Bristol-based Team Love, the promoter behind festivals including the recently expanded Love Saves The Day, has teamed up with AEG Presents for the launch of the 60,000-capacity Forwards festival. Access caught up with AEG Presents European Festivals CEO Jim King (pictured above) and Team Love co-founder Tom Paine (pictured below) to discuss the long-term plans for the event.

There certainly isn’t a shortage of new festivals launching this year but among the biggest will be 60,000-capacity Forwards, created in partnership by AEG Presents and Bristol-based promoter Team Love.

Forwards will take place on 3-4 September at Bristol’s Clifton Downs, where Team Love has previously staged its Love Saves The Day festival and The Downs Festival (both 30,000 cap). Among the event’s headliners will be Jamie XX and The Chemical Brothers.

The promoters have presented the event as “more than just a music festival”, with a focus on activism and debate to “challenge what metropolitan festivals can be today and how they can do good, from the inside out”.

This year is already shaping up to be a busy one for the events industry, not least for AEG Presents, which is working on European festivals including London’s All Points East (40,000) and BST Hyde Park (65,000), as well as the three-day Rock en Seine (120,000) in Paris. So why launch a festival now?

“Forwards has been years in the planning, but we felt that 2022 was the right time to launch.”

“We have a growth strategy for our festival division and, whilst this was paused during the Covid period, it was always our intention to move forward in this market as soon as we were able to,” explains Jim King. “Forwards has been years in the planning, but we felt that 2022 was the right time to launch and have Forwards, All Points East and Rock en Seine start to establish themselves as a strong anchor presence at the end of the summer period. The event has launched strongly, and we are confident it will be a good year for us.”

King says partnering with Team Love on the project was a natural fit, not least because the promoter of Love Saves The Day, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, is ingrained in Bristol’s live events and cultural scene: “They are valued partners, and we are happy to support their ambitions and vision ,which we saw matched our own. It is already a very rewarding and productive partnership. They understand Bristol as well as anyone and are hugely respected across the industry.”

One of the aspects of Forwards that sets it apart from other festivals of its scale is its organiser’s focus on working holistically with the local community. Team Love has set up the Big Team CIC (community interest company), which the festival will partner with to offer opportunities for young people in Bristol who have historically been excluded from and/or are under-represented in the festival and events industry.

Paine says the work with CICs will go further than encouraging new event professionals: “We’re also partnering with CICs to nurture new talent, provide community catering at the festival and give back to Bristol communities through the festival ecosystem.”

He says Forwards is looking to challenge what metropolitan festivals can be today and how they can do more and give back to communities through the festival ecosystems: “We have partnered with and put CIC social initiatives at the heart of the festival, committing to nurturing new talent with Big Team CIC to open doors for underrepresented young people in the city through work experience, shadowing and paid job placements across the festival. These relationships will be supported through outreach, engagement and meaningful partnerships with local youth organisations such as ACE, Rising Arts Agency and Babbasa.

“Forwards will also provide community catering at the festival with Team Canteen CIC, the independent hospitality collective which fights against food vulnerability, who will host a pop-up cafe and cater backstage for talent and crew. These CICs are at the heart of Forwards’ make up and will receive our charitable support.”

Aside from Team Love’s track history of handling the production of its own successful events and its involvement in the production of the likes of Glastonbury, Leeds, Latitude, Boomtown and Parklife, King says its focus on working with CICs was a major factor in AEG wanting to collaborate with the company.

“[It is] another area where we aligned so well with Team Love and their vision and ethos of how major events should be delivered. They epitomise a respectful and sustainable approach to events, which resonates not just with AEG but with the market we now all operate in,” he says.

With Team Love being so well established in Bristol, King says it has enabled AEG Presents to benefit from the respected position it holds in the city and, as a result, the event has been welcome by all stakeholders including Bristol City Council and The Downs Committee.

“We are all feeling the pressure but we have a great production team who are planning hard for the summer.”

While 60,000 is an impressive  capacity for a debut festival, King says there is room for expansion: “Bristol is a great music and culture city. We feel strongly that Forwards will grow in a measured and sustainable way that fits with the potential Bristol has, not just in the city itself but the wider South West region.”

On the subject of sustainability, Paine say it is integral to all future plans for Forwards: “The festival team will collect data and create a three-year strategy on how to monitor and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, develop a circular, responsible production and consumption ethos while promoting social cohesion. We are striving to do even more, learn and create new ways for our festivals to leave the minimal amount of environmental impact possible.”

Despite the collective strength and experience of Forwards’ founders, launching a new event in 2022 is a bold move, not least because of the strain on the supply chain. However, Paine is confident things will run smoothly.

He says, “We have a great local supply chain and the South West is home to many of the UK’s leading supply companies, which certainly helps. We are all feeling the pressure but we have a great production team who are planning hard for the summer and securing what we need.”

This article was published in the latest edition of Access All Areas magazine  – subscribe for free here