By Steve Heap, Association of Festival Organisers
The Covid-ravaged 2020 festival season is best put behind us for those of you who can. May I now encourage you to get moving as soon as possible on your planning cycle for 2021. Clearly, we may not know whether Covid is over and done with but if we don’t start planning now we will be too late for another season and as we all know, that would be devastating.
It will be an interesting planning cycle, as vast numbers of festivals, artists and suppliers have just simply rolled over everything they had planned for 2020 into the new season for next year, so with only a few minor changes 2021 might already be done (off to the Costa Del Somewhere for a holiday).
One thing I do know is that the customers loyal, old or new are chomping at the bit to get out to the festivals they love. It was quite clear from around 2017 onwards that more and more people were attending live festival events and not travelling quite so far as we used to back in the day. The loyalty card is in play and in support of sustainability we have simply got to stop driving around the country and support our local or nearest festival, be it a small event in a pub garden or a larger event spread across several fields.
Another point the audience are bringing to our attention is “does it really matter who is on main stage?”. That loyalty card usually means that they trust the organisers to book some acts that will be good, but they also hope to see some things they have never seen before. Festivals are a great platform for introducing new talent. Who needs X-Factor and BGT when you can capture all of that on a festival stage for real? There is definitely a trend towards the experience, the excitement, the atmosphere, the friends old and new, the escape from the day to day job into different clothes, a tent and the best atmosphere before Christmas.
Then there is the massive range of food. It is so easy to fall into the ‘let’s have the same as last Monday’ trap at home, but at a festival any number of trucks and tents with cuisine from around the world will be there to tempt you into new, exciting smells and tastes; and you can’t beat the aroma of breakfast cooking across the campsite.
Yes, 2021 festival season is not that far away. We are going to recover from the disaster of Covid and even though festivals and live music were the first to be closed and we may well be the last to re-open, we will do it in style and rebuild our industry to the world-beating level that it is.
Steve Heap has been Director of Mrs Casey Music (MCM), for over 45 years.
MCM is a specialist promotion company that has organised festivals and events such as Towersey Festival (Oxfordshire), attracting 10,000. The company has also promoted other events at venues in the UK including London’s South Bank Centre, the Royal Albert Hall and events for Local Authorities.
In the wider Arts and Events Industry, Steve specialises in Community Arts Events in the size of 1,000 to 10,000 people in either green field sites or indoor venues. He is a founder member and current Chair of the Events Industry Forum (EIF) and a regular contributor to Arts & Events Industry Publications including the revision of the Purple Guide.
Steve is General Secretary of The Association Festival Organisers (AFO), a body of over 200 members that promotes, supports and lobbies on behalf of its members. AFO holds and annual conference in November each year that attracts over 240 delegates from the Events Industry.
Mrs Casey Music also has a record label (Mrs Casey Records), which specialises in young up and coming acts and “great new ideas”.