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GEI16: Brian Eno & Jarvis Cocker keynote report

Music legends Brian Eno and Jarvis Cocker united for a special keynote session to close yesterday’s Green Events and Innovations conference (GEI16).

The hour-long discussion at London’s Royal Lancaster Hotel was chaired by Cathy Runciman of EarthPercent — a charity dedicated to linking the music industry to some of the most impactful organisations addressing the climate emergency.

Renowned producer and EarthPercent founder Eno previously headlined the event, which is organised by A Greener Future in partnership with ILMC, alongside Norwegian popstar Aurora and Grammy Award-winning artist and multi-instrumentalist Jacob Collier.

Eno shared the stage with Pulp frontman Cocker to sound off on the importance of a healthy planet, with the latter gracing the audience with a visual exploration of his “Biophobia”. Here is a selection of highlights from the conversation…

Balancing activism with artistry…
Brian Eno: “I didn’t suddenly want to give up being an artist to solely become a climate campaigner. But I thought, ‘Why don’t I just carry on being an artist, make the money I can make, and give it to the people who are doing the work?’ I’m good at making things and I get paid well for it. They want to make something important too… in this case, they want to save the planet. So, why don’t I just support them?

“There’s a lovely Venn diagram about the Japanese word ‘ikagai’, and it’s how you decide what you’re going to do in your life. The diagram has four circles that intersect and they are: what I love doing, what I can get paid for, what the world needs, and what I’m good at. The intersection of these four things, if you can do it, is your sweet spot. That’s what you ought to be doing.”

“You cannot help being a hypocrite in a system in which you’re entangled”

The fear of hypocrisy…
BE: “Hug your hypocrisy [laughs]. You cannot help being a hypocrite in a system in which you’re entangled. You could say, ‘I’m a real purist, I’m not going anywhere or doing anything because it will involve taking a bus or a train or in some way wearing clothes that have been made somewhere that have been transported via a system that we’re trying to change.’ To some extent, we’re going to be compromised by it, and will hopefully be less compromised as we change. I gave up flying many years ago, and I’ve successfully not flown except twice over the last eight years. It was really hard to do, but it was possible because I don’t tour and because I don’t have any relatives [laughs]!

“However, I understand that it’s not a choice everybody can make. What I recommend is to just do it a little bit better, but don’t do it too often. If you have to go to America, for example, put together as many meetings as possible to avoid repeat flights. It’s such a Daily Mail thing to target someone and make a big story about them after they’ve been photographed with bags of shopping and getting into a car after they’ve complained about fossil fuels. It’s not an important criticism.”

The “difficulty” of making the climate justice movement more inclusive…
BE: “In America, there are over 450,000 different environmental groups. Some may belong to two or three of them, but it’s unlikely that one person will belong to a thousand of them. So there are billions of people just in North America who are somehow grappling with this, and they either may be small groups trying to save a local lake, or a larger group like Friends of the Earth. But the facts are that there are millions, if not billions, of people who are in some way engaged with trying to tackle this important issue. Why don’t we ever hear back from each other?

“In terms of numbers, we significantly outnumber the likes of those climate change deniers over at 55 Tufton Street. Trouble is, we don’t know about each other. There’s a book by American anthropologist Alexei Yurchak called Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More, which is about the collapse of the Soviet Union and the amazingness of being in a system that seemed to be absolutely fixed, set, unchangeable, which suddenly disappeared overnight. And I think this could happen here. I think we could reach a tipping point where everybody realises, ‘Hey, we’re part of this movement!’

“In Yurchak’s book, he says revolutions happen in two phases: the first is when everybody realises that things aren’t working right, and the second is where everybody realises that everybody else realises it. And that’s a critical point, where there’s a sudden coalescence. Everybody is fighting the same fight, so we have to get into that frame of mind. We are the majority, and we have the power. We just have to come together and make use of it.”

“More people were becoming scared of nature, and many of them seemed to believe that nature was turning against mankind”

Being a “biophilic”…
Jarvis Cocker: “I suffer from biophobia, which means I’m frightened of nature. I was probably born in this condition. But having been born in Sheffield, I didn’t become aware of it until later in my life.

“I first realised that this condition was a problem for me when my now ex-wife glued together pages of Mary Motley Kalergis’ illustrated book Giving Birth because I would feel faint at the most explicit images of women giving birth. Before she gave birth to our son, I was seriously worried about passing out or throwing up, but when it actually happened, I was supportive of her and even cut the umbilical cord. I realised at that moment that perhaps biophobia was something I could lose over time if I was prepared to work for it.”

His trip to the North Pole in 2008…
JC: “I went with a small group of fellow artists to the North Pole because we had come to see small icebergs. We were passengers on a voyage around Greenland organised by Cape Farewell, an organisation that took both scientists and artists to polar regions to investigate and react to something which was called climate change. The term was new to me at that point, and it seemed like a more widespread form of biophobia to me. More people were becoming scared of nature, and many of them seemed to believe that nature was turning against mankind.

“We sailed the Arctic Ocean for two weeks, and visited various sites in Greenland. On the very last day, we sailed through a channel to get back to the port we left from a fortnight earlier. I was standing alone at the deck of the ship, and I was looking at this landscape. Suddenly, out of the blue, I started crying. And for the past 15 years, I’ve been trying to find out why that was.”

The myth of a “technological fix”…
JC: “There seems to be a worrying tendency for people to solve the problem of mankind’s effects on the environment by meddling some more. Not very logical. Let me show you this small book called Salmon: A Red Herring, written by the artist duo Cooking Sections which consists of Daniel Fernández Pascual and Alon Schwabe. This book examines the detrimental effects of salmon farming on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, and it’s a very good example of what happens when man tries to play God.

“Here’s an extract: when chemicals are ineffective, salmon are splashed with boiling water over short periods of time to remove the lice caused by intensive farming. This is an imprecise method. In 2016 over 175,000 Scottish salmon were boiled alive during a not uncommon accident. Here’s another one: under the weight of accelerated growth, spines curve, tails shorten, and jaws bend. More than 90% of farmed fish are deformed. How much faith does that give you in a technological fix for climate change?”

 


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GEI16 report: Sponsorship and carbon-removed gigs

A host of top names within the live entertainment and environmental sectors gathered for the 16th edition of the Green Events and Innovations (GEI16) conference at London’s Royal Lancaster Hotel.

Organised by AGreenerFuture in partnership with ILMC (International Live Music Conference), the leading conference for sustainability was held today as part of ILMC week.

The opening Presenting Ecosystem Collapse: Sponsored by Oil and Gas panel aimed to educate audiences on how to distinguish sponsors’ intentions and ways major music and sporting events can avoid tarnishing their reputations. Moderated by Serendipity PR & Media’s Sangeeta Waldron, the panel’s goal was to emphasise the importance of maintaining values when choosing sponsors.

Citing BP’s sponsorship of a festival in Basingstoke (in which BP Pulse’s EV chargers are advertised for festival-goers with electric cars), Luke Howell of Hope Solutions wondered whether there would be pushback from NGOs and charities towards outdoor events that sign up to such partnerships.

“I would always advocate for avoiding partnerships with such companies, but the fact that it’s such a tough market for events and the music industry these days hasn’t gone unnoticed by oil and gas companies,” he said. “They’re aware that there is a funding deficit, which makes it easier for them to segue into this space.”

GEI16 also saw a conversation about the game-changing potential of The 1975’s recent landmark “carbon-removed” gigs at London’s The O2

Howell reckoned that large-and-small scale music festivals represented the “last bastion of independence” from the clutches of oil and gas companies.

“It’s highly critical to be aware and not fall into the trap of praising BP for offering EV charging stations or Shell for offering HVO fuel, even though in a vacuum, they’re good things,” he said. “But these companies collectively made over £300 billion worth of profit in the last couple of years from extracting fossil fuels from the planet.”

He also referenced a collaborative study between the Guardian and Greenpeace that showed only 0.3% of renewable energy was produced from those sources.

Despite Howell questioned the motivation behind companies using the medium of entertainment to “push themselves into the limelight”. However, he emphasised that open dialogue and transparency between event organisers and potential sponsors — especially when they’ve made billions from the practice of extracting fossil fuels.

GEI16 also saw a conversation about the game-changing potential of The 1975’s recent landmark “carbon-removed” gigs at London’s The O2. Chaired by AEG’s John Langford, the session brought together AEG Europe’s Sam Booth, Mark Stevenson of CUR8, and Claire O’Neill from A Greener Future.

“For us at AEG Europe, a carbon-removed event essentially means measuring everything that goes on in the duration of these events”

“For us at AEG Europe, a carbon-removed event essentially means measuring everything that goes on in the duration of these events,” Booth explained, further elaborating that massive amounts of audience data — including the food & beverage consumed, the merchandise sold, the types of cups used, and the energy & water in the arena — must be collected before the agency can then pay to have the carbon “physically removed” from the atmosphere.

Booth also confirmed that AEG Europe uses the “offsetting” method, which allows them to compensate for their events’ emissions by supporting projects that reduce, avoid, or remove emissions elsewhere.

“The plan is to remove an equivalent amount of emissions created by fans heading to The O2, which would equal an estimate of 100 tons per show,” he said.

When quizzed by Langford on providing a snapshot for future carbon-removed gigs, O’Neill suggested it was a “mixed bag”, where responsibilities are divided between different entities.

“In the case of The O2, the venue is responsible for anything to do with electricity and gas within its confines, the food & beverage is on the catering company that brings them to the venue, the performers are responsible for their movements to and from the venue, and so forth,” she said, adding that 90p of the ticket price has gone towards the initiative.

CUR8 is in talks with other acts about incorporating carbon-removed concerts as part of their upcoming tours

“During the ticket process, we talked to [The 1975], who were thankfully on board, and attendees were already notified of this move, so there were no pushbacks from the fans either,” said Booth.

Stevenson also confirmed that CUR8 was in talks with other acts about incorporating carbon-removed concerts as part of their upcoming shows and tours.

“We’ve been in touch with Metallica, and Lars Ulrich is very keen on this,” he shared.

Another innovative concept pored over at GE116 was the use of mycelium as sustainable material for building props and sets for touring acts. Hosted by Louder Than War’s John Robb, the Greening the Stage panel – which featured Stufish Entertainment Architects’ Zarya Vrabcheva, Pauline Bourdon from Team Love, and TAIT’s Carol Scott – highlighted the necessity of sustainable practices in the live entertainment industry.

Bourdon’s Team Love have already explored the use of mycelium panels as an alternative material for creative industries to use. The Arts Council-funded project has Bourdon visualising a “beautiful ecosystem”, given mycelium’s function as a network of fungal threads that help trees survive.

“I think we’re truly the first generation to fully comprehend what sustainability really means”

“In one instance, we mixed a mycelium strand with hemp, and managed to construct panels of a larger size,” she explained.

Vrabcheva’s extravagant set designs were noted, which help to eliminate the notion that stages made from sustainable materials are usually “austere”. Admitting that it was “challenging” to constantly abide by the practices, she said the long-term rewards are worth it.

“We want to keep creating these experiences, but with added focus on educating our audiences of the massive advantages of working with sustainable materials while they’re enjoying themselves too,” said Vrabcheva.

It was a sentiment that’s shared by Scott, who is a firm believer that music is a driving force to help spread the word of sustainable practices.

“I think we’re truly the first generation to fully comprehend what sustainability really means,” she said. “We’re actually a part of nature itself, and we need to understand that sustainability must be a key part of everyone’s life. There’s no music on a dead planet. We’re actually here to create music on a planet that’s alive and thriving, so I am very optimistic that we’re going to make good choices going forward.”

Across GEI, ILMC, and related events on the schedule, over 2,500 professionals will take part at the Royal Lancaster between 27 Feb and 1 March. GEI’s dedicated website is here.

 


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AGF announces first panels for GEI15

A Greener Festival (AGF) has announced the first panels for its Green Events and Innovations Conference (GEI 15), slated for 28 February 2023 at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London.

Adapting to a New Climate will bring together Artur Mendes (Boom Festival), Ric Robins (The MET Office) and Jane Healy (Glastonbury/Boomtown) to discuss how events are responding and adapting to the early stages of climate change.

Elsewhere, Rosanna Machado (Zebra/Platinum Jubilee Pageant) will review the sustainability actions put in place at Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Pageant and the takeaways from the iconic event.

And in Carbon Offsets: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, Mark Stevenson of CUR8 explains carbon removals using the Platinum Jubilee Pageant as a case study.

The Creative Climate Communication presentation will see Zed Anwar discuss the posters he created for the Greenpeace campaign and also an upcoming campaign he created for WWF featuring major brands and football teams: World Without Nature.

In Carbon Offsets: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, Mark Stevenson of CUR8 explains carbon removals

Also announced is a presentation of ACT 1.5 exclusive research, by Mark Donne (ACT1.5/writer & producer) and Carly McLachlan (Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research).

Supported by trip-hop collective Massive Attack and the Arts Council of England, ACT 1.5 is a research project that explores the challenges set out in the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research’s Live Music Roadmap.

The research – carried out by Donne and John O’Sullivan in partnership with a multiplicity of super-low carbon providers to the sector, and featuring newly commissioned expert research from Tyndall Centre analysts – explores the practical challenges of addressing Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions in the live music sector and how technical innovation and behavioural change can transition touring to a low-carbon future.

In addition, AGF has announced a raft of new speakers for GEI15 including Artur Mendes (Boom Festival), Jane Healy (Glastonbury/Boomtown), Ric Robins (Met Office), Sangeeta Waldron (Serendipity PR), Abena Fairweather (Legacy Marketplace), John Robb (The Membranes) and Jonathan Overend (BBC/NinetyFour19).

GEI is AGF’s flagship event and is organised in partnership with the ILMC, which takes place at the Royal Lancaster Hotel between 28 February and 3 March.

For more information on the conference, or to purchase tickets, click here.

 


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Brian Eno, Jacob Collier lined up for GEI keynote

The 15th edition of the Green Events and Innovations Conference will welcome back Brian Eno for a keynote conversation with Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jacob Collier.

Titled Music as a Social Synchroniser, the conversation will see the artists explore the social function of music and how it changes us, how it offers us a local counterpoint to the big things happening in the world and why it is so important in a community.

The keynote will also address “the whole question of where music comes from, and how it arises not just from the minds of individuals, but from whole societies, traditions and living ecosystems, is a way to also connect it to the big question of the climate crisis and music’s response to it”.

Eno is a renowned musician, producer, visual artist and activist who first came to international prominence in the early seventies as a founding member of British band, Roxy Music, followed by a series of solo albums and collaborations. He interviewed Norwegian popstar Aurora for GEI’s 2022 keynote.

The keynote will also address “the whole question of where music comes from”

Collier, meanwhile, is a five-time Grammy-award-winning artist that has been featured on songs by UK music icons like Coldplay and Stormzy, and American R&B superstars such as SZA, Kehlani, and Alicia Keys.

In his own projects, Collier has worked with a diverse cast of artistic powerhouses, from Malian singer Oumou Sangaré to John Mayer, T-Pain, Ty Dolla $ign, Daniel Caesar, Tori Kelly and Mahalia.

He has also helped Oscar-winner Hans Zimmer score the recent Boss Baby films and has written for a forthcoming West End musical on the life of opera singer Luciano Pavarotti.

Eno and Collier join a first round of speakers for GEI 15 that includes Dale Vince (Ecotricity), Rosanna Machado, Mark Stevenson (CUR8), Zed Anwar and Andy Cato (Wildfarmed, Groove Armada).

GEI is A Greener Festival’s flagship event and is organised in partnership with the ILMC, which takes place at the Royal Lancaster Hotel between 28 February and 3 March.

The leading gathering for sustainability at live events will take place on 28 February 2023. For more information on the conference, or to purchase tickets, click here.

 


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Billie Eilish to headline Prince William’s climate change event

Billie Eilish is set to headline the second edition of Prince William’s climate change event, the Earthshot Prize awards.

The prize was founded by the Prince in 2020 and is described as “an ambitious global environmental prize which aims to discover and scale the best solutions to help repair our planet within the remainder of this decade”.

Annie Lennox, Ellie Goulding and Chloe x Halle are also slated to perform at the ceremony, scheduled for 2 December at MGM Music Hall in Boston.

Clara Amfo and Daniel Dae Kim will present the ceremony and closing remarks will be delivered by Sir David Attenborough.

Five individuals will win an Earthshot Prize at the ceremony, along with £1 million each to help support and scale their green innovations.

Amfo said in a statement: “What an honour to return for a second time to host The Earthshot Prize awards, this time from America! I was so inspired by last year’s winners, and I’m looking forward to celebrating and sharing the incredible work of the 2022 Finalists with the world.”

Five individuals will win an Earthshot Prize at the ceremony, along with £1 million each

Her co-host Dae Kim added: “I’m honoured to be co-hosting this year’s Earthshot Prize. The ground-breaking, innovative work of the 2022 Finalists leaves me inspired and hopeful that we can solve the significant challenges facing us today. Whether it’s taking care of our planet or healing our communities, each of us can and must step up to do our part. Thank you to this year’s Finalists for leading the way.”

The awards will air on Sunday, 4 December at 5.30 pm GMT on BBC.

Earlier this year, Billie Eilish announced details of Overheated, a multi-day climate-focused event that took place around her multi-night residency at The O2 in London this summer.

Overheated brought together climate activists, musicians and designers at venues across The O2 to “discuss the climate crisis and the work they are doing to make a difference”.

Last week, the first speakers were announced for the Green Events and Innovations Conference (GEI 15), set for 28 February 2023 at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London.

For more information on the conference, or to purchase tickets, click here.

 


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AGF announces 15th annual GEI conference

The 15th annual edition of the Green Events and Innovations Conference (GEI 15) has been announced by A Greener Festival (AGF) and the International Live Music Conference (ILMC).

The leading conference for sustainability in events will take place on 28 February at a new venue, the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London.

GEI 15 brings together leaders and innovators in the global live and events sector to network and accelerate environmental and social best practice to make impactful change.

Industry leaders, experts, governments, and cutting-edge organisations will gather to identify, share and implement practical actions and holistic measures to help with this critical transition.

The programme ranges from strategic senior-level commitments, to “how to” case studies and workshops for operational implementation on the ground, and networking opportunities.

Sessions will cover topics such as transport, energy, food, equality and inclusivity, climate justice, reducing and calculating emissions, design and materials usage for circularity, the interface between the sector and politics, carbon removals and more.

“How the live sector moves towards a greener business model is now a critical issue”

The International AGF Awards also return to GEI 15 in 2023, celebrating the most innovative and worthy events, venues, organisations and individuals from events worldwide in the last 12 months.

AGF CEO Claire O’Neill says: “Finally, the status quo is uncomfortable enough for change to happen fast. We have to reduce emissions by more than 50% in the next seven years – a phenomenal task that no single organisation or sector has the answers nor the power to do alone.

“With many aspiring to a zero-carbon future, how the live sector moves towards a greener business model is now a critical issue. We look forward to welcoming the industry once again to GEI to reflect on the years progress, approach the difficult questions, and steer in the right direction for the year ahead.”

GEI is AGF’s flagship event and is organised in partnership with the ILMC, which takes place at the Royal Lancaster Hotel between 28 February and 3 March.

Limited super early bird tickets for GEI are now available here, as well as sponsorship and exhibitor opportunities. Find out more information here.

 


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GEI 14: Brian Eno preaches climate ‘opportunity’

A keynote interview with Brian Eno and Aurora was one of the highlights of the 14th Green Events & Innovations Conference (GEI), the leading gathering for sustainability at live events.

The duo sat down with host Love Ssega to discuss ‘Directing the energy of music for the benefit of the planet’ to close this year’s GEI at the Royal Garden Hotel, London last Friday (29 April).

A renowned musician, producer, visual artist and activist, Eno praised Coldplay’s efforts to cut their carbon footprint on their current groundbreaking eco-friendly stadium tour.

“The biggest carbon footprint of touring is generally getting the audience to the shows,” said Eno. “It isn’t getting the band and the equipment to the shows, it’s the audiences. If you’ve got 100,000 people coming to a show and they’re travelling an average of say 30 or 40 miles, that’s a huge huge number of vehicles.

“So Coldplay, for example, are now trying to set up systems where they set up a coach service. And in fact, it sounds a lot more fun to me to be in a coach with 30 or 40 other people going to the same show.”

“I’ve now started thinking in terms of the climate opportunity, rather than the climate emergency”

Eno recently founded Earth Percent, a charity providing a simple way for the music industry to support impactful organisations addressing the climate emergency, and spoke of his desire to tell a “second story” on the issue.

“We all know the first story: we’re on course for disaster,” he said. “The apocalypse is just around the corner and so on. But I’ve now started thinking in terms of the climate opportunity, rather than the climate emergency, because if you think about all the things we would have to do to save the planet… we have to change the way we do all sorts of things. And then when you think about that, you think that would be a much better world anyway.

“It’s not just about trying to save what we have. It’s about trying to make something new with this huge prompt that says, ‘We’ve got to change.’ And if we succeed, we’ll end up in a better place in a better place than we ever imagined.

“The invitation is not just to fight back like the resistance, against this huge force that is coming at us, but to sidestep it and say, ‘We’ll just build a new future.’ And I think this is happening already.”

“As things start to disappear from culture, people suddenly realise that they’re valuable”

Eno pinpointed the expression, “The best is the enemy of the good,” for its growing pertinence to the matter at hand.

“What I see happening a lot is people saying, ‘Well, I can’t do this thing that would be the ideal, so I won’t do anything.’ That is really not an option,” he said. “There is going to be a continuous, endless set of choices and negotiations where we try to prevent another 0.1% temperature rise. And we will do that because we will soon start to realise what happens if we don’t.

“One of the things that always happens as things start to disappear from culture, is that people suddenly realise that they’re valuable… So I’m hoping that because of the good side of mass media, we might actually be a little bit further ahead of the game this time.

“A heroic figure in this is David Attenborough – nobody has been more effective in making people fall in love with the planet than he has, and I think that’s what it takes for people to realise that this is the place to direct their love. I’m an atheist, but if I were going to pray to anything, it would be this place.”

“We have forgotten how to coexist and make room for everything else but ourselves, which is very sad”

Norwegian pop breakthrough Aurora said: “Apathy is the enemy of progress” and shared the relevance of her single The Woman I Am and LP The Gods We Can Touch, released in January.

“This whole album and song… is very in tune with what we’re here to talk about today: how humankind has changed through times and how the way we perceive each other and the earth, and the way we handle it… and how our touch and connection with nature that used to be so obvious in the past, has become less and less prominent within us,” she said.

“I was just wondering why this had happened, why we’d forgot to live organically as a coexisting thing, because we have forgotten how to coexist and make room for everything else but ourselves, which is very sad. I’m constantly moving in between, ‘Every small change matters,’ but also that, sometimes, small change isn’t enough when you know there’s so much we can do.”

The connection between wellbeing, inclusivity, diversity, equity and environmental sustainability was a recurring theme throughout GEI, which was presented by A Greener Festival (AGF) in partnership with the International Live Music Conference (ILMC).

Representatives from AEG, ASM Global, EarthPercent, Forest Green Rovers, Glastonbury, Music Declares Emergency, OVO Arena Wembley, Roskilde Festival, Royal Albert Hall, SEC, Soul Sutras, We Love Green, UWE and Yourope also appeared at the first green events industry physical get-together in over two years.

 


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Full agenda confirmed for GEI 14

The Green Events & Innovations Conference (GEI) has unveiled the complete agenda for its upcoming 14th edition.

Taking place at the Royal Garden Hotel, London, on Friday 29 April, the leading gathering for sustainability at live events will include an exclusive keynote from Brian Eno in conversation with Aurora and Love Ssega.

Representatives from AEG, ASM Global, EarthPercent, Forest Green Rovers, Glastonbury, Music Declares Emergency, OVO Arena Wembley, Roskilde Festival, Royal Albert Hall, SEC, Soul Sutras, We Love Green, UWE and Yourope are also confirmed to appear at the first green events industry get-together in over two years.

The full schedule can be viewed here. For the first time, an ILMC delegate pass includes full access to this year’s GEI, which takes place during the main conference programme. The event has historically taken place the day before ILMC, but this one-off move will allow all ILMC delegates full access to the whole of GEI.

Key topics of the conference include:

Confirmed speakers include (in alphabetical order); Andy Lenthall (Festival Insights), Aurora, Brian Eno, Chiara Badiali (Julie’s Bicycle), Claire O’Neill (AGF), Dale Vince OBE (Ecotricity/Forest Green Rovers), Danny Newby (Big Green Coach), Dave Ojay (Naam Festival) Dr Vincent Walsh (Herblabism/Future of Food), Dieter Castelein (Greener Power Solutions), Erik Distler (AEG), Fay Milton (Music Declares Emergency), Gina Périer (Lapee), Glenn Lyons (UWE), Gordon Masson (IQ Magazine), Hannah Jukes (Bodyheat Club Ltd.), Helen Taylor (Ecotricity/Forest Green Rovers), Holger Jan Schmidt (YOUROPE, General Secretary), Jane Healy (J Healy Productions), Jennifer Ennis (Scottish Event Campus (SEC)), John Drury (OVO Arena Wembley), John Robb (Louder Than War / Membranes), Kara Djurhuus (Roskilde Festival), Laura van de Voort (Green Events Netherlands), Linnéa Svensson (Green Operations Europe), Love Ssega, Lucy Noble (NAA/Royal Albert Hall), Lyke Poortvliet (Green Events Netherlands), Marcel Arsand (Ball), Marie Sabot (We Love Green), Martin Thim (DTD Group), Mike Walsh (Serenade), Nora Wigand (Ball), Paul McCrudden (OnePlan Events), Sangeeta Pillai (Soul Sutras), Sangeeta Waldron (Serendipity PR & Media), Steve Sayer (The O2 (AEG Europe), Thomas Grunberg (Gaudina).

The 14th edition of GEI is presented by A Greener Festival and ILMC, with the support of Ecotricity, De La Maison and Ball Corporation.

 


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GEI announces keynote with Brian Eno and Aurora

Brian Eno and Aurora have been confirmed for a keynote conversation at the Green Events & Innovations Conference (GEI), the leading gathering for sustainability at live events.

Presented by A Greener Festival (AGF) in partnership with the International Live Music Conference (ILMC), the 14th edition of GEI will take place at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington, London on Friday 29 April.

Having recently founded Earth Percent, a charity providing a simple way for the music industry to support impactful organisations addressing the climate emergency, Eno joins the conference to discuss ‘directing the energy of music for the benefit of the planet’ with Aurora.

Eno is a renowned musician, producer, visual artist and activist who first came to international prominence in the early seventies as a founding member of British band, Roxy Music, followed by a series of solo albums and collaborations. Aurora is said to be one of the greatest Norwegian pop breakthroughs of recent years.

This year’s event marks the first time ILMC delegates will be able to attend GEI sessions as part of the main conference, with key topics including:

The connection between wellbeing, inclusivity, diversity, equity and environmental sustainability will be a recurring theme throughout the programme.

Speakers for the conference include Andy Lenthall (Festival Insights), Chiara Badiali (Julie’s Bicycle), Claire O’Neill (AGF), Dale Vince OBE (Ecotricity/Forest Green Rovers), Danny Newby (Big Green Coach), Dave Ojay (Naam Festival) Dr Vincent Walsh (Herblabism/Future of Food), Erik Distler (AEG), Gina Périer (Lapee), Glenn Lyons (UWE), Gordon Masson (IQ Magazine), Holger Jan Schmidt (YOUROPE) and John Drury (OVO Arena Wembley).

Single day tickets to GEI are available.

More information and tickets can be found here. GEI 14 is kindly supported by Ecotricity, De La Maison and Ball Corporation.

 


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Building Back Greener: Next steps for the live industry

One of few feel-good stories that has emerged from the more than year-long shutdown of nearly all normal life is the perception that the natural world is getting a long-overdue ‘break’ from humanity.

Emissions are down across the board, with 2.3 billion tons less carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere in 2020 alone, and the quality of rivers and other large bodies of water has improved: parts of India’s Ganges and Yamuna rivers, for example, have become fit for drinking for the first time in decades.

Against the backdrop of such positive developments, as well as a heightened public awareness of the worsening climate crisis, the imminent return of concert touring – with its trucks and planes, its waste and its thirst for energy – could be a turning point for live music’s relationship with the natural environment.

This sense that the end of the pandemic is a fork in the road for the industry is heightened by the upcoming 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, which will be the most important global sustainability event since the landmark Paris Agreement was signed at COP21 in 2015.

With Earth Day just passed, and COP26 coming into view, will the business decide to draw a line under the bad old days and commit to building a sustainable future, or will the rush to get back to business-as-usual leave environmental concerns in the dust?

“With the way the news is, and what we’re seeing globally, people are finally realising that [climate change] is an emergency”

For tour manager Jamal Chalabi (Bring Me the Horizon), who serves as sustainability facilitator for the UK’s Tour Production Group (TPG), the sacrifices of the past year will have been for nothing if the industry doesn’t use the pause in touring to bring forward positive change on sustainability.

Established in summer 2020 by around 60 tour and production managers, the formation of the TPG was driven by a feeling that “it was a really important time for us to come together to press reset,” explains Chalabi.

“We looked at all the things that we’d seen that we wanted to discuss and change – that was things like mental health and welfare, diversity and inclusion, and, of course, sustainability.”

From the TPG’s conversations with promoters, agents, venues, and vendors, Chalabi says he hopes there is a broad industry consensus emerging about the need to make touring sustainable. “I think people are finally ready for this change,” he continues.

“With the way the news is, and what we’re seeing globally, people are finally realising that this is an emergency.”

“If we can look at sustainability from a holistic point of view, it will make the live music sector more resilient [to future crises]”

The events of 2020, he adds, have demonstrated that the live industry isn’t divorced from climate change, many of the causes of which – including deforestation and habitat loss – are believed by scientists to contribute to the emergence and spread of epidemic diseases.

“The pandemic has shown that our industry isn’t as resilient as many people thought,” says Chalabi. “We were first to stop working and we’ll be the last back. If we can look at sustainability from a holistic point of view – intelligent spending, wasting less, streamlining our processes and adopting better practices – it will make the live music sector more resilient [to future crises].”

Several high-profile artists, notably Ellie Goulding, Massive Attack and Radiohead, have publicly criticised the environmental impact of concert touring – and Coldplay have gone so far as to say they will not tour until it’s possible to do so in a net-positive way – but for many, it’s obvious that real change will need a joined-up, pan-industry approach to the issue. As Massive Attack’s Robert Del Naja said earlier this year, “One band not touring doesn’t change a thing.”

Same old story?
The importance of the TPG’s crusade is illustrated by research that shows the idea of nature being given a chance to recover by Covid-19 ignores the reality in much of the world. According to Conservation International, “there is a misperception that nature is ‘getting a break’ from humans during the Covid-19 pandemic. Instead, many rural areas in the tropics are facing increased pressure from land grabbing, deforestation, illegal mining and wildlife poaching. People who have lost their employment in cities are returning to their rural homes, further increasing the pressure on natural resources while also increasing the risk of Covid-19 transmission to rural areas.

“There have been less emissions because aviation has almost stopped, but global emissions still hit a record high this year”

“Meanwhile, there are reports of increased deforestation in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Illegal miners and loggers are encroaching on indigenous territories, which could expose remote indigenous communities to the virus. Areas that are economically dependent on tourism face reduced resources as tourism has come to a halt, resulting in a rise in the consumption of bushmeat (from wild animals) in Africa. Meanwhile, illegal mining for gold and precious stones in Latin America and Africa is on the rise, as prices spike and protected areas are left unguarded.”

Hadi Ahmadzadeh, founder of sustainable nightlife consultancy Ecodisco, says that while a good narrative – nature ‘recovering’ from human impact – is often useful to get people on board with a movement, it can “sometimes hinder you in the long-term.”

He continues, “With Covid, yes, there have been less emissions because aviation has almost stopped, but global emissions still hit a record high this year. Also the use of single-use plastics has rocketed, with single-use bans being delayed and the widespread need for PPE [personal protective equipment]. So there hasn’t been a magic wand. It’s not a template for how we move forward.”

According to Moo, the British design and printing business best known for its create-your-own business cards, the mass production of single-use PPE during the pandemic is overwhelming recycling systems, leading to a large proportion of the 129 billion face masks used globally every month ending up in the sea.

The company recently partnered with the Ocean Agency, the non-profit creative agency behind projects such as Netflix’s Chasing Coral, to raise awareness of how PPE-derived plastics are exacerbating ocean pollution.

[Ecodisco] has plans in the works to bring recyclable, reusable cups targeted at venues to market in the months ahead

“Both reusable and single-use face masks break down into plastic microfibres, which are easily consumed by marine life and enter the food chain,” explains Richard Vevers, founder of The Ocean Agency. “The pandemic’s impact on plastic pollution is a major human health concern and is now under investigation by scientists.”

Nor is it sustainable to simply stop doing the things that make us happy, continues Ahmadzadeh: “If you look at the sustainable development goals from the UN, it doesn’t just cover plastic cups and carbon emissions – you’ve got cultural sustainability, social sustainability, people looking after each other, the harmony between races and sexes… everything.”

While plastic cups, then, aren’t the be-all and end-all of sustainability, it’s on cups that Ecodisco (which spun out of an earlier eco-friendly party promotion business established by Ahmadzadeh) is currently focusing much of its attention, with plans in the works to bring recyclable, reusable cups targeted at venues to market in the months ahead.

“The whole idea of our system,” explains Ahmadzadeh, “is a reusable cup rental service. So, if you’re a venue, we would deliver reusable cups on Friday morning, for example, and you’d use them Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday day, if you’ve got an event.

Then on Monday we’d collect them, take them away to get washed and simultaneously drop off more clean ones for the week ahead. Every week we’d have two or maybe three collections and deliveries, depending on how many cups the venue can store. The goal is to use each cup around 500 times before recycling them.”

“Don’t just cover up what you’re doing, don’t just offset; reduce the impact as much as possible and then be regenerative”

The Ecodisco system would be funded by a £1 (€1.15) ‘green fee’ for each attendee, with the choice left up to venues as to whether to absorb the cost into the ticket price or levy it on top.

“Whether you integrate it into your ticket price or you make a thing out of it to get people on board with the system – which is what we’d recommend – is ultimately irrelevant,” he adds. “The whole point is, it’s funded by event attendees. We want to remove the cost to the venue.”

“Sustainability just isn’t enough anymore – we actually need to be regenerative,” says Philippa Attwood, who leads corporate partnerships for Barcelona-based Tree-Nation, which helps corporate clients offset their carbon dioxide emissions by planting trees.

“If we just sustain ourselves the way that we are now, that’s actually not good enough. That’s why, in our conversations with clients, we say, don’t just cover up what you’re doing, don’t just offset; reduce the impact as much as possible and then look at how you can be regenerative [ie have a positive effect on the environment].”

So far over 85% of people have said they would be happy to pay the £1 green fee for the [Ecodisco] cup

Like most businesses, Tree-Nation’s plans for 2020 were derailed by the pandemic – it had partnerships with around ten new festivals and live events lined up for the summer and was in conversations with some of the biggest names in live music about offsetting their emissions – though it continues to work successfully with several events, as well as a large pool of e-commerce partners, and its API is integrated with Eventbrite.

Attwood explains: “It could be that you design the event to trigger a tree to be planted every time a ticket is purchased, for example.”

Like Ecodisco’s cups, the decision on whether to include the cost of planting a tree – typically between one and two euros – in the ticket price or make it a separate charge, is left up to event organisers and ticketing platforms.

In the green
Whatever the mechanism that promoters and venues use to fund new green policies, research increasingly shows that fans are willing to pay a little extra if they know they are attending a sustainable/regenerative show.

“You do get some people who turn around and say, ‘I don’t want to put the extra cost onto my customers,’” explains Ahmadzadeh. “In those cases we turn around and say, ‘Okay, cool, let’s ask your customers!’ Working with industry bodies like Music Venue Trust we have started to send out newsletters with survey links, and so far over 85% of people have said they would be happy to pay the £1 green fee for the cup. So, we can show that to someone who says this isn’t what people want, because we’ve got people saying they’re fine with it!”

“Looking into the future, it will probably be more damaging for you if you’re not involved in something like [Tree-Nation]”

It’s a similar story in the festival world. According to Ticketmaster’s State of Play 2019 report, which surveyed 4,000 UK festivalgoers following the most recent summer festival season, a growing number of attendees take sustainability into account when buying festival tickets, with almost two-thirds saying the reduction of waste is a priority.

“Looking into the future, it will probably be more damaging for you if you’re not involved in something like [Tree-Nation],” adds Attwood. “If you’re still using throwaway plastics, diesel generators, etc, and all of that is visible, it’s going to make your event less appealing than a rival event that has reusable everything, deals with trash in the right way and has good environmental policies.

“So, what I would say to people is to think about the long-term, think about who your target market is and decide whether you want to be part of that positive change.”

The economic argument will be key to bringing everyone, particularly those for whom the environment hasn’t been a priority to date, on board with this green new world, suggests Chalabi. “Some people say things like, ‘Sustainability is all well and good, but who’s going to pay for it?’” he explains, “when in actual fact, if we run it right, it will probably cost us less than it did before.”

Chalabi cites the example of a recent conversation with a lighting designer, who told him it’s “difficult to spec certain [eco-friendly] lights, because a festival only has so much money in the budget and the lighting company can only afford to rent these fixtures.

“All these little things will become like second nature. And that’s what we’re trying to educate people about”

We turned it around and concluded, ‘If you’re using fixtures that cost more money but are using less power, then you’re saving money on the power bill.’ It’s really about stepping back and seeing the bigger picture. Yes, it’s going to cost you a little bit more on the lights, but you’re going to save 95% on your bill.”

As time goes on, he continues, “all these little things will become like second nature. And that’s what we’re trying to educate people about. It’s amazing, for instance, how many vendors we’ve gone to asking if there’s a sustainable option on a certain product, and there is – but nobody’s ever asked for it. A lot of production managers have been doing the same thing for years and years, so they’re going to keep on doing it the same way unless they know there are other choices.”

On the artist side, meanwhile, the world’s biggest tour promoter, Live Nation, is seeking to educate its clients about the options available with its new Green Nation Touring Program [sic], which it hopes will help musicians and their teams develop sustainable tours after live music returns.

The Program [sic], part of the Green Nation initiative launched in 2019, will advise Live Nation-promoted artists on how to adopt eco-friendly touring practices that “prioritise people and planet,” according to the company – including in tour planning, production and sourcing.

“Live Nation has the opportunity and the responsibility to provide artists and fans with live music experiences that protect our planet,” said Michael Rapino, LN’s president and CEO, on Earth Day. “We’re inspired by artists who are continually pushing for greener options, and as we develop those best practices the Green Nation Touring Program will help make them standards in the industry, so collectively we can all make the biggest impact possible.”

“Climate change won’t recognise borders – we’re all in this together”

Positive association
Regardless of the efforts of individual companies, trade associations such as A Greener Festival and the TPG will be crucial to securing any pan-industry consensus on environmental standards, and Chalabi says it’s been “a joy bringing people together” on the TPG’s bi-weekly calls.

“We have the heads of sustainability for AEG and Live Nation on a call, and it’s so refreshing because it’s a recognition that climate change won’t recognise borders – we’re all in this together.”

The spirit of collaboration is behind AGF’s decision to run a second edition of its Green Events and Innovations Conference (GEI) in 2021, following the most recent event ahead of ILMC on 2 March. This one-off, late-summer GEI will build on the momentum of March’s GEI 13 “towards not just rebuilding but becoming a regenerative force for our sector and all of the people it reaches,” explains AGF co-founder Claire O’Neill.

“We intend to set an example that we, the creative and can- do organisations and individuals, are leading the way, and the future that we want to co-create is fully within our grasp,” says O’Neill. “There’s no time to waste, and so we’re keeping our foot firmly on the (zero-emissions) pedal to make sure our industry steps up to be a positive force to create a future we can all be proud of.”

In the US, the Touring Professionals Alliance is “on the same page” as the TPG, according to Chalabi, while in Scandinavia, the Norwegian Live Music Association recently teamed up with other industry bodies to launch Norway’s first ‘green roadmap’ (grønt veikart) as a resource for live entertainment professionals who wish to reduce the environmental impact of their work.

“Sustainable tours needn’t mean smaller tours, just cleverer ones”

Speaking at the launch of the veikart, the association’s general manager, Tone Østerdal, explained: “Most people do not associate the cultural sector with climate and sustainability, but we have a great responsibility. The purpose of preparing this green roadmap is both to become better yourself, and to inspire others to contribute to solving the climate challenge.”

According to Attwood, it’s a misconception that concert touring will need to be scaled back to minimise its environmental impact – sustainable tours needn’t mean smaller tours, just cleverer ones, she says. “A lot of industries are looking at their supply chain and asking how they can do things better, whether it’s using electric cars instead of those that run on gasoline or sourcing products locally instead of shipping something in from China,” explains Attwood, suggesting a similar model can easily be applied to live entertainment.

For those aspects whose impact can’t be reduced further, that’s where offsetting comes in, she continues: “For example, you have 100 tonnes of CO2 you can’t get rid of, but you can plant 1,000 trees, and you can make a commitment to cleaning up the ocean, so indirectly you are compensating for what you’re doing. And it’s possible to give back more than you’re actually taking, so you’re being regenerative: You could generate two tonnes of trash at your festival but fully recycle it, then pick two tonnes of trash out of the ocean, and you’re doing more.”

While under no illusions about its urgency, noting that “we have ten years to get this right,” Chalabi is upbeat about the live business’s ability to meet the climate challenge that lies ahead.

“I think compared to all the industries out there, we touch on so many different economies – whether it’s from the travel sector to the freight sector, to power to audio to lights, you name it – we touch absolutely everything. And the fact that we also reach out to so many people because of the medium that we’re involved in, our artists and the people that we produce, we have a huge voice.

“That voice can change the way the globe feels, and I think we underestimate that power. Which is why we need to make sure our backstage is clean.”

 


Read this feature in its original format in the digital edition of IQ 99: