6 Things We Learnt From The AIF Festival Congress


This week we headed to the AIF (Association of Independent Festivals) Festival Congress, which brought together leading figures from across the industry to take part in a host of talks over two days at Cardiff’s Millenium Centre. Now that the dust has settled on the event, the Festival Awards and an epic afterparty at The Depot, here are 6 things we learnt…


1. Independent festivals are stronger together

In his opening comments, Jim Mawdsley (AIF Chair) urged independent festivals to unite to form what he jokingly called a ‘cartel’. Whether booking acts collectively, and therefore benefiting from greater bargaining power, showing solidarity against industry issues or just sharing ideas and advice (kinda what the Festival Congress is all about), independent festivals are undoubtedly stronger together.

2. Simon Parkes is a bit of a legend

Simon Parkes from Brixton Academy gave similar advice too, stating that his main regret was having not worked more closely with other promoters. He also had a seemingly bottomless collection of anecdotes; from buying the Brixton Academy for just £1 as a 23-year-old and having his head used as a battering ram when getting thrown out of a Blondie concert, to taking on local gangsters and transforming public perceptions of Brixton, it’s safe to say that he’s a pretty interesting guy. See a similar talk Simon gave for TEDxBrixton below.

3. Secondary ticketing is a load of bollocks

As well as giving a fascinating talk on streaming data and the future role of virtual and augmented reality, director at Entertainment Intelligence Sammy Andrews described secondary ticketing as “a fuck load of bollocks” and instantly became one of our favourite people. While we’re on the subject, we were pleased to see artists like Bastille and Jack Garratt speak out against secondary ticketing at The Q Awards this week too, which was controversially (and, let’s face it, shamefully) sponsored by Stubhub. More on that here in Music Week.

4. Drugs testing on site is the way forward

Festival organisers were unanimous that a zero tolerance approach to drugs at festivals is unrealistic, and on day one of the congress we were introduced to an organisation called The Loop. They pitch up tents at festivals and offer those planning on taking illegal drugs the chance to drop off a sample and have it examined to determine what’s really in it. This can help people make informed choices, raise awareness of particularly dangerous substances in circulation and reduce the chance of drug-related problems occurring. Although a slightly controversial operation, it’s totally legal and received the full backing of Police when trialled at Secret Garden Party this year. We think it’s the way to go.


5. You can never count on the weather

The great British weather is something that came up again and again, much to the dismay of Jon Drape who spoke about his career low point at Festival no.6 this year as they had to contend with the most extreme of weather conditions. He wasn’t alone though, John Giddings described bringing the whole island, as well as some of the South Coast, to a standstill after the carparks flooded at The Isle of Wight Festival. No matter how much planning you put into it, every festival organiser at some point will have to deal with adverse weather conditions.

6. Accessibility is a must

Paul Hawkins, project manager for Attitude is Everything, spoke on the need to improve access for deaf and disabled music fans, sentiments later echoed by Kate Hewett from Tramlines. If you haven’t already, take a look at their ‘access starts online’ campaign launched earlier this year: improved accessibility and clear accessibility information online really is a must for venues and festivals alike. Read what they had to say when they blogged for us on the subject here.





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