After working for more than 20 years in festivals, it is clear that the whole industry has been trying to make festivals safer. Our own shows spend millions on welfare, medical, child protection, stewards, and so forth, yet looking back on a season, there’s still harm happening. That’s why I started Festival Safe – a portal for non-judgemental information on everything from drugs to pitching a tent.I went to Night Time Industry Association conference in Berlin, where I met a representative from a Dutch campaign called Celebrate Safe aimed at night time safety. Everyone was really positive about it, so I started to invest money in a similar idea for festivals. Industry heavyweights including Melvin Benn, Jim King and Paul Reed were very supportive.
Festivalsafe.com now has a host of partners from organisations in sexual health, police officers for crime, fire chiefs, Samaritans, etcetera. Drinkaware are supporters, as well as The Loop which helps with advice on drugs. It’s important to get the tone right. The most vulnerable are those who have not been to a festival. There’s resources for parents and children, as well as older visitors.
There’s a constant turnover of festivals, and some real surprises. I’d have never said there’d be no V Festival, but it’s now gone, along with T in The Park. The market is open to new ideas, and certainly this summer is the busiest outdoor season I can remember, and there are a lot of concert tours too. With Glastonbury taking a fallow year, it will be very interesting to see how it pans out.
There’s still relatively strong ticket sales for festivals this year. And, while the year often starts off slow, people see the change in the weather and suddenly they can picture themselves lounging by the main stage.
There’s new audiences coming in, and much innovation and improvement across the sector. Audiences have demanded improvements in everything from toilets to food and drink.
Five years ago food was still developing at festivals, but now there’s Michelin-starred chefs getting involved, and so many options appearing. Everyone’s production is going up too, and DJs bring quite significant requirements with them.
Festivals are getting away from selecting homogenised brands for drinks. One size does not fit all. We’re very careful at Broadwick Live to not treat a festival audience as a group, and any deals we make must be bespoke to each festival.
The biggest challenge is around security, and for obvious reasons, the terror threat is very real. People want to feel safe going into green field or metropolitan areas, and the whole industry must up its game.
One of the biggest areas that needs addressing is the crisis in the security industry. It has serious issues with staff retention and recruitment is often poor. A number of shows have not ordered enough security, and I’ve heard these concerns mirrored across the board, not just in the UK.