The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) has announced further details for its flagship Festival Congress event in Sheffield on 6-7 November, featuring a two-day conference and the Independent Festival Awards. 

The fifth annual Festival Congress is expected to attract over 400 delegates. The first day of the conference will take place at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre with the second day held at the Showroom Cinema.

The Independent Festival Awards will take place at 92 Burton Road – a warehouse venue that is well known for its ‘Peddler Night Market’ events – with an after show party featuring a festival style silent disco taking place at Yellow Arch Studios.   

Confirmed speakers include founder and creative director of Secret Cinema Fabien Riggall, who will deliver a keynote charting ten years of the hugely successful and ground breaking immersive event.

Rigall’s session is part of a series of quick fire keynotes featuring previously announced Shangri-La creative director Kaye Dunnings, author Rob Chapman and Dr Kerry Howell, who will talk about technology and deep-sea exploration- expanding on the spectacular ‘Under The Sea’ theme of this year’s event.    

Joining them will be Daniel Webb of ‘Everyday Plastic’, who will talk about the project and what his objectives were in saving a year’s worth of plastic and transforming it into a mural; and influencer and blogger Zoe London who will talk about the ‘Instagrammable Festival’ and how organisers can harness the potential of the platform. 

Professor Fiona Measham of The Loop will give an update on Multi Agency Safety Testing (MAST) as the harm reduction service is rolled out across more independent festivals and Dan Wood (UKIE) will give an overview of the rise of e-sports as a live entertainment trend and the parallels with festivals. 

Elsewhere, there will be a discussion of how non-music experiences are shaping festivals featuring Lauren Down (End Of The Road festival MD), Sally Griffyn (Yoga Connects), Elle Castle (Kerb) and Sam McGregor (Signature Brew). 

Other panels and workshops include ‘Desert Island Risks’, featuring advice from business affairs experts; a discussion about developing and using effective event management systems; a session presented by Festival Congress partner PRS for Music; a panel featuring some younger and older festival audiences comparing experiences and expectations; and the ‘Digital Marketing Data Treasure Chest’ curated by Deviate Digital MD Sammy Andrews.

The second day of the conference will be rounded off with ‘Choppy Waters’, a light-hearted panel discussion featuring prominent festival organisers exploring the strangest and most challenging things they have found themselves doing to deliver their shows.   

AIF will also launch a ten-year report at the Congress documenting key trends and how the sector has changed in the association’s lifetime.  

AIF CEO Paul Reed said: “The Festival Congress has rapidly become an invaluable forum to debate the key issues, challenges and opportunities facing the independent festival sector. We are also well known for dropping in various speakers from outside of the festival world each year to inspire our audience and deliver unique insights, and this year is no exception. We have curated a truly unique line-up of speakers and topics, and we can’t wait to bring them to our new home in Sheffield this November to celebrate five years of Festival Congress and ten years of AIF.” 

Previous AIF Festival Congress attendees include organisers from the likes of Glastonbury, Bestival, Boomtown Fair, Kendal Calling, Shambala, End Of The Road, Liverpool Sound City and many more.

Previous speakers and keynotes include Jude Kelly OBE (artistic director, Southbank Centre), John McGrath (Manchester International Festival), Zoe Cormier (author of The Science of Hedonism), Huw Stephens (Radio One and Swn Festival co-founder), Simon Parkes (Founder, Brixton Academy), Professor Tim O’Brien (Jodrell Bank observatory) and many more. 

Festival Congress is this year supported by Sheffield City Council, with tickets on-sale now, priced at £100 for AIF members, £135 to Friends of AIF and £185 general sale exclusively through new headline event sponsor Eventbrite. 

Please visit www.festivalcongress.com for tickets, full line up and more information.

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