Association of Independent Festivals CEO Paul Reed said today, 15 February, that the UK festival season was set to be hit by a “perfect storm” created by the supply chain crisis, workforce shortage and the impact of Brexit.
Reed’s warning came during his opening remarks to independent festival promoters at the trade body’s 2022 Festival Congress event in Bristol.
He said that, while there is widespread optimism about the return of a full festival season this year, it will not be a simple case of getting back to business.
The AIF chief warned the event’s attendees that suppliers do not have cash reserves to invest further funds into inventory, in a year when there will be near unprecedented demand from the commercial market and from Government-organised events such as Unboxed and the Jubilee celebrations.
Reed claimed that festivals are facing cost increases of 20-30% across operations and infrastructure, as a result of real cost increases in labour, staffing, materials and transport being passed on by suppliers.
AIF research shows that 53% of festivals in the UK of 5,000 capacity and over did not take place in 2021, with many honouring tickets purchased in 2019 and rolled over to 2022, making it impossible to pass on the rise in costs to attendees via a hike in ticket prices.
Reed reiterated concerns that the Government’s Live Events Reinsurance scheme isn’t fit for purpose and festival organisers aren’t taking it out due to limited scope.
The organisation’s CEO went on to call on Government to provide continued VAT relief on festival tickets at 12.5% beyond the end of March; and to create a loan scheme for suppliers to alleviate some of the pressures and encourage investment in the festival supply chain.
He also urged the Government to reconsider removing tax incentives to use certain biofuels, stating that this should be kept at the current rate to encourage use of greener fuels at festivals.
Reed said, “We may be emerging from the shadow of the pandemic in the UK, but this year will not be a case of back to business as usual without critical support for festival organisers.”
Also at the event today, it was announced that the AIF is to recruit a new chair. Jim Mawdsley is due to step down from the role in May after seven years. The organisation said the vacancy will be advertised next week.
Mawdsley, who is also the principal advisor for events, culture arts and heritage at Newcastle City Council, joined AIF as chair in 2014. Previous roles include a 20-year stint at music and creative digital development agency Generator, with 12 years as CEO. He has also run music events ranging from 50-capacity bar gigs to 30,000 capacity festivals, including 12 years as co-promoter of Shindig, and 13 years as director of the Evolution Festival.
Reed said, “Jim has been incredibly supportive and an excellent sounding board throughout the last two years of the pandemic as we rose to the challenge of representing and supporting our members. We thank Jim for his service, expertise and wise counsel over the years.”
Mawdsley said, “We have grown in number and in stature and I leave AIF as an extremely significant body that is respected and consulted by the media, HM Government and, most importantly, our music industry peers.”
The AIF board currently comprises Mawdsley, We Are The Fair CEO and AIF vice chair Nick Morgan, End of the Road MD Lauren Down, Greenbelt programme manager Katherine Goodenough, Vision Nine festivals director Kevin Moore, Black Deer co-founder Gill Tee, Kilimanjaro Live COO Zac Fox, AEI Group MD Kate Osler, Shambala director Jon Walsh, Standon Calling owner Alex Trenchard, Liverpool Sound City MD Becky Ayres and Boomtown Fair founder and co-director Chris Rutherford.