A decade since Rob Dudley and Nick Morgan founded festival production company The Fair, we mark its anniversary by exploring the company’s impact and what the future holds for the burgeoning business.

In between staging major events throughout the UK, and increasingly overseas, the east-London based team at festival production agency The Fair have proven to be vociferous supporters of the wider industry; not only launching and helping to fuel sector-wide campaigns but taking the time to provide one-on-one support to event professionals.

Led by Nick Morgan, himself an outspoken advocate when it comes to promoting the economic and social importance of the live events industry, the past decade has seen his business grow from being a two-man team to a company of 32 with interests far beyond festivals.

The Fair is one of three pillars that form the We Group; the others being We Are Placemaking ­– which creates large-scale outdoor events in public spaces, and We Are OPS – a female-led division offering operations services, people management and safety services for events.

Among the company’s many longstanding event clients are Eastern Electrics, Mostly Jazz Festival, Moseley Folk Festival, Grosvenor Estates, Gottwood Festival, Houghton Festival and Bournemouth 7s Festival.

With what appears to be unrelenting energy, aside from the day job Morgan finds time to sit on the NOEA Council, while being chair of the UK Events Outdoor Group, vice-chair of UK Events, vice-chair at the AIF and a member of the Festival DCMS Workforce.

Morgan spent his early career working as a talent booker and promoter at nightclubs across the UK before co-founding the multi-disciplined Big Cat agency in Birmingham in 2000. He relocated to London with Big Cat colleague Rob Dudley, and The Fair was officially born on 25 November 2014.

“The aspiration was to get back to London, where I knew a lot of promoters. That is where I thought we needed to be in order to really start getting more shows and building the business,” he says.

Among the first events that The Fair worked on was the Holi One – Festival of Colour; a 15,000-capacity event in Battersea influenced by the traditional Hindu festival that sees attendees immerse themselves in powdered paint.

Another early landmark was Global Gathering; a 38,000-capacity dance festival in Stratford Upon Avon. “Dave Mack was the promoter, and I was head of safety,” says Morgan. “That was a huge show, and something of a baptism of fire.”

The Fair’s client list began to grow swiftly and substantially, with many of the event owners remaining loyal to the company to this day.

Now a director alongside Dudley and Morgan, Yasmin Galletti joined The Fair in late 2016 as senior production manager.

“I had just quit my job at another festival agency and was planning to go travelling for a year when I met Nick and Rob on site at one of our festivals where they were handling safety,” says Galletti. “They asked me to come in for an interview even though I had told them I really didn’t want another job. I could feel the chemistry in the way that they worked, and I couldn’t resist taking the job.”

It wasn’t long before Galletti began managing Garage Nation and Eastern Electrics, which The Fair was handling for the first time, and became the account manager for Grosvenor Estates; which The Fair had just won the contract for.

Other early major projects for Galletti included GALA Festival. “When we first did that, it was a 5000-capacity, one-day, event in Brockwell Park. We found them Peckham Rye Park and it grew into a three-day festival with double the capacity,” she says.

As well as overseeing festivals for The Fair, Galletti has been instrumental in helping to expand the We Are Placemaking arm of the business, and in 2021 she launched We Are OPS.

With The Fair continuing to expand by winning dance festival clients including Garage Nation, Kisstory and Boiler Room, along with more sedate concert series such as Heritage Live, and the likes of Grosvenor Estates, Galletti began to believe that the company needed to differentiate The Fair festival team with a new health and safety offering.

She says, “One of the unique things about our safety team within The Fair was it being very female led. Sarah Tew [We Are OPS account director] and I wanted to rebrand our offering as a separate safety brand so we could cater to the corporate clients and push that area morel. The female-led branding was important in that it made us more approachable for many people.”

Other key members of the We Group team include Millie Devereux, production director at The Fair, and We Are Placemaking account director Hanna Davis.

Morgan says that since the outset, the company has focused strongly on not only building a solid team of full-time staff but encouraging them to stay loyal to it: “One of the problems that every agency faces if they just do festivals, is the seasonality. I’ve always wanted to have a team of full-time staff in order to build a culture in the business, and have people really understand the processes and finesse their skills.

“Onboarding new staff is a three-to-six-month process just for them to learn the very basics of how we operate as a business and understand the clients. Someone coming in for one season doesn’t help us as a business.”

To incentive longevity at We Group, employees are made shareholders in the business on their third anniversary of employment. Morgan says further motivation is provided by giving staff the opportunity to expand their careers. In the past 12 months, no less than 45% of the company’s staff have been promoted.

Oversees horizons

NEBOSH qualified, Rob Dudley has more than 20 years of event production experience managing and producing large scale live events, including festivals and exhibitions in the UK, Europe and the US.

Last year saw The Fair deliver its first show in the US. The project was an expansion of its work since 2022 delivering RecFest; a ground-breaking event at Knebworth House that is a recruitment fair created in the format of a traditional greenfield music festival complete with live entertainment.

The Fair helped roll out RecFest in Nashville last year, which Dudley says was a major undertaking: “We produced the event, and that was a big achievement as it involved finding the venue, designing the site, sourcing all of the contracts, getting all of the permits, booking all of the infrastructure and staff and then flying a team out there to deliver it.”

The Fair now has O1 Visa status for the US, allowing its teams to deliver shows and events there without the need for the added expense and possible inefficiencies of local production partners or fixers.

On the back of RecFest USA, and with Galletti having recently returned from working on the Formula One Grand Prix in Saudi Arabia, international expansion is a key focus for The Fair’s team.

“We have invested a lot of money in it,” says Morgan, who is doing the interview while sitting on a rooftop in Miami. “We’re making a big push in the States. The UK is a really tough market, and in America every state is bigger than the UK. There is still huge potential here with festivals. If you look at a major metropolis like LA, they currently have maybe 15 strong festivals a year. I feel that they’re on a journey, that there’s going to be loads more shows here, and we’re going to be here to support promoters and potentially other producers; because the UK is seen as a driver of operators in terms of leadership on health and safety, and also production. We are taking it very seriously, and making good inroads.”

Ideal approach

While the sky is the limit in terms of ambition, The Fair’s directors are keeping their feet on the ground and not only campaigning to gain support for the independent festival industry at home in Britain but also offering one-on-one guidance to other event professionals.

Among its industry-wide initiatives have been the documentary It Takes A Village, a behind-the-scenes film that provides an insight into the work that goes into staging festivals, while highlighting the many challenges involved such as increasing supply chain costs and why the events sector deserves further support.

It has also been behind the Your Festival Needs You campaign. Launched earlier this year, it invites people from across the events industry and beyond to speak out about the value of festivals, and why it is important that people continue to support them.

The move follows the cancelation of around 40 UK festivals this year, and the Association of Independent Festivals predicting that 100 of the nation’s festivals could disappear in 2024 if the government fails to support the sector.

Says Morgan, “Too many organisations are banging the drum to the consumer media about festivals failing, and that is not helpful because why would consumers who have never been shorter of disposable income then want to outlay £100 or £200 on a show that may not happen? That’s why we came up with Your Festival Needs You, which is more about saying, ‘if you love shows get on board, buy tickets, talk about it in positive way’.”

The Fair’s team is not just focused on talking in a positive way to the wider industry via campaigns, in March last year it launched a one-to-one advice line providing new promoters and other fledgling event professionals with free guidance on how to progress their career in the festival and events industry.

Galletti says the advice line was created with the aim of encouraging fresh talent to join the industry and see festival work as a real career choice: “I know how hard it can be to get your foot in the door, which is why I want to ensure the next generation of talent have more resources available, and a friendly face to talk to.

“Among The Fair’s core values as a company has always been helping develop young talent in the industry and giving opportunities to people in the agency to develop. That’s a big passion of mine, and Nick and Rob are very focused on it.”

Says Dudley, “We’re proud of the policies that we’ve got in place to develop staff and to keep them with us so that not only do we grow, they grow as well. That is reflected in the staff retention that we’ve seen. We really appreciate all of the skills, knowledge and expertise and hard work that they bring to the table to deliver the events and to keep driving the business forward.”

THIS FEATURE  IS INCLUDED IN THE SPRING EDITION OF ACCESS ALL AREAS.