The APPG is more comfortable when talking about conferences and exhibitions rather than festivals. My experience has been in working with Glastonbury, the biggest music festival in the world. But I fear the benefits of Glastonbury and festivals are maybe being missed by government.
The issue of complaints from locals may be frustrating, but the officials handling the complaints are elected, and it is their job to represent residents and respect the democratic process.
National government must do better, and must share best practice on events. Councils, meanwhile, should be less intimidated by having tens of thousands of people visiting. US state governments have dedicated teams and are more entrepreneurial when it comes to this. A hotel tax gives these organisations an amount per night in their local coffers to resource their local events teams and build facilities.
All I’ve heard from the UK is a push to reduce hotel VAT to encourage activity. The reality is that the VAT ask is actually really regressive. Because, who gets the biggest tax cut by reducing the vat from 20% to 5%? It’s actually the person renting the presidential suite at The Dorchester.
A levy, of a pound per room per night that goes directly to events, would be transformative for the industry. We could, in theory, lower VAT on hotels and also add a hotel tax to fund events, but that may only be possible when we leave the EU.
There’s huge value in local government taking the lead in benefitting the city as a whole by using events. They bring high quality graduate jobs, attract people from across the country and internationally to your area. Local Authorities that are seeking to change the brand of an area, should recognise that it all starts with an events agenda. But, we owe it to local residents to be discerning as to the way these events are run.
Government needs to recognise that this is an industry that sits awkwardly in the mix, and is not easily defined under one department. Lots of events are put under the ‘international trade’ banner because they are exports, but events tourism is sometimes seen as ‘Digital, Culture, Media and Sports’. However, at the same time, they often fall under the Business and Strategy. The Home Office also has a role to play in terms of licencing, planning permission, permits, and of course local government has a role.
The APPG board need to be listened to and supported by each department in order to be effective.
Companies in my constituency have benefited the UK hugely because of festivals. We have a company which is now the nation’s leading provider of theatrical props. And, we have a staging company that provides stages all over the world.
There’s three things I think are top of the APPG agenda. Is the events industry board doing everything it was set up to do? My instinct is it is ‘not quite yet’, and that’s not a criticism of [former chair] Nick De Bois MP or the people in it from the industry, but the government departments for not getting involved enough.
We must encourage sharing best events practice across local authorities, big or small. There are real economic opportunities from being imaginative and slightly less cautious when it comes to allowing events to happen
I’m agnostic as to whether events come from the free market or government. Local authorities should be open as to where a good idea comes from.