UK fests cancel as industry calls for new fund
As more UK festivals cancel, the live industry has written to prime minister Boris Johnson asking for a ring-fenced portion of the Culture Recovery Fund (CRF) to create a new contingency fund for live events.
The email landed in Johnson’s inbox just hours before the 70,000-capacity Boomtown festival became the latest casualty to cancel due an ongoing lack of insurance for events.
The letter, which is signed by all members of LIVE (Live music Industry, Venues and Entertainment), UK Music, as well as Festival Republic’s Melvin Benn, Live Nation UK & Ireland chairman Denis Desmond, and Kilimanjaro’s Stuart Galbraith, references being “at an impasse” with DCMS and Treasury officials, and emphasises “a complete market failure in the insurance market with regards to the provision of Covid-related cancellation cover”.
“There is simply no better or more efficient way to use CRF funds to drive money through the live music ecosystem”
“…we would like to formally propose that a material portion of the remaining fund is used to create a contingency scheme in order to stimulate economic activity in the summer and beyond. This could work by covering a proportion of an organiser’s costs if they were forced to cancel for Public Health grounds.”
It goes on to say “there is simply no better or more efficient way to use CRF funds to drive money through the live music ecosystem – from artists and venues to technical staff and freelance crew – than to enable people to get people back to work.”
Similar compensation schemes have been announced in Germany (€2.5bn), Austria (€300m), the Netherlands (€300m), Belgium (€60m), Norway (€34m), Denmark (DKK 500m) and Estonia (€6m). But while the UK Government is underwriting the cancellation costs of all forthcoming Events Research Programme pilot shows – to a maximum of £300,000 per event – officials are reticent to agree to a scheme more broadly.
“After almost half a year of campaigning, sadly Covid specific cancellation insurance for events simply does not exist”
Independent festival Boomtown had planned to go ahead this year with a scaled-down event but organisers have said that time has run out to find a solution to ‘the mind-boggling conundrum of putting on a safe and well-run event to the sheer scale, complexity and intricate nature’.
“With less than four months to go until the event, and after almost half a year of collective campaigning to the government, sadly Covid specific cancellation insurance for events simply does not exist at this point in time,” reads a statement on the festival’s website.
“This means anyone putting on an event this year, will be doing so without the safety net of insurance to cover them should Covid prevent them from going ahead in any capacity. For an independent event as large and complex as Boomtown, this means a huge gamble into an 8-figure sum to lose if we were to venture much further forward, and then not be able to go ahead due to Covid.”
“It’s unlikely that we’ll be able to weather the storm of no events happening in 2021”
Anna Wade, communications and strategy director at the Winchester-based festival, has been vocal about the need for government-backed insurance and gave evidence at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Select Committee’s inquiry into safeguarding the future of the sector in January.
During the hearing, she said: “It’s unlikely that we’ll be able to weather the storm of no events happening in 2021. Most festival organisers only hold one event and that is the one opportunity in the year. Without that, we don’t have a company essentially.”
Though the festival was awarded £991,000 in the latest round of the CRF, the organisers say “the reality is it represents only a fraction of the costs (under 10%) involved in creating an event to the sheer scale and ambition of Boomtown”.
“The lack of appropriate government backed cancellation insurance, has rendered this year too great a risk”
Boomtown Chapter One: The Gathering will now take place from 10–14 August 2022.
“The cancellation of Boomtown Fair is devastating but not surprising, and further festival cancellations will follow,” says Paul Reed, CEO, Association of Independent Festivals (AIF). “AIF has been warning and providing evidence to the government for over six months on the urgent need for intervention on insurance. It is an enormous risk for any independent festival to commit to upfront, non-refundable costs and very difficult to plan with confidence in the absence of insurance. The average cost of staging an independent festival is over £6m.”
Barn on the Farm, which would have taken place in Gloucestershire between 1–4 July 2021, has also cancelled today as “the potential risk [of going ahead] is too large”.
In a statement on the festival’s website, the organisers write: “Although the government roadmap is running on track, with us falling only 10 days after the end date for restrictions lifting we feel there remains too much uncertainty for us to safely continue this year. This, coupled with the lack of appropriate government backed cancellation insurance, has rendered this year unfortunately too great a risk for us to continue planning in the festival’s current format.”
“The cancellation of Boomtown Fair is devastating but not surprising, and further festival cancellations will follow”
Last week, Shambala, which was slated to celebrate its 20 anniversary from 27–30 August in a secret Northamptonshire location, was called off.
“As a totally independent festival, even with the amazing support you lot have shown us over the last year and the CRF grant we received, without government-backed insurance a last-minute cancellation would risk the very future of Shambala. That’s not a gamble we are willing to take,” reads a statement on the festival’s website.
Whilst we very much hope that the various targets in the roadmap are met and restrictions are lifted in mid-June, there’s still a very real possibility that social distancing measures will still be in place. With this in mind, we’ve been engaged in a somewhat nightmarish game of Tetris over the past few months trying to envisage how Shambala could work. The short answer is, it couldn’t. It just wouldn’t be Shambala.”
“Without government-backed insurance a last-minute cancellation would risk the very future of Shambala”
The festival has decided to “wipe the slate clean” and refund all ticket holds, instead of offering rollovers. However, current ticket holders will have tickets reserved for them to purchase next year before they go on general release.
“For various reasons, and for us to be in the best position to bounce back and be nimble in 2022, we need to manage it this way.”
In lieu of the flagship event, Shambala has introduced ‘Camp Kindling’, a number of creative camping weekends.
Camp Kindling will take place on 23–26 July, 30 July–2 August and 6–9 August 2021. More information will be published on Shambala’s website in due course.
“Considering the lengthy planning cycle of festivals, it is difficult to think anything other than we are being timed out for the summer”
Other UK festivals including Glastonbury, Download, Belladrum, Cornbury Music Festival, Bluedot, Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, Cambridge Folk Festival and Margate’s Hi-Tide have already called it quits, citing a lack of security for large events.
A recent AIF member survey revealed that 92.5% of respondents do not plan on staging their events without some form of government-backed insurance or indemnity scheme, with the measure being described as vital not optional.
“Considering the lengthy planning cycle of festivals, it is difficult to think anything other than we are being timed out for the summer,” says Reed, AIF.
“Governments across the rest of Europe have already acted to support festivals, sharing the risk with organisers so that they may reopen safely. If this government doesn’t intervene in some way on insurance and back its own roadmap, I’m afraid that, despite the rhetoric, it won’t be a great British summer for events – it will be an extremely selective one despite the clear demand and huge amount of customer confidence that the roadmap has injected.”
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Green Guardians: Artists and activists
The Green Guardians Guide, spearheaded by the Green Events and Innovations Conference and IQ Magazine, is a new yearly iniative highlighting some of the work being done around the world to reduce the carbon footprint of the live entertainment business.
The inaugural list features 60 entries across ten categories, selected by the Green Guardians committes, which includes representatives from some of the sector’s most respected bodies, such as A Greener Festival, Go Group, Green Music Initiative, Julie’s Bicycle and Vision:2025.
Following on from the event infrastructure pioneers featured earlier this week, this edition of Green Guardians looks at the artists and acvtivists doing their bit to make the world a cleaner and better place.
Artists and activists
Norwegian artist Marte Wulff was originally driven by a simple desire to make sustainability and environmental issues more mainstream from an artistic perspective.
“My ethos is that we need to speak up about what we can do as individuals and as an industry, even though it’s hard and uncomfortable,” she tells IQ. “We have the possibility right now to go ahead and define our own industry before nature or someone else does it for us.”
Wulff tours mainly by train or boat, and focuses on quality and sustainability before quantity. She asks all venues for low-carbon solutions in every part of the production, from food and drinks to transport, accommodation, promotion, etc. She makes and releases carbon neutral music videos, and when making physical albums, she puts pressure on suppliers to offer the most ethical products with the lowest carbon footprint, all the way from the paper used on the vinyl, to cutting out plastic and avoiding unnecessary or unethically produced merchandise.
“My ethos is that we need to speak up about what we can do as individuals and as an industry, even though it’s hard and uncomfortable”
Greenbelt believes passionately in the ability of individuals to come together and make a change – hence winning the 2020 International A Greener Festival Community Action Award.
Committed to halving its carbon footprint by 2025, Greenbelt continually examines all aspects of sustainability within the festival, while also sharing lessons with the wider industry to inspire others to also make changes. Greenbelt’s activities range from halving fuel usage, to introducing bamboo wristbands, and even discovering the success that Bin Fairies can have on recycling rates.
Greenbelt 2020 was planned single-use plastic free (apart from cable ties, which it is still working on) and this is ambition will be retained for 2021 when fully electric crew and artist buggies will be onsite.
“If you’re looking to improve your green credentials, focus on just a couple of things at a time – you can’t fix everything in one go,” says Greenbelt’s Mary Corfield. “Transport is a great place to start – how festivalgoers, artists and kit get to site, is a huge part of the emissions from every event.”
“If you’re looking to improve your green credentials, focus on just a couple of things at a time”
MaiNoi is a Romanian NGO that specialises in sustainability, environmental communications and education campaigns for youth, at national and international level.
It has successfully pioneered sustainable events management at music festivals in Romania, through a five-year environmental programme developed at Electric Castle festival, which reduced the carbon footprint of the event and created thousands of agents of change from the audience, artists, and the festival’s ecosystem.
Other notable projects initiated by MaiNoi are the Music Drives Change campaign, which encouraged musicians to act as sustainability champions; as well as the “eco-ambassadors” behavioural and policy-change campaign to promote cycling as an alternative means of transportation and to push for the adoption of a cycling law in Romania.
The advice MaiNoi gives to those who want to improve their green credentials is to believe in their power, to make an impact at their scale, and to drive all their energy towards this objective: walking the sustainability path pays off sooner rather than later, and opens up wonderful opportunities for personal and collective evolution along the way.
Walking the sustainability path opens up wonderful opportunities for personal and collective evolution
RAW Ltd exists to do one simple thing: help create a world free of pointless plastic, one stainless steel bottle at a time. The organisation intends to help make this happen while having a lot of fun along the way. Every bottle sold not only tackles single-use plastics, but also makes partner brands look amazing. Whilst also helping to fund RAW Foundation’s campaign work globally on this critical issue, and supports its aim of eliminating single-use plastic by 2030.
RAW was co-founded by campaigner Melinda Watson, the founder of sister organisation RAW Foundation; the folks behind Shambala Festival; and Ed Gillespie, founder of global sustainability consultancy and creative change agency, Futerra.
RAW bottles are made of stainless steel, which will not leach, stain or react with the bottles’ contents. The vessels are durable, reusable, light, easy to carry and virtually indestructible.
The company has already eliminated the use of countless plastic bottles and is busy persuading others, to help it toward its 2030 goals.
RAW Ltd exists to do one simple thing: help create a world free of pointless plastic, one stainless steel bottle at a time
In the late ’90s, a group of like-minded people met and bonded over a shared love of music, good times, and a thirst for questioning the world. They threw a lot of parties, including Afrika Jam – a regular live African night, which they took on national tour in support of charity People & Planet.
Shambala quickly followed with 100 folk, a couple of toilets, and a farmer’s trailer for a stage. There was no real plan for the future, but people had a good time, so it was repeated again and again. Twenty years later Shambala is still going strong.
Shambala is committed to being as environmentally sustainable as possible. The carbon footprint of the festival has been reduced by over 80%, achieved 100% renewable power, become meat- and fish-free and has eradicated disposable plastics. The organisation is more than five times carbon positive, and it works with a large network of charities to generate income.
Shambala is committed to being as environmentally sustainable as possible
Sebastian Fleiter’s grandfather taught him to use things up to the very end, and then try to repurpose them, “Later on, while staying in the US as a teenager, I learned about a first nations ancient language. This language had no word for ‘trash’… Everything used was part of an everlasting circle. That blew my mind.”
One of Fleiter’s best-known projects is The Electric Hotel – a recycled, 1960s Airstream trailer capable of mass-charging over 1,000 mobile phones simultaneously, with energy generated on-site at music festivals and other events all over Europe. The installation can provide enough power for small bands to perform in the middle of nowhere.
“I ask myself two questions when using something – the clothes I wear, electricity I use, the melon in the supermarket, a smart phone, a hairbrush, a search engine, pens, my knowledge, fossil fuel, the keyboard I am writing this on, or the coins in my pocket. The questions are very simple: Where does it come from? Where does it go?”
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Time to regenerate
As Shambala Festival’s 20th anniversary approaches in 2020, I’m reflecting on our journey from humble beginnings with 120 friends in a field to becoming one of Europe’s leading sustainable events. We have been driven by the desire to put on a wildly creative celebration and be at the vanguard of ethics and environmental practice.
We have experimented in every way we can, learning about our impacts with the input of scientific experts, setting ambitious targets, working with all stakeholders and taking risks. We have transitioned from diesel generators to completely renewable energy, eliminated single-use plastics, taken meat and fish off the menu, and in 2018, served only plant-based milks across the festival. We have a myriad of policies in place to reduce travel impacts and tackle the complex issue of waste, from both materials management and audience perspectives, with the support of behaviour-change psychologists. All of this has helped us to reduce the overall environmental footprint of the festival by over 90%, verified by third-party carbon calculator tools and certification.
We also place a huge emphasis on inspiring – and often requiring – everyone we are in contact with to think and act differently: audience, supply chain, local community and authorities, and the wider industry. I see a festival as a petri dish opportunity for experimenting with positive change. We know we can positively affect audience behaviour beyond the festival. When we took meat and fish off the menu, 50% of our audience ‘drastically changed their diets as a result of their experience of the festival’ and 76% of them had sustained that change six months later.
Not everything we’ve done works initially; we try things, learn, collect data like it’s going out of fashion so that we understand the minutiae of Shambala, we review, and then we shape strategy and policy accordingly. But I believe this isn’t enough. The climate crisis is rapidly changing the world, biodiversity is in freefall, soil fertility is seriously at risk and the oceans are saturated with plastics. It’s not climate ‘change.’ It’s an emergency, and one that affects people profoundly disproportionately globally.
We recently looked into our food policies and standards. What crystallised was that ‘sustainability’ as a concept is no longer fully adequate in meeting the challenges we face. It’s not enough to sustain. We need to improve ecological systems as quickly as we can, and a paradigm shift toward ‘regenerative’ thinking, models and practices is required to provide the life-support systems we need for the future.
I see a festival as a petri dish opportunity for experimenting with positive change
My eyes have been opened to how all aspects of our supply chain could become more regenerative. We will now pursue long-term relationships with food producers that are enhancing environmental and social capital, embracing a truly circular approach, whereby materials we use and no longer require have a next-life use pre-identified.
I’m beginning to appreciate how all aspects of our supply chain could become more regenerative, particularly in relation to food. Small-scale agriculture – under 12 acres – is significantly more beneficial for biodiversity, productivity, health, wellbeing and employment. On this basis, we are now developing long-term relationships with small-scale local food growers that are actually enhancing environmental and social capital, rather than simply ‘not damaging it.’
I feel optimistic about the bigger picture, but we face a challenge and need to get on with it quickly. We have the knowledge, technology, skills and resources to do this.
The event and music industries are now showing signs of taking real action. Energy Revolution, a UK charity dedicated to sustainable travel and carbon balancing now has 50 festivals and many suppliers engaged; and has balanced over 10 million miles of travel emissions with investments in renewable energy. Music Declares Emergency has experienced an explosive start, with 2,500 individuals and organisations joining within months of the launch.
The Powerful Thinking group, comprised of all the membership bodies in the events industry, has been working together on environmental practice for ten years. Their Vision:2025 campaign, a framework for halving the event industry’s impacts by 2025, has over 100 festivals in its portfolio.
Given the scale and urgency of the challenge, I am heartened by the cross-industry support to launch an updated Show Must Go On report and Vision:2025 online hub in January 2020. These free-to-access knowledge hubs will give all event professionals the tools to take significant steps toward zero-carbon events, without having to re-invent the wheel.
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Rising costs belie positive sentiment in 2019 Festival Report
More than half of respondents to the European Festival Report 2019 – the latest edition of IQ’s annual health-check of the continent’s festival sector – consider the business to be in good shape, despite artist fees and a perceived lack of headliners continuing to act as bugbears for many.
Continuing the trend first seen in 2018, when the market began its return to normality following a turbulent few years, a majority of those who contributed to 2019’s survey reported business being good – with only a third of the 100-plus respondents saying the market was ‘static’ (16%) or ‘worrying’ (15%).
However, nearly 13% of the surveyed festivals opted for the ‘other’ category to describe the current state of the business. (Responses suggested the market is “overhyped”, “something between healthy and worrying” and “unprofitable”, though another said: “Our very existence means it’s OK.”)
Jasper Barendregt of FKP Scorpio, one of Europe’s biggest festival operators, explains: “A lot is happening in the market. One is under the impression that the market is saturated, but then suddenly a new festival arises out of the blue and attracts a significant amount of guests.
“There is a great need for existing festivals to stay in sync with their audience and their demands”
“There is a great need for existing festivals to stay in sync with their audience and the demands that they have. Failing to do so is a risk and can result in declining spectator numbers.”
Artist fees are once again pinpointed as the biggest issue affecting business, both in 2019 and for the next five years, with a lack of suitable headliners, competition from other festivals and the economic climate also highlighted as key concerns for many.
Last year saw a ticket price hike of 3.5%, bringing the price increase for festival tickets over the past decade to 78%. Significantly, 2019 marks the first year that fans paid over €200 on average for tickets to European festivals.
The average capacity of events dropped very slightly in 2019, down 0.6% from the year before. Yet, in 2019 the average attendance rate relative to capacity rose by nearly 15% from the year before, reaching 87.4% and indicating that 2020 could see audience yield approach 2016’s record of 90%.
Last year saw a ticket price hike of 3.5%, bringing the price increase for festival tickets over the past decade to 78%
Another positive sign for the future comes with the level of innovation shown by festival organisers in 2019, with green initiatives, technological developments and welfare efforts all appearing high on promoters’ priority lists.
Germany’s FKP Scorpio introduced a “giant metal-magnetising clean-up truck” to “sweep campsites” clean after the event. The truck will be enlarged in 2020, tripling its cleaning capacity. Mojo’s Lowlands festival is also embarking on an exciting sustainability project, with plans to develop a “50-hectaresolar-power plant”.
Cashless payment systems were the norm at an increasing number of events in 2019, with other notable tech including Wireless Festival’s new virtual reality experience and Shambala’s blockchain-based festival app.
Initiatives such as on site psychologists at Exit Festival in Serbia, mindfulness sessions at UK festival Download and a staff ‘quiet room’ at Lollapalooza Berlin helped ensure the welfare of both fans and workers at many European events.
“The bottom line is that festivals are about tradition”
Addressing delegates at the International Festival Forum during his keynote interview in September, veteran promoter Herman Schueremans (Rock Werchter) suggested that some of his festival colleagues and peers were maybe being economical with the truth when it comes to the health of the business, ticket sales and event profitability.
Expanding upon those remarks, he explains: “People very reluctantly might admit that they are suffering, but I think it’s maybe time that they start to face reality. I liken it to a parent who will do anything for their children – give them the food out of their mouth – and that’s also how people can be with their festivals.
“In the end, though, things like this happen every decade: more festivals are launched and the competition becomes really fierce before natural selection kills off some of the events and the business goes into a new cycle. In recent times, there have been a lot of people who do not have our festival DNA launching events because they see this as the new El Dorado.
“But the bottom line is that festivals are about tradition. Maybe it’s about brands in the USA, but in Europe it’s more about cultural heritage, and in the end it’s those events with history and heritage that invest in safety and the service they give to the audience, that will survive.”
Read the European Festival Report 2019 here:
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Festivals make green pledge at ADE 2019
A group of 20 festivals from seven different countries have pledged their commitment to increasing sustainability efforts today (Friday 18 October) at ADE Green, the environment-focused sub-conference of Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE).
Representatives from Dutch festivals including Amsterdam Open Air, DGTL, Down the Rabbit Hole, Lowlands, North Sea Jazz and Into the Great Wide Open, as well as Denmark’s Roskilde, the UK’s Boardmasters, Boomtown and Shambala, Ireland’s Body & Soul, French festival We Love Green, the Berlin edition of Festival Republic’s Lollapalooza festival, and others, signed the Green Deal Festivals Circular onstage with Dutch environment minister Stientje van Veldhoven.
The pledge will see the participating festivals become completely circular, or sustainable, by 2025.
“This deal has a great value for all involved,” said Roskilde’s Freja Marie Frederiksen, speaking at the event. “We can all learn from each other and improve things much more quickly.”
“Collaboration is the key to the urgently needed change in how we deal with energy, water, food, mobility, plastic and other materials,” added Paul Schurink of Green Events International, organising partner of ADE Green and an initiator of the green deal along with the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management.
“Collaboration is the key to the urgently needed change in how we deal with energy, water, food, mobility, plastic and other materials”.
“With a combined number of over three million festival visitors we can make an enormous impact.”
Topics discussed throughout the day at ADE Green included responsible plastic use, DJ’s air miles and innovative ways to change the industry. A workshop run by sustainability expert Douwe Luijnenburg instructed delegates on how to manage events in a environmentally friendly way.
Elsewhere, green initiatives will again take centre stage later today at the launch of Exit festival’s Life Stream, a project aiming to increase audience awareness around environmental issues.
The team behind the Exit events will broadcast performances from DJs Artbat, Coeus, After Affair, Andrew Meller and DJ Jock live from the Faralda Crane Hotel in Amsterdam from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. Environmental imagery and statements will be incorporated into the live stream.
The Life Stream platform will be used throughout Exit Festival’s 20th anniversary event, which takes place from 9 to 12 July 2020 in Novi Sad, Serbia.
More than 9,000 delegates registered for this year’s ADE which kicked off on 16 October and wraps up on Sunday, 20 October.
“Take your tent home”: AIF tackles single-use tent
The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) has issued a call to major retailers including Argos and Tesco to stop marketing and selling ‘festival tents’ as single-use items.
The call comes as part of a new AIF initiative to reduce the waste caused by single-use festival tents. As well as appealing to retailers, today (May 8) the association has launched a campaign to tackle consumer behaviour, urging festivalgoers to “Take your tent home” and “Say no to single use”.
The campaign includes an animated educational video that will be displayed across social media for all participating festivals.
AIF’s ten-year report revealed that almost 10% of people attending its member events, which include Shambala, Boomtown Fair, Boardmasters, Kendal Calling and End of the Road, had ditched a tent during the 2018 festival season.
Across the UK in general, it is estimated that 250,000 tents are left at music festivals each year, resulting in almost 900 tonnes of plastic waste every festival season. The average tent weighs 3.5kg and is mostly made of plastic – the equivalent of 8,750 straws or 250 pint cups.
“AIF launches this campaign to raise awareness and highlight abandoned tents as part of the single-use plastics problem”
Research by Comp-A-Tent, an organisation dedicated to reducing festival waste, suggests that Argos and Tesco tents make up as much as 36% of those left at festivals.
AIF member festival Boomtown is partnering with Comp-A-Tent to provide a pre-order tent service, selling £45 tents for collection at the festival. After the festival, attendees can choose whether to keep the tent or sell it back for £10 to be cleaned and resold the following year.
“We call upon major retailers to stop marketing and selling tents and other camping items as essentially single-use, and profiting from disposable culture,” says AIF chief executive Paul Reed. “AIF launches this campaign to raise awareness and highlight abandoned tents as part of the single-use plastics problem.”
Reed stresses that “the message here is not ‘buy a more expensive tent’”, but for festivalgoers to “reduce their carbon footprint simply by taking their tent home and reusing it.”
The issue of tent waste has been at the centre of attempts to make festivals more eco-friendly in recent years. A coalition of 36 festival organisers and six festival industry associations and sustainability groups formed the Campsite Roundtable in January 2018.
“As festivals, we can work with audiences to inspire better decisions, reduce single use and waste, and minimise ecological damage at this critical moment in history”
The group, led by A Greener Festival and Yourope’s green operation division, Go Group, aims to tackle “campsite chaos” and reduce waste left by festivalgoers.
The reduction of single-use plastic has also been a central issue. AIF launched Drastic on Plastic in 2018, an initiative encouraging member festivals to commit to eliminating all single-use plastic at their events by 2021.
Glastonbury Festival announced a ban on single-use plastic bottles at this year’s event and Danish festivals including Roskilde and Tinderbox are replacing disposable plastic cups with reusable models.
“We’re finally waking up to the climate crisis en masse,” says Shambala festival co-founder and director Chris Johnson. “The stuff we use is part of the problem – everything has an impact, usually hidden from the user.
“As festivals, we can work with audiences to inspire better decisions, reduce single use and waste, and minimise ecological damage at this critical moment in history.”
The show must go on…
In Bohemian Rhapsody, the recent Queen biopic, we see Live Aid broadcast to 1.9 billion people. A moment in music history where the combined forces of music and events came together to try to change the world.
Fast-forward 30 years, and the power of music and events to bring people together and change their perspectives remains, and is at the heart of Energy Revolution, a charity set up by a collection of industry professionals with first-hand knowledge of running large-scale events in rural locations.
It started in 2015, when industry think tank Powerful Thinking laid out the environmental impacts of the UK festival industry and presented them at the COP21 climate change talks in Paris. The report was called the Show Must Go On (also, incidentally, the final track on Queen’s 1991 album Innuendo) and was a festival industry response to climate change, the current global issue facing the planet, and one that we all need to address in our lifetimes. The report showed that up to 80% of the average festival’s carbon footprint came from audience travel, which is where Energy Revolution’s mission was born.
There is no quick fix to the problem of climate change. Positive change must come from both practical action and perceptual shifts. Earlier this year, a single episode of the BBC’s Blue Planet caused a shift in perception so drastic that social media feeds are still brimming with ways to avoid single-use plastic. What an epic sign that change can come quickly when the message is clear and powerful.
Energy Revolution works with over 40 UK festivals, their audiences, suppliers, and artists, to help them understand the practical impacts of their travel choices. We help event organisers engage audiences and encourage them to consider more sustainable travel methods – and people are more engaged than ever.
In the words of Freddie, “the show must go on” – and for that to happen, we need to have a healthy planet for the show to be on
But let’s be honest: most festivals happen in fields or remote locations, and there is little chance that touring headline artists will fit their show production into the boot of a Tesla. In accepting this reality, Energy Revolution calculates impacts from travel by measuring and recording fossil fuel miles, calculating the associated CO2, and then balancing unavoidable emissions via donations that we then invest in projects that create clean renewable energy.
One hundred percent of all donations go to the projects, which have so far included reforestation, wind turbines, and community-owned solar and wind projects. So far, Energy Revolution has balanced over 7.8 million average car miles, that’s the equivalent of 2.5 million kg CO2e. It’s a bold start, but the real power in the project is the framework we’ve created that means all events, venues, gig-goers, crew, and artists can educate themselves on the true impacts of travel emissions, and actively balance that impact in a direct, practical and positive way.
Times change: Bohemian Rhapsody shows Bob Geldof expressing the plight of the African continent and rallying for £1 million (£2.2m in today’s climate). That’s around what one artist of equivalent stature might get for a single show today, and in the region of what Glastonbury donates each year to charity. Charity is also at a point where the perception change required is one that drops ‘Do They Know it’s Christmas?’ from its vocabulary, and instead empowers the communities they help.
Today, the greatest threat to humanity is climate change. We need to utilise the power of music and events to change perceptions and encourage practical action. We have reach through our audiences. Just as our industry has developed standards in health and safety, disability access and hearing protection, we also need to have sustainability on the tips of our tongues.
Kendal Calling, Boomtown, Download, Reading, Shambala, Bluedot are already on board, and I implore anyone reading this to get on-board, too, and to help spread the word. In the words of Freddie, “the show must go on” – and for that to happen, we need to have a healthy planet for the show to be on.
New Kin festival axed due to funding issues
Kin, the new festival planned for later this month by the team behind Shambala, has been cancelled, producer Kambe Events has announced.
Announced in September, Kin was to be “a playful and immersive gathering of music, chatter and making” held at the Arnolfini arts complex in Bristol, UK, from 8 to 11 November.
According to Kambe – which also oversees the Swingamajig and Reggae City festivals in Birmingham and a family holiday experience, Starry Skies, in the Brecon Beacons – the company was unable to secure the financial support needed to put on an event of Kin’s size and scope.
“Kin was designed on an ambitious scale: a multi-space event over four days, because we felt the challenges we face in our societies are considerable, and the event needed to represent that scale,” reads a statement from organisers. “This also meant the cost of the production was a high one, and needed a certain amount of ticket sales and revenue to realise these costs. Sadly this target has not been met and with the news that we did not secure grant funding, nor get additional financial support from partner businesses, has meant that the cost of funding the event was left solely to ourselves to meet. This quite simply is untenable for a small business like ours.+
“Even with cancelling the event we are shouldering a significant loss of costs”
“This decision to cancel Kin has been an extremely difficult one for us to make; the whole team has worked around the clock to put together an inspirational and unique programme. All the event crew, partners, artists and content contributors have given their all to Kin in terms of support, energy and belief in what we were trying to achieve. Even with cancelling the event we are shouldering a significant loss of costs that that have been incurred to date. Carrying on with the event would have meant doubling this amount. […]
“This is not the final word on Kin, and whilst we can hold our hands up and say that this particular model did not work, our intentions remain: to bring together our various communities and networks to navigate these very difficult times on our planet. Kin is a very much-needed event of our times. Maybe not on this planned ambitious scale, or in this specific format, but we know that collectively we need to present to the world a much more beautiful and kinder alternative than the one that is being presented to us today.”
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Team behind Shambala launch Kin festival
The team behind the UK’s Shambala Festival have this week announced the creation of Kin, a weekend-long event dedicated to “those yearning for a kinder world”. Taking over The Arnolfini arts centre complex and gallery on Bristol’s harbour, organisers have billed the new festival as “a playful and immersive gathering of music, chatter and making”.
The event, taking place from 8 to 11 November, aims to provide a space for people feeling disenfranchised by today’s world. “While nations flounder, the media gets weirder and big business gets bigger, Kin is a gathering for those yearning for a kinder world,” a statement from organisers reads.
“While nations flounder, the media gets weirder and big business gets bigger, Kin is a gathering for those yearning for a kinder world”
“Over a long weekend in November, musicians, artists, thinkers and doers will be moving into the Arnolfini for four days, to take over the running of the world from ‘our leaders’.”
Global activist collective, The Rules, will be running a “culture hack” over the course of the four-day event. On the agenda will be a number of workshops, using data analysis and storytelling to “highlight myths that are shaping the world.” Part-festival, part-learning experience, the Kin team hope festivalgoers will leave the event with “newfound skills and actions to taking into [their] community.”
Details surrounding the lineup and tickets will be released in the near future. Fans can sign up to be the first to hear more information.