As Access releases its White Paper, produced with We Are The Fair and the NTIA, Nick Morgan (We Are The Fair’s CEO) questions the longevity of the festival boom, as costs mount and international competition hots up…

… Is the festival boom over? Is the London Independent Festival scene about to collapse, while promoters leave for other more culturally receptive cities like Lisbon….

The festival industry has grown enormously over the past five years and the appetite for new festival experiences is, in fact, bigger than ever, as proven in the latest research Barclaycard have undertaken which found that festival goers are choosing festivals over summer holidays.

Access’ White Paper with We Are The Fair and the NTIA now available online

Festivals are often seen as a rite of passage, environments where friendships are born, where people fall in love – festivals are experiences that stay with audiences and aren’t easily replicated in other environs. Our audiences are our stakeholders and are the heart of the industry and due their current expectations, shows have to provide an experience that goes beyond the festival site (and then some) in order to keep them coming back.

Despite the rise in the number of shows – and that the experience economy doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon – I feel we need to address emerging challenges that are putting the industry at risk.

Firstly, shows are becoming more expensive and plunging organisers into the red as costs spiral. Infrastructure costs have grown exponentially and green space rental is increasing as councils are under enormous monetary pressure to plug their funding gap. Shows are heading into the red and can’t afford to carry on – This could change the festival Landscape forever for Independents especially unless action is taken.

As well as this, the benefit to the local economy as demonstrated in the new white paper “The Political economy of informal events 2030” is often underestimated as are the Jobs created whether it be technical production, causal labour from bar work to accreditation.

Importantly, and something that has become more prevalent recently is that residents are increasingly mobilising their communities to object festival Licences and feel more aggrieved and rarely understand the benefits festivals bring to the local borough. On a very simplistic level, without promoters paying green field site rental, parks would fall into disrepair. As stated in the white paper, over £100m is paid each and every year in green field rental.

We, as organisers have to attend Licensing committees, often annually, made up of councillors who these residents have voted for to be their local councillors. In turn councillors place more conditions on these licenses in an attempt to demonstrate to their electorate that they are clipping the promoters wings and each road closure, additional toilet, additional security personal needed to control these unsavoury actions all cost more money.

This is becoming as much of a problem across London Boroughs as in towns and cities UK-wide and is something we need festival goers to support us on. The UK should be proud to be a world leader on independent festivals #EventsMatter and without us showing a united front, challenging the preconceptions and highlighting the huge positives, festivals will be no more.

The Political Economy of Informal Events, 2030 was commissioned and published by Mash Media. Foreword by: Julian Agostini, (MD, Mash Media), Alan D Miller, (chairman, The Night Time Industries Association) Nick Morgan (CEO, We Are The Fair). It was written and edited by James Woudhuysen, visiting professor, forecasting & innovation, London South Bank University. (Advisory team: Tom Hall and Paul Colston).

The print version of report is available for £7.99.