We’ve been busy planning for the upcoming festival season, preparing designs for events taking place up and down the country. We can’t wait to be out in the (fingers-crossed) summer sunshine to build our staging and seating structures for many of the UK’s best-loved festivals.
From conversations with clients and industry insiders, there is a real spirit of forging ahead this year after the cancellations of 2020-2021. This energy was also evident at The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) Congress.
The speakers we heard from seemed to be cautiously optimistic that while unpredictable, the future is looking bright for 2022. There was also an eagerness that we don’t simply return to ‘business as usual’ and bad practices, instead pushing for progress in a few key areas. In this article, we recap some of the important issues that were raised at the AIF Congress, and the people and organisations who are leading change within the industry:
Diversity and inclusion
The keynote speech from Roger Wilson of Black Lives in Music at the AIF Congress was an impassioned talk about racism and how the industry must do more to combat it and increase representation among minoritised ethnic groups. While diversity has long been a problem in events generally, as teams are rebuilt, we have an opportunity to ensure that people from diverse backgrounds are actively encouraged and supported into roles. The onus is on all of us in the industry to challenge racism and bigotry, create environments where everyone feels safe and can thrive, and proactively work to recruit a more diverse workforce.
There was also a panel discussion on gender equality with Vick Bain (who founded the F List directory of female artists), Brix Smith newly appointed President of the F-List (and absolute rock legend), and Laura Snapes, Deputy Editor of Music at The Guardian. With resources like the F List and groups like Nowie (the Network of Women in Events) fighting for equal representation, we hope to see an acceleration in progress towards an inclusive and diverse industry. This is important in every aspect and at every level within festival work, from those who build, organise and promote them, to the performers.
A sustainable approach
We’ve all seen the photos of abandoned tents and rubbish piled-high in the aftermath of festivals. But the more pressing issue in relation to sustainability is carbon emissions. Energy now makes up 77% of a festival’s on-site CO2 e footprint, compared to 23% for waste. And the biggest toll on the environment comes from the transport used by festivalgoers, bands and suppliers to travel to the venue. So, what should the industry be focusing on to make Festivals truly sustainable?
Richard Phillips from Julie’s Bicycle explained the need to strive for ‘Net Zero’ rather than ‘Carbon Neutral’ events. Julie’s Bicycle is a not-for-profit that seeks to mobilise the arts to take action on the climate and ecological crisis. In addition to their campaign work, they have a number of free, practical guides and resources on how organisers can understand and mitigate their impact on the environment on their website.
Chris Johnson explained Vision 2025’s campaign to reduce greenhouse emissions created by outdoor events by 50% from 2015 – 2025. This includes introducing a code of practice for all involved in the supply chain, reducing meat and dairy, stopping biodegradable waste going to landfill, discouraging car travel, and using water conserving technologies.
More Government support is needed
While the outlook for 2022 is distinctly more promising compared to the past two years of disruption, the industry is facing significant challenges. Paul Reed, Chief Executive of the Association of Independent Festivals, petitioned the Government over increasing VAT on ticket prices and warned festivals this summer will likely be hit by problems such as labour shortages, supply chain crises and cost increases of between 20-30%.
As a member of the Association of Independent Festivals and supporter of the One Industry One Voice campaign, we want to add our voice to the calls for change. To work with our clients and friends towards a thriving and more sustainable and equitable industry. We are on course to achieve net zero by 2030 and are focusing our recruitment toward a more multicultural and diverse pool.
And despite the challenges, many of our favourite festivals will be back with a bang, thanks to the hard work, creativity, and passion of our event professional community. Below are some of the examples we’ve worked on, where you can get your live music fix this summer.
If you’d like to discuss or collaborate on any of the issues raised in this article, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
Parklife – 11th June – 12th June
Parklife is an independent music festival, co-founded by Sacha Lord. It started life as Mad Ferret Festival in Platt Fields Park, Rusholme, before moving to Heaton Park in north Manchester in 2013. Revellers will be dancing away to 50 Cent, Megan Thee Stallion, Lewis Capaldi and a host of other big names this year.
Glastonbury – 22nd June – 26th June
Glastonbury is a festival that needs no introduction, it’s the largest in the world with 203,000 attendees in 2019. Visitors are treated to a varied menu of contemporary music, dance, comedy, theatre, circus and cabaret over 5 days, and across the 900 acre site. This year, the superstars gracing the stages include: Billie Eilish, Diana Ross and Sir Paul McCartney.
Tramlines – 22nd – 24th July
The Tramlines Festival is an annual music festival held in Sheffield. Its ethos centres on promoting and supporting the local community in Sheffield, and providing access for young people to jobs in music and the arts. With a wealth of big names across music and comedy, the headliners this year include Kasabian, Madness and Jason Manford.
BST Hyde Park – 25th June – 3rd July
BST Hyde Park has been going strong since 2013. The 10-day festival sees organisers take over one of London’s most popular parks. It offers a midweek programme called Open House, featuring fantastic free activities and entertainment. Headliners include the Pixies and Stereophonics this year.
WOMAD – 28th July – 31st July
WOMAD stands for the World of Music, Arts and Dance and refers to the international music and arts foundation that holds festivals across multiple locations around the world each year. This year marks the 40th anniversary of WOMAD, and will see big international names grace the stage, including: The Flaming Lips, Gilberto Gil & Family and Lianne La Havas. It’s a child-friendly festival for families looking to experience music from all over the world together.
Greenbelt Festival – 26th–29th August
The first Greenbelt Festival took place in 1974 and was billed as ‘The Nice People’s Pop Festival’. The history of the festival is firmly rooted within an inclusive Christian tradition, that is accepting of all, regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexuality, background or belief. This year’s line up includes music, talks on literature and theatre, with names such as Brian Eno, Kate Tempest and the Magic Numbers appearing.