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Bluedot to take fallow year after weather woes

The UK’s Bluedot is to take a fallow year in 2024 to allow the festival site to fully recover from the impact of adverse weather at this year’s event.

The award-winning 25,000-cap science and music festival was held at Cheshire’s Jodrell Bank Observatory from 20-23 June and featured headline performances from Grace Jones, Pavement and Roisin Murphy.

However, organiser From the Fields says that record-breaking amounts of rainfall before and during the festival had a “severe impact” on the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

“When we set out on the journey that is Bluedot, our mission was to create a unique experience – a combination of discovery, exploration and grand cosmic ideas, soundtracked by the finest musicians from across the planet,” says a statement from the festival. “Underpinning Bluedot’s mission is a sincere love and respect for the earth and environment we are lucky to be part of. However, the earth beneath Bluedot took a lot of strain.”

The Superstruct Entertainment-backed event was forced to cancel Sunday day tickets due to extreme weather conditions that rendered the day ticket holder car park, pick-up and drop-off point and entrances “impassable”.

“We have now sadly reached the conclusion that the ground on which the Bluedot universe is built desperately needs some time to recover”

“Experiencing the highest level of rainfall on the festival weekend since records began (records courtesy of Jodrell Bank’s own weather station!), we have patiently waited to see what the effects of this have been on the land itself,” continues the statement. “We have now sadly reached the conclusion that the ground on which the Bluedot universe is built desperately needs some time to recover; a period of rest during which the soil will recover and regenerate.”

Speaking to IQ earlier this year, From the Fields co-founder and MD Andy Smith summed up the 2023 festival as a “very tricky production”.

“We had more rain there than we’ve ever had before, but we had an audience that was prepared for it: they know to wear cagoules, they know to wear the right shoes and they know to bring some spares,” he said. “With certain shows, you get audiences who are more or less prepared and Bluedot’s 100% saw it coming.

“When we knew [adverse weather] was inevitable, we got an extra 1,500m of trackway down – I think they got 130 tons of wood chip from our local [supplier] – and a number of other measures that were put out throughout the weekend, which ensured the show could go on. Considering the amount of rain, it was very impressive work by the site crew and by the management to keep it going.

“It was a shame we had to refund day ticket holders on the Sunday, but it just wouldn’t have been fair to drag them in and out of the car park. But for everybody on site, it’s strange – the audience seems to come together a lot more in times of adversity. So whilst one may not have expected it to be so well received, looking at the socials afterwards, it seems to have been one of the best we’ve had yet, if not the best, which is just phenomenal.”

 


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From the Fields’ Andy Smith breaks down ’23 season

From the Fields co-founder and MD Andy Smith has reflected on the mixed fortunes of the UK promoter’s Kendal Calling and Bluedot festivals this summer in a new interview with IQ.

Held in Lowther Deer Park in the Lake District from 27-30 July, the 40,000-cap Kendal Calling sold out for the 17th successive year, headlined by Nile Rodgers & Chic, Kasabian, Blossoms and Royal Blood.

“It’s been a phenomenal year,” Smith tells IQ. “It’s been a hard year, but it’s definitely been worth it.”

The goodwill generated from this year’s festival has helped it break its first-day sales record for the second successive year, with more than 40% of tickets for next year’s edition, set for 1-4 August 2024, snapped up yesterday.

“We’ve got a very eager and passionate audience,” Smith tells IQ. “People love the festival – it’s as simple as that. We’ve got a very strong, loyal audience who come every year and they know that it sells out every year – 17 years in a row – so they just want to know that they have a ticket and then not think about it again until we announce the line-up, at which point they get all excited again. I wish I was that organised!”

In another positive development, the festival saw a greater uptake for its Thursday opening night attractions this year, which helped ease traffic issues over the weekend.

“It’s normally a three-day camping ticket with the addition of a Thursday night for traffic measures, trying to reduce the amount of cars arriving at once,” explains Smith. “With Scouting For Girls and Chic & Nile Rodgers, we had about 60% of the audience coming in early, which resolved the traffic issues, so that was a great success.”

“Every year we seem to have record amounts of rainfall, and this July is no exception with it being 40% above the norm”

The site’s infrastructure also held up well against the expected weather challenges – with the help of some novel tactics from organisers.

“Every year we seem to have record amounts of rainfall, and this July is no exception with it being 40% above the norm,” says Smith. “It normally turns into quite a mud bath, but we managed to avoid that this year despite having our fair share of rain.

“One of the things we did, which we’d never done before, is we didn’t cut the grass,” he continues. “People turned up and thought we were mad because the grass was up to their knees in places, but there was a theory behind it and it was twofold. Firstly, for the immediate enjoyment of the customers – once you’ve had 10,000 people walk across any high land, it isn’t knee-high anymore and you end up with a carpet below you. That meant that, even after 10 hours of rain on Saturday night, the fields were green and they still were 12 hours later.

“Secondly, from a sustainability [perspective], when you mow 2,000 acres of grass, you turn it all into silage, which goes straight to the cows and into the atmosphere as methane, which is no good. But when you trample it into the ground, it stays there. It’s like a carbon sink, so that was very good for our sustainability policies and very good for the environment and for customers.”

From the Fields’ 25,000-cap science and music event Bluedot was not so lucky in its battle against the elements, however. Taking place at Jodrell Bank Observatory, Cheshire, between 20-23 July with artists including Pavement, Roisin Murphy, Leftfield and Max Richter. But it was forced to cancel Sunday day tickets due to extreme weather conditions after an “unprecedented amount of rainfall” rendered the day ticket holder car park, pick-up and drop-off point and entrances “impassable”.

“It was a shame we had to refund day ticket holders on the Sunday, but it just wouldn’t have been fair to drag them in and out of the car park”

“That a was a very tricky production,” concedes Smith. “We had more rain there than we’ve ever had before, but we had an audience that was prepared for it: they know to wear cagoules, they know to wear the right shoes and they know to bring some spares. With certain shows, you get audiences who are more or less prepared and Bluedot’s 100% saw it coming.

“When we knew [adverse weather] was inevitable, we got an extra 1,500m of trackway down – I think they got 130 tons of wood chip from our local [supplier] – and a number of other measures that were put out throughout the weekend, which ensured the show could go on. Considering the amount of rain, it was very impressive work by the site crew and by the management to keep it going.

“It was a shame we had to refund day ticket holders on the Sunday, but it just wouldn’t have been fair to drag them in and out of the car park. But for everybody on site, it’s strange – the audience seems to come together a lot more in times of adversity. So whilst one may not have expected it to be so well received, looking at the socials afterwards, it seems to have been one of the best we’ve had yet, if not the best, which is just phenomenal.”

Returning to Kendal Calling’s Leave Nothing But Memories sustainability programme, From the Fields launched new game Flappy Tent to raise awareness of the impact of festival-goers leaving tents behind and commissioned local band The Lancashire Hotpots to write a song about the issue.

“Sometimes things have to get worse before they get better, and surveying Kendal Calling site on the Monday morning in 2019 was very depressing,” says Smith. “Then we had the two years off, and then last year pretty much everybody took their tents away. It went from being an uncountable mess down to about 284 tents.

“I was very worried this year, because it rained a lot. But by the initial count, it’s looking like we’ve done the same as last year, which I actually think is really good. Through all these initiatives, I think the message has got through.”

Kendal Calling and Bluedot have been backed by Superstruct Entertainment since 2019 and 2022, respectively.

“We’ve got support where we need it,” adds Smith. “We’ve always had great team but there’s that extra level that’s very refreshing, especially when you’re days into a festival and it’s quite tiring. It’s great to have somebody on the end of the phone who’s got a fresh mind and fresh pair of eyes. Nothing’s changed unless it’s been needed and we find their level of support so refreshing. It’s a wonderful partnership.”

 


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Bluedot, Pitchfork latest fests disrupted by weather

Bluedot (UK) and Pitchfork Festival Chicago (US) are the latest festivals to be disrupted by extreme weather conditions.

Organisers of the music and science festival Bluedot were forced to cancel Sunday day tickets due to the “unprecedented amount of rainfall over the past seven days that saw the water level reach saturation point during [Saturday] night”.

This rendered the day ticket holder car park, pick-up and drop-off point and entrances “impassable,” according to a post on the festival’s website and social media.

“We have worked hard this weekend and throughout last night, laying over 1.5km of additional track mat and trackway, 130 tonnes of sustainably sourced wood chip and bringing multiple trucks on site to pump out standing water, however… it is not possible to accommodate further audience vehicles on site” read the statement.

Sunday’s schedule, which was headlined by Grace Jones, went ahead as planned but only for the weekend campers that had been at Jodrell Bank Observatory, Cheshire, since Friday.

“An unprecedented amount of rainfall over the past seven days that saw the water level reach saturation point during the night”

The 25,000-capacity event, which was acquired by Superstruct last year, welcomed artists including Pavement, Roisin Murphy, Leftfield and Max Richter between 20 and 23 July.

Across the Atlantic, Pitchfork Music Festival was evacuated for an hour on Saturday (22 July) “due to dangerous weather conditions”.

The word went out at 16:40 asking festivalgoers to evacuate Chicago’s Union Park, and steer clear of metal fencing and stages, due to ominous clouds and the threat of lightning.

Vagabon’s delayed afternoon set was just underway when the announcement came. Earlier that day, the festival’s opening sets were also affected by a weather delay, with Palm’s set cancelled, and delayed start times on sets by Black Belt Eagle Scout and others.

Pitchfork and Bluedot are the latest live music festivals affected by adverse weather conditions, after Primavera (Spain), Dutch festivals Awakenings, Bospop and Wildeburg, Alexandra Palace’s Kaleidoscope Festival and Robbie Williams’ concert in Austria.

Elsewhere, festivals such as Austria’s Nova Rock and Australia’s Splendour in the Grass this year invested in site improvements after their 2022 editions were hit with extreme weather.

 


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Superstruct acquires UK festival Bluedot

Live entertainment powerhouse Superstruct Entertainment has acquired a majority stake in the UK festival Bluedot.

Touted as “four days of music, science and cosmic culture,” Bluedot has been held annually in July since 2016 at Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire, England.

The 25,000-capacity event has previously played hosts to artists such as Kraftwerk, Chemical Brothers, Hot Chip, Prof Brian Cox, Helen Sharman, Richard Dawkins, Jean-Michel Jarre, New Order and Future Islands.

The 25,000-capacity event has previously played hosts to artists such as Kraftwerk, Chemical Brothers and Hot Chip

The festival was founded by Ben Robinson, director of music festival agency From the Fields.

Robinson also co-founded Kendal Calling which was acquired by Superstruct from Global when the latter company divvied up its festival portfolio in 2019.

Providence Equity-backed Superstruct counts Sziget, Elrow, Parookaville, Wacken Open Air, Boardmasters, Sonar, Tuska and Zwarte Cross among its extensive portfolio of European festivals.

IQ has contacted Superstruct for a comment.

 


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From the Fields launches partnerships division

From the Fields, the UK festival promoter behind popular summer events Kendal Calling and Bluedot, has hired Chris McCormick to oversee a new brand partnerships division.

McCormick joins Manchester-based From the Fields from Bluepeg/Star Live, where he was commercial director, working with brands including the Mercury Prize, Heineken and Amazon Music. As partnerships director, he will oversee partnerships for both festivals, as well as working with external clients.

Co-op is the newest client for From the Fields Partnerships, with the retail group planning to bring its pop-up festival food and drink store to Kendal Calling (25,000-cap.) from July 2021.

Ben Robinson, From the Fields’ managing director, comments: “The addition of Chris to our team marks an exciting new era for From the Fields, allowing us to service a wider range of clients with a full complement of services from online and offline sponsorship delivery, activations, curation, marketing and production.

“Now, more than ever, brands expect a joined-up approach, and thanks to our portfolio of award-winning major events and our highly-respected team, From the Fields is now uniquely positioned to deliver incredible campaigns.”

“From the Fields is uniquely positioned to deliver incredible campaigns”

“I’m absolutely thrilled to be joining From the Fields,” adds McCormick. I’ve worked with Andy [Robinson, co-founder], Ben and the team for over a decade as clients to my own businesses, and their creative and entrepreneurial spirit has always impressed me. Having the chance to join the dots of our combined skills and experience was an opportunity not to be missed.

“I’ll be steering the partnership strategy for Kendal Calling and Bluedot, as well as working with external clients. We will also be harnessing our creative, marketing and production expertise to deliver experiential and strategy for brands within music, entertainment and live events.”

In addition to launching From the Fields Partnerships, the company has announced a new addition to its event roster in the form of Manchester Food and Drink Festival.

From the Fields’ core festivals, Kendal Calling and Bluedot (21,00-cap.), will return in July 2021, with Björk, Groove Armada and Metronomy having already been announced as Bluedot 2021 headliners.

Bournemouth’s Arts by the Sea, curated by From the Fields, will go ahead this month in a Covid-secure format.

 


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M’era Luna rebooks all 2020 acts for next year

FKP Scorpio has announced that all acts billed to play the 2020 edition of gothic festival M’era Luna will be returning in 2021.

The promoter was forced to call off M’era Luna 2020, along with twin festivals Hurricane and Southside, Highfield, Deichbrand, Elbjazz and Limestone, when the German government imposed a ban on large-scale events until the end of August.

The 25,000-capacity festival will return from 7 to 8 August 2021, headed up by ASP, Gdansk and the Sisters of Mercy.

“We are very happy that we could reward the solidarity and patience of our guests in this manner,” says FKP Scorpio CEO Stephan Thanscheidt, who spoke on the recent IQ Focus Festival Forum panel.

“The rapid reconfirmation of our entire line-up would not have been possible for our visitors without a great effort of our team and our artists. Thanks for all parties, but especially to our guests who have kept us in this difficult time with a lot of support, the loyalty.”

“We are very happy that we could reward the solidarity and patience of our guests in this manner”

Scorpio has also reconfirmed a number of headliners for its Hurricane and Southside festivals, including Seeed, Martin Garrix, the Killers, Kings of Leon and Rise Against.

Thanscheidt references FKP’s ‘three-ticket solution’ programme, which offers all ticket holders three options: transfer tickets to 2021, opt for a credit voucher in accordance with government regulations, or ask for a cash refund.

Several festivals have announced a high rebooking count for 2021. In the UK, metal festival Bloodstock has confirmed 95% of its 2020 acts for next year, says festival director Rachael Greenfield.

Scotland’s Trnsmt has also retained a high proportion of acts for next year, including headliners Courteeners, Liam Gallagher and Lewis Capaldi, whereas From the Fields’ Bluedot Festival announced the rebooking of headliners Bjork, Groove Armada and Metronomy concurrently with the cancellation of its 2020 edition.

Primavera Sound today (27 May) announced its line-up for 2021, reconfirming acts including Iggy Pop, the Strokes, Tyler the Creator and the National.

A recent Festicket survey has indicated that appetite for next year’s festival season is high, with over 75% of 110,000 respondents saying they would book tickets for 2021 events within the next eight weeks.

 


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Wireless cancels as more UK fests call time on 2020

Festival Republic’s Wireless Festival and an open-air the 1975 show are the latest losses to the UK’s 2020 summer calendar, in a week that also saw Oxfordshire’s Cornbury Music Festival and metal event Bloodstock move to 2021.

The UK’s summer festival season is looking increasingly uncertain, as organisers wait for the government to reveal details of its exit plan. The country has been in lockdown since 23 March.

“Wireless Festival will no longer be taking place this year,” reads a statement from organisers. “As you know we’ve been closely monitoring this unprecedented situation, and it’s become clear that cancelling is unavoidable.

“Subject to contract, Wireless Festival will be back next year on 2 to 4 July 2021 and will be worth the wait,” continue organisers, urging fans to “keep your eyes peeled” for news on the virtual edition of the festivals.

The urban music event, which had booked ASAP Rocky, D-Block Europe and Lil Uzi Thug for this year, has encountered licensing restrictions imposed by the local council around its home in Finsbury Park.

The promoter has also announced the cancellation of an eco-friendly show by the 1975 at Finsbury Park, scheduled for 11 July. The show, which was also to feature Charli XCX, Clairo and Pale Waves, was set to be the Manchester band’s biggest show ever.

“We’ve been closely monitoring this unprecedented situation, and it’s become clear that cancelling is unavoidable”

Festival Republic had previously called off the 2020 outings of Download Festival, set to feature Kiss, Iron Maiden and System of a Down, and Latitude, which had a line-up including Liam Gallagher, Haim and the Chemical Brothers.

This week also saw the cancellation of the 20,000-capacity Cornbury Music Festival, which was to feature Dido, Jack Savoretti and the Waterboys, as well as Judas Priest-headlined metal festival Bloodstock. Organisers say the event will be back for a bumper five-day edition in 2021.

Other major UK festivals to cancel due to the coronavirus outbreak include Boomtown (Wu-Tang Clan, Underworld, the Libertines), Bluedot (Bjork, Metronomy, Groove Armada), Black Deer (Wilco, the Waterboys, the Dead South) and Y Not Festival (Royal Blood, Richard Ashcroft, Bombay Bicycle Club), adding to cancellations of AEG Presents’ All Points East and British Summer Time Hyde Park, Live Nation’s Parklife, Lovebox and Isle of Wight Festival, and Glastonbury Festival.

In Scotland, which has limited self-government within the UK, DF Concerts’ Trnsmt (Courteeners, Liam Gallagher, Lewis Capaldi) and Regular Music’s Summer Nights at the Bandstand (Rick Astley, Van Morrison, Primal Scream) cancelled after first minster Nicola Sturgeon suggested public gatherings would be banned for the foreseeable future.

In the neighbouring country of the Republic of Ireland, festivals including Longitude and All Together Now cancelled last month, as the government announced a blanket ban on events over 5,000 people until 31 August, although it recently indicated that smaller events would be permitted from 10 August.

 


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Festival Fever: updates on 2020 summer

Continuing the series of 2020 line-up announcements, IQ rounds up line-ups from Bluedot, Sziget festival, Reading and Leeds, Lowlands, Flow Festival and Montreux Jazz Festival.

(See the previous edition of Festival Fever here.)

 


Bluedot

When: 23 to 26 July
Where: Jodrell Bank Observatory, Cheshire, UK
How many: 16,000

From the Fields’ Bluedot festival, which takes place each year at the Jodrell Band Observatory – a recently declared UNESCO World Heritage site – is back for its fifth outing in 2020 with another packed programme of music and science.

Friday night sees dance act Groove Armada head up the main stage, with indie-electro group Metronomy headlining on Saturday. The final day of the festival will close with a UK festival exclusive from Björk, who is performing alongside Manchester’s Halle Orchestra to a backdrop of bespoke projections on Jodrell Bank’s crowning jewel, the Lovell Telescope.

Elsewhere, performances will come from 808 State, Roisin Murphy, Crazy P, Spiritualized and Daniel Avery.

Last year’s Bluedot, which coincided with the fiftieth anniversary of the moon landing, saw headline performances from Hot Chip, Kraftwerk and New Order.

Tickets for Bluedot 2020 are available here, priced at £168.75 for a weekend camping ticket.

The final day of the festival will close with a UK festival exclusive from Björk

Sziget

When: 5 to 11 August
Where: Obuda island, Budapest, Hungary
How many: 60,000

Hungarian mega-festival Sziget released the first wave of its line-up last week, with a total of five headline acts announced so far.

Calvin Harris, Dua Lipa, Kings of Leon, Major Lazer and the Strokes will head up the main stage at the week-long festival, with ASAP Rocky, Khalid, Stormzy, Lewis Capaldi, Foals, Mark Ronson, Foster the People, Diplo and FKA Twigs among other acts performing at the event.

Over 530,000 people attended Sziget 2019, which saw nine headline performances over seven days from Ed Sheeran, Foo Fighters, Post Malone, Florence and the Machine, Martin Garrix, the 1975, Twenty One Pilots, the National and Macklemore.

Providence Equity partners took a 70% stake in Sziget promoter Sziget Cultural Management in 2017, as the festival became one of the first assets in the now-significant Superstruct portfolio.

Tickets for Sziget 2020 are available here, with a full seven-day pass costing €299 (£249) and a VIP pass priced at €599 (£499). Prices go up on 3 March.

Calvin Harris, Dua Lipa, Kings of Leon, Major Lazer and the Strokes will head up the main stage

Reading and Leeds

When: 28 to 30 August
Where: Richfield Avenue, Reading/Bramham Park, Leeds, UK
How many: 100,000

Festival Republic’s twin festivals Reading and Leeds will be headed up by Rage Against the Machine this year, with fellow headliners Stormzy and Liam Gallagher.

Other performers at 2020 events include Run the Jewels, Courteeners, Migos, Gerry Cinnamon, AJ Tracey, Sam Fender, Rex Orange County, Slowthai and Idles.

The festivals last year recorded their hottest and biggest year yet, with nearly 200,00 people a day collectively attending the twin events over the hottest August bank holiday on record. Headline performances came from the 1975, Foo Fighters and Twenty One Pilots, with then-rising star, now multi award-winner Billie Eilish producing what “may well have been the biggest crowd at a Reading show ever”.

Tickets to Reading and Leeds festivals are available here, with a weekend ticket priced at £232.20 and day tickets priced between £81.50 and £86.50.

Reading and Leeds will be headed up by Rage Against the Machine, with Stormzy and Liam Gallagher

A Campingflight to Lowlands Paradise

When: 21 to 23 August
Where: Biddinghuizen, the Netherlands
How many: 55,000

Mojo Concerts’ A Campingflight to Lowlands Paradise, or Lowlands, has confirmed the first 55 acts for its 2020 festival.

The Chemical Brothers, Foals, Lewis Capaldi, Liam Gallagher, Stormzy and Michael Kiwanuka are among acts playing at this year’s event.

The 2019 edition of Lowlands sold out for the fastest time in years, with a line-up featuring Tame Impala, Twenty One Pilots, ASAP Rocky and New Order.

In a bid to make future events more sustainable, Mojo is working together with renewable energy producer Solarfields to develop a 35-hectare solar farm on the Lowlands festival car park, due to be completed in time for 2021 festival.

Festival tickets for Lowlands 2020 have sold out, but €605 (£504) group camping tickets (up to 8 people) are still available here.

The Chemical Brothers, Foals and Lewis Capaldi are among acts playing at this year’s event

Flow Festival

When: 14 to 16 August
Where: Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki-based, multi-venue music and arts event Flow Festival is playing host to acts including Bon Iver, Mac DeMarco, Stormzy, the Strokes, FKA Twigs and 070 Shake.

The festival marks the Strokes’ first-ever Finnish appearance and comes in a string of Scandinavian festival appearances, adding to slots at Norway’s Oya festival and Way Out West in Sweden.

James Barton-led festival owner/operator Superstruct acquired a stake in Flow Festival in November 2018.

Tickets for Flow Festival 2020 are available here, with a one-day ticket costing €105 (£88) and a three-day passed priced at €195 (£163).

The festival marks the Strokes’ first-ever Finnish appearance

Montreux Jazz Festival

When: 3 to 18 July
Where: Montreux, Switzerland
How many: 200,000 (whole festival)

Lionel Richie, Lenny Kravitz, Brittany Howard and Black Pumas are the first acts announced this year’s Montreux Jazz Festival (MJF).

Taking place on the banks of Lake Geneva, MJF celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2016 and last year played host to performers including Elton John, Snarky Puppy, Lewis Capaldi, George Ezra, Lizzo, the Chemical Brothers, Mac DeMarco and Quincy Jones.

The MJF team last year launched media company Montreux Media Ventures, which is working together with luxury hotel chain Fairmont Hotels and Resort Group to establish a concert series across the group’s properties and keep the MJF spirit alive all year.

Tickets to Montreux Jazz Festival 2020 will become available on March 27, the day after the full programme is released.

 


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Ground Control’s Jon Drape launches Engine No. 4

Event production veteran Jon Drape has launched Engine No.4, a new production company headquartered in Manchester, UK, as he retires the Ground Control brand.

The new company counts Parklife, Snowbombing Austria, Bluedot, Kendal Calling, Lost Village, Depot at Mayfield and the Warehouse Project among its clients.

Drape, former MD of Ground Control Productions, director at Broadwick Live and founder of Festival Safe, forms part of a core team of equal partners with Tommy Sheals-Barrett (Back On Your Heads Ltd), Jim Gee (N4 Productions) and Will McHugh (CC Events).

The decision to create Engine No.4 follows the withdrawal of Broadwick Live and Ground Control parent company, Global, from the festival space earlier this year.

“It was the ideal time for a rethink – it’s not just a rebadged version of Ground Control,” comments Drape. “We came to realise that a more streamlined business was the only sustainable option.

“With a desire to focus on quality events and festivals, I thought the best move forwards would be to form a new partnership of four equal shareholders and directors together, covering all elements of the industry and able to deliver more bespoke and considered solutions.”

“It was the ideal time for a rethink – it’s not just a rebadged version of Ground Control”

With over 30 years’ experience in the live industry, Drape managed production at legendary Manchester venue the Hacienda, later founding Ground Control in 2013. Drape is a patron for music charity Attitude is Everything and drug safety testing group the Loop.

Sheals-Barrett takes on the role of head of technical production, with 25 years’ experience managing production for Festival No. 6, Bluedot and Parklife.

Kendal Calling and Parklife operations director McHugh will handle the sponsorship side of the business, building on existing relationships with clients such as EE, Lynx, Nintendo and Carling.

Gee, whose recent projects include reopening Manchester’s 10,000-capacity Depot at Mayfield, will serve as the director and head of site management.

“We’re immensely proud of what we have achieved so far at the Depot,” says Gee. “Our remit was to transition the Warehouse Project from Store Street without losing the spirit and the vibe in a much larger venue. Somewhat of a challenge but something we have delivered.”

Operating from September 2019, Engine No.4 has new projects lined up to add to its existing client base.

International event production professionals will be gathering at the ILMC Production Meeting (IPM) on Tuesday 3 March at the Royal Garden Hotel in London.

 


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PlayPass hails record summer for cashless & RFID at UK festivals

Cashless and NFC specialist PlayPass has enjoyed a record-breaking summer, operating at over 250 events across 22 countries over five continents and processing 12.82 million cashless transactions, worth €78 million euros. Globally, 2019 has seen the company grow its event roster by 40%.

The UK has seen the sharp end of this growth curve, with a 400% increase in events embracing the company’s solutions to improve their visitor experience, increase spend per head, operate more efficiently and eliminate fraud.

This year saw PlayPass deliver more than 80% of all commercial UK cashless and RFID festival activations, reinforcing its position as the market leader and building on a solid four-year track record for reliability in festival fields. While many implementations focused on going fully cashless, some events used the technology to combat accreditation fraud, while others wanted to create a more immersive visitor experience. One even used it to help people climb up walls!

Here, Steve Jenner, PlayPass’s UK managing director, relays his ten proudest deployments from the UK’s biggest summer of RFID yet, in order of delivery date…

Some events used the tech to combat accreditation fraud, while others wanted to create a more immersive visitor experience. One even used it to help people climb up walls

1. We Are FSTVL, 24–26 May, became the UK’s first major festival to successfully go fully cashless. A flawless RFID operation provided a fast, queue-free experience inside the event, attended by 70,000.

Steve Durham, director of We Are FSTVL, says: “We were delighted to partner with PlayPass – they gave us the confidence to say ‘we can do this’, and the feedback we’ve had from the public is that it was super-easy and super-smooth.”

2. Black Deer, 21–23 June, contracted PlayPass to take the festival fully cashless as well as using the staff accreditation system. As well as giving visitors a hassle-free experience, the country and americana festival went on to smash previous UK records for online pre-event top-ups and reported a significant spend-per-head uplift. The increase in service speed took some traders by surprise, including Pizza of Dreams, who sold out of stock during the event.

Chris Russell-Fish, Black Deer’s operations director, says: “I’m delighted to say that it’s worked brilliantly. We’ve had no queues, the system has been easy to use – far better and more secure than dealing with cash – and our spend per head has been significantly higher than last year. We’ve had great feedback from the audience, traders and bar managers and I’m sure we’ll look to enhance it further next year.”

3. Smoked & Uncut, 15 June, 6 July, 27 July. With capacities ranging from 3,000 to 5,000, this trio of sold-out one-day shows with an older audience demographic experienced a solid uplift in spend per head, going fully cashless for the first time.

Lotti Eagles, head of marketing for Smoked & Uncut: “Using PlayPass’s system benefited both the customer experience and our experience as organisers. Queues at bars and food stalls were reduced and it has allowed us to far more accurately track spends, which meant we could be far more prepared ahead of the next event, as well as use this data to guide our plans for 2020.”

“The data mine that we’ve got, that will enable us to run the event more efficiently from an accreditation point of view, is mind-blowing”

4. British Summer Time, 5–7 July, 12–14 July. We rolled out our crew management and access control systems to eliminate the risk of accreditation fraud on all six Hyde Park shows. Several thousand crew working onsite were issued with secure RFID wristbands encoded with their professional credentials, which were scanned at back-of-house checkpoints, where security was paramount.

5. 2000trees, 11–13 July. After a highly successful leap to cashless last year, yielding a reported 24% increase in bar spend, the award-winning 10,000-capacity Cotswolds punk-rock fest added our crew accreditation system for year two. Through fine-tuning the cashless operation, they were also able to achieve another sizeable uplift in spend per head.

Festival director Brendan Herbert on the accreditation system: “Through this, we’ve learned so much about our event and all the crew, press, VIP guests and artists that come here. The data mine that we’ve got that will enable us to run the event more efficiently from an accreditation point of view is mind-blowing, so we’re already very excited about using it next year to put new ideas into practice.”

6. Bluedot, 18–21 July. One of the proudest, most exciting projects in my career, this was our biggest UK operation of the summer, with over 500 devices in the field and a team of 14 on site. It was also a huge year for Bluedot, having sold out its expanded capacity of 21,000 and celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing. It was the perfect moment to go fully cashless, and – as a festival themed on space-age technology – it was important that the tech was used for more than just cashless convenience.

Enter the ‘Mission Log’. Conceived by Bluedot’s creative team, this used our new gamification services for the first time in the UK to give visitors a more immersive festival experience. RFID scanners mounted in upright podiums around the site enabled visitors to check in at over 400 attractions, including live performances, talks, exhibits and sponsor activations. After the event, they could log in to the Bluedot website using their wristband ID to view their ‘Mission Log’, reliving their personal experience of the event with links for deeper content. It was a big leap for Bluedot and undoubtedly a giant one for festival-kind.

“Through rain and shine, wi-fi and power outages, even a gate stampede, our technology and operational crew have proven to be highly resilient, flexible and reliable this summer”

Bar operator Marc Daly, of Field Vision, says: “Working with PlayPass at Bluedot saw our transaction speed increase, queues reduce and ancillary costs reduce. We had less security on site as no physical money needed to be transported or counted. Our risk of theft reduced to almost zero, and our build and de-rig times reduced as less equipment needed to be set up and distributed. The PlayPass team were always efficient and easy to deal with and I look forward to working with them next year.”

7. Neverworld, 1–3 August. The festival formerly known as Leefest levelled -up this year with an attendance boost to 6,000 and a fully cashless site. Every ticket came pre-loaded with £26 of cashless credit, meaning that 100% of the audience had money on their wristbands as soon as they were through the gates. The result was a queue-free experience from start to finish and a highly successful transition to cashless.

Brian Meredith, from Neverworld’s board, credited PlayPass’ onsite team who, he says, were “just great and could not have been more helpful”.

8. These Walls Are Meant for Climbing, 10–11 August. We went from green fields to London’s Westfield shopping centre for ‘It’s Bigger’ agency, adapting our tech for this action-sports fest hosted by outdoor clothing label the North Face. Interactive climbing experiences, alongside live music and DJs, saw our handheld scanners built into the top of ten climbing walls.

A thousand participants each day were issued removable RFID wristbands so they could log their climb by checking-in when they reached the top. Using our new gamification services, this triggered an automated email containing a special offer voucher from the North Face they could redeem in the high street.

“We look forward to continued success with our existing UK clients and introducing many more events to the benefits they can attain with our solutions”

9. Lakefest, 8–11 August. A major onsite cash theft in 2018 prompted Lakefest’s organisers to make the jump to cashless. Coinciding with a sizeable increase in attendance to 12,000, it proved a highly successful endeavour that was well-received by the family heavy audience.

10. London Dessert Festival, 16–17 August. The capital’s sweetest new food festival, in London’s Old Truman Brewery, went fully cashless with us for its first edition to give customers and vendors a smoother experience and avoid the costs and complexities of cash management. Six thousand visitors were issued RFID cards which they could top up with funds online (in advance) or on site to spend on delicious puddings at 50 stands.

Steve Jenner, pictured with the PlayPass team at Bluedot, comments: “Through rain and shine, wi-fi and power outages, even a gate stampede, our technology and operational crew have proven to be highly resilient, flexible and reliable this summer. I’m particularly proud of the positive feedback from our clients, praising the results we’ve achieved on their behalf – for giving their visitors a better experience alongside consistent commercial uplift and improved security across all sites.

“We look forward to continued success with our existing UK clients and introducing many more events to the benefits they can attain with our solutions.”

 


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