events.”

Media and communications officer at Rape Crisis England and Wales Kelly Bennaton adds: “We’re encouraged to see the commitment and consideration from festival organisers in making their events safe places for women and girls. The AIF Safer Spaces Charter acknowledges the importance of dedicated training, awareness raising, and the provision of specialist support services for survivors.

“Festival goers deserve to know that if they report sexual assault they will be listened to and believed, and that those working on site are equipped to handle all reports with knowledge and empathy. They also deserve to know that festivals are taking a proactive approach in preventing sexual assault, and that abusive behaviour will not be tolerated. We’re pleased to have worked with AIF on developing this charter, and hope that the wider festival industry will follow its lead.”


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UK live sector frustrated by mini-budget

The UK’s live music industry has reacted with disappointment to chancellor Rishi Sunak’s spring statement, which was delivered today in the House of Commons.

Calls to extend the VAT break on live event tickets sales past the end of this month again went unheeded, with the temporary 12.5% rate now set to revert to 20% from 1 April. There were also no improvements announced to the government’s £800m insurance scheme for live events

Trade body LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment) has appealed for the government to work with the industry to consider a cultural VAT rate of 5% on ticket sales.

“Live music is facing new and unprecedented challenges that threaten to wreck one of the UK’s cultural crown jewels – a 7.5% increase in VAT on tickets, wholesale cost increases and major ticket cancellations due to spiking covid cases,” says a spokesperson for the organisation. “At the same time, the last remaining help from government is being withdrawn.”

However, better news for the sector arrived in the form of the previously announced 50% discount on business rates, which was confirmed by the chancellor.

“While we welcome the business rates discount, we need further measures that can provide a cash injection to all areas of the sector, such as action on VAT,” adds the LIVE spokesperson. “We are calling on the chancellor to look again at these measures, which would help secure the sector’s recovery and allow our £4.5 billion industry to continue boosting the UK economy.”

Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) CEO Paul Reed suggests the mini-budget has done little or nothing to assist the recovery of the festival circuit.

“We are disappointed that the chancellor has not responded to our repeated calls to grant an extension to the 12.5% VAT rate on festival tickets beyond the end of March”

“We are disappointed that the chancellor has not responded to our repeated calls to grant an extension to the 12.5% VAT rate on festival tickets beyond the end of March,” he says. “Festival organisers are experiencing cost increases of between 20-30%, which is way beyond rapidly rising inflation, with extreme pressure along the entire supply chain. We urge the government to look at this again and maintain the reduced rate on VAT.

“We also ask the government to urgently reconsider the removal of tax incentives to use certain biofuels. These should be maintained at the current rate as a transitional measure to encourage use of greener fuels at festivals. To do otherwise is completely contrary to the government’s objectives of incentivising energy efficiency and reducing emissions.”

Despite giving the thumbs-up to the business rates discount for grassroots music venues, Music Venue Trust chief Mark Davyd is keen to highlight other concerns.

“With no action for businesses on energy bills, or NI liability, and the missed opportunity of action on VAT that would support the sector to recover from the Covid crisis, the outcome of the budget is that none of the extraordinary financial pressures being placed on venues have been mitigated or alleviated,” he says. “This budget has failed to respond to inflationary increases from rent, supplies, and services running in excess of 20% across the sector.

“We note that the government has recommitted itself to supporting business investment, especially research and development. We again ask that the secretary of state for culture should enter into meaningful discussions with the live music industry to create R&D tax incentives and direct financial support to achieve that outcome.”

The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), meanwhile, went further still in its criticism, declaring itself “extremely disappointed”, warning the sector faces a “perfect storm” of challenges over the next 12 months, particularly in light of the cost of living crisis.

“We called on the chancellor before the spring statement to produce a package that included an extension of VAT and business rates reliefs, a cancellation of the proposed NI hike, and action on businesses energy bills and fuel duty, to allow the sector financial headroom to survive in something resembling its pre-pandemic form,” says NTIA chief Michael Kill. “It is very disappointing that today he took none of these steps.”


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AIF chief forecasts ‘transitional’ festival season

The boss of the UK’s Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) has told IQ 2022 will be a transitional year for the sector as it prepares for its first full season since the Covid crisis began.

CEO Paul Reed says there are still major obstacles for the industry to overcome, despite a general feeling of optimism about returning to action.

“People, for all intents and purposes, are planning for a regular summer, but there are intense pressures,” he says. “I think what we’re looking at this year is quite an exceptional year really, just in terms of the extent of activity across the board, from festivals to large tours, stadium shows, and the government’s own events in the form of the Jubilee and Commonwealth Day concerts.

“All of that is going to put incredible pressure on infrastructure, and lot of suppliers have pivoted out of the industry and they’re not coming back, so there has been a loss of expertise.

“The average margins on a festival can be 10% or less, just in an average year, and now they have to contend with cost increases of between 20% and 30% – and you can’t just simply pass that cost on to the customer if you’re holding a load of tickets you’ve rolled over from 2019, and in the wider context of a cost of living crisis. So it’s going to be very tough, and the sense I’m getting is that people just hope that the supply chain, in particular, has a chance to stabilise and self-correct to an extent. But it’s not going to happen for this summer, that much is is very evident.”

AIF, which is in the process of recruiting a new chair following the departure of former Evolution Festival director Jim Mawdsley, now represents 90 festivals and reported year-on-year membership growth of 34%.

It has previously warned of a ‘perfect storm’ heading for the UK’s season, with the supply chain crisis, workforce shortages, and the effects of Brexit chief among its concerns.

“We’re getting back to all the issues we were dealing with pre-pandemic”

“Something needs to happen to alleviate this,” Reed tells IQ. “We’ve suggested extending the reduced VAT rate beyond the end of March – even another six-month extension would really help there – but I think government also needs to look at how it can support the supply chain and encourage investment, because there are concerns there isn’t going to be enough infrastructure to go around.

“However, there is optimism and people feel the customer confidence is going to be there to return to festivals en masse. It’s going to be a unique, transitional year, in my view.”

Reed adds that he is unaware of any members utilising the government’s controversial £800 million insurance scheme for live events.

“It’s simply not fit for purpose,” he says. “I know some members pursued quotes, but considered it not viable. Standard festival premiums have increased significantly year-on-year, so you might be paying something like 2.5% of your overall cost just on your standard cancellation premium insurance. Add another 5% to that, and you’re talking about maybe 7.5% of your cost on insurance.

“We did warn the government there would be limited take-up due to the limited scope and the cost, and so it’s proven.”

AIF’s flagship Festival Congress conference took place in Bristol last month, with more than 300 independent festival professionals in attendance. Reed adds that after two years dominated by coronavirus, it has come as something of a relief to be able to start focusing on other problems.

“We’re getting back to all the issues we were dealing with pre-pandemic,” he concludes. “I must say, it’s quite a welcome shift to be thinking about those challenges rather than thinking about managing Covid or whether there will be a festival season at all.”


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AIF welcomes six new board members

The UK’s Association Of Independent Festivals (AIF) has announced six new board members.

As part of the organisation’s annual rotation, CEO Paul Reed welcomed Lauren Down (End Of The Road), Zac Fox (Kilimanjaro Live), Kate Osler (AEI/El Dorado), Jon Walsh (Shambala), Chris Rutherford (Boomtown Fair) and Gill Tee (Black Deer) to the board of directors at yesterday’s (11 November) AGM in London.

AIF, which now represents 90 festivals, also reported year-on-year membership growth of 34% and announced the return of its flagship Festival Congress at M Shed Museum in Bristol on 15 February 2022. The post-conference festival party will take place at Lost Horizon – an independent venue launched by the team behind Glastonbury’s Shangri La area.

The theme of this year’s AGM was ‘Resilience’ in recognition of the unprecedented challenges faced by the festival sector since the onset of the pandemic.

The fact that AIF has welcomed so many new members in recent months demonstrates the power of the collective

“When considering the last 18 months, resilience really is the word, and our sector should take great pride from the way it has adapted and survived during the pandemic,” says Reed. “AIF is pleased to have played its part in supporting independent festivals and fighting their corner.

“The fact that AIF has welcomed so many new members in recent months demonstrates the power of the collective and the need for community in difficult circumstances.”

Reaffirming its commitment to action on the climate emergency, the trade body revealed that it is supporting and funding an industry-wide green code of conduct that will be developed by Vision 2025. It also confirmed it will relaunch its Safer Spaces campaign and charter before the 2022 festival season to raise awareness around sexual harassment and violence, and promoting best practice at member events.

In addition, AIF announced a new, wide-ranging partnership with Music Support, which includes discounted Mental Health First Aid training for members and free access to Music Support’s recently launched Addiction And Recovery awareness training.

“The pandemic isn’t over, of course, but it’s good to be able to turn one eye to the future with some new faces on the board to drive us forward,” adds Reed. “There are plenty of other issues facing our industry that we have a duty to confront head on. Not least reaffirming our commitment to taking practical action on the climate emergency, as well as sexual violence and harassment at events.

“I’d also like to thank Music Support for their partnership in helping us strive for better mental health provisions for our members. It is more vital than ever given the turbulence of the last 18 months that they have access to the right support services.”


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2019 Independent Festival Awards winners unveiled

The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) has crowned the winners of the 2019 Independent Festival Awards at a ceremony in Sheffield, UK.

The awards ceremony took place this evening (Wednesday 6 November) as a conclusion to the first day of AIF’s sixth Festival Congress.

Actor, comedian and writer Thanyia Moore hosted the awards, which saw prizes handed out across eight categories. Winners include Standon Calling (smart marketing), Kokoko! (live act of the year), the Street at Beat-Herder (unique festival arena) and Flavors of Africa (festival catering).

A host of new categories were introduced this year, with Pete the Monkey winning the European festival award; former Deer Shed festival creative director Megan Evans picking up the backstage hero gong; Deer Shed itself winning the ‘never mind the Pollocks’ category for best artwork; and Twisterella winning the ‘in on the ground floor’ award for forward-thinking artist booking.

Nominations were put forward to AIF’s 65 member festivals and later determined by a Festival Congress steering group vote.

“Congratulations to all of the winners and nominees, all of whom reiterate that the independent festival sector remains at the forefront of innovation and creativity”

“The Independent Festival Awards was a fantastic celebration and the awards ceremony felt like it had stepped up a gear with a new host, new categories and outstanding production that enhanced the overall independent festival feel of the evening,” comments AIF CEO Paul Reed.

“Congratulations to all of the winners and nominees, all of whom reiterate that the independent festival sector remains at the forefront of innovation and creativity.”

PRS for Music’s senior events manager Amy Field adds that the awards are an “important and relevant celebration of the independent festival sector”, acknowledging the “creativity and hard work” that is involved in all the festivals represented.

The first day of AIF’s Festival Congree took place at 1920s cinema the Abbeydale Picturehouse, with talks from from Extinction Rebellion’s Bing Jones, the Parabolic Theatre’s Owen Kingston and photographer Jill Furmanovsky, alongside a headline panel discussion about the nature of independence.

The second day of the conference will include a live recording of Rob da Bank’s ‘A to Z Of Festivals’ podcast with Deer Shed, and talks from Rewilding Britain’s Rebecca Wrigley, Tim Leigh of Stage One and a closing keynote from Arcadia Spectacular’s Bert Cole.

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Unwanted sexual behaviour ‘rife’ at UK festivals

Results of a new poll conducted by YouGov for the Press Association suggest some 22% of British festivalgoers have faced some kind of unwanted sexual behaviour at a music festival. This figure rises to almost one in three (30%) for just women, and almost half (43%) for women under 40.

Of those that have experienced sexual assault or harassment at a festival, only two percent go on to report the incident to the police. This severe under-reporting is representative of the issue on a wider level – a crime survey for England and Wales noted last year that 83% of victims do not report their experiences to police.

1,188 festivalgoers were surveyed to find this new information. It is thought that it is the first data of its kind. Tracey Wise, founder of Safe Gigs for Women, says: “We have struggled to find anyone with any definite statistics on this before now.

“It gives us something to show to festival organisers so we can say ‘you need to take this on board’.”

The report is particularly timely after a proposed ‘upskirting’ bill was blocked last week by one Conservative MP vote. Gina Martin, the woman responsible for the bill being put to parliament, was at British Summer Time in 2017 when a man sexually harassed her by taking a picture under her skirt.

“If people don’t intervene, then this behaviour becomes normalised.”

Writing for the BBC in 2017, she explained festival staff and police had been sympathetic to her cause – saying that the incident was harassment – but that there was little they could do because the law made it difficult to prosecute the act.

Though the report has no such data for upskirting, it does note that forceful and unwelcome dancing and sexualised verbal harassment were the most common forms of unwanted sexual behaviour at festivals.

Despite cases like Gina Martin’s and the statistics which suggest reporting of sexual offences is so low, Paul Reed, chief executive of the Association of Independent Festivals says festivalgoers should still report problems. “People shouldn’t feel that they need to tolerate the type of behaviour [at festivals] that they wouldn’t tolerate in the street.

“If people don’t intervene, then this behaviour becomes normalised.”

To try and combat the seemingly ever-present issue of sexual harassment and assault at music festivals, more than 60 members of the Association of Independent Festivals signed an anti-sexual harassment charter last year.

Findings from the survey can be found in the video below:


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