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AFO Conference February 2021

Posted by Andy Lenthall on

‘An amazing platform for an amazing day’

Just one of the very kind statements from delegates at the end of the AFO Online Conference 20 February 2021. This was a 12-hour streamed event which included over 163 delegates, representing over 60 festivals. Clearly the AFO Conference could not be a face-to-face event as normal so delegates and speakers were all at home using a variety of devices.

The platform REMO behaved extremely well and gave delegates the opportunity to move around the room chatting to friends at different tables, networking with ease.

The speaker platform was, as it would be in a live conference, at the head of the room and included a welcome from the General Secretary and a feeling of upbeat, “events will recover”.

Wicked Events presented a new training online idea for volunteers and Julian Knight MP, Chair of the DCMS Select Committee, gave a keynote opening speech of positivity and hope and most importantly a voice among many that are now supporting the festival and events industry in the House of Parliament.

Sustainability always features on the AFO list and 4 top-class speakers on issues of power, waste, travel and general climate action were introduced by Chris Johnson, Shambala Festival. This was followed by a break for some beautiful music from Joe Topping (currently appearing on The Voice, Team Olly).

With streaming a hot topic throughout the 2020 season and the likely use of this system for festivals in the early part of 2021, Sally Smith, multi-camera director, was able to demystify what appears to be complicated into quite a simple affair.

AFO’s own Maddie Spear from Shine On Digital walked everyone through the need for focussed social media.

Dave Pegg (Fairport Convention) told Conference about Cropredy Convention’s history and the CEO of UK Music thanked the delegates for their hard work in trying to keep live music in the UK up there where it belongs.

By mid-afternoon the Conference broke into a Big Debate, at tables of course, discussing how organisers would manage to run events in a Covid world. Chaired by Nick Morgan from We are The Fair, Nick presented a first-class summary of the Debate, the current situation and the actions. Discussions continued into the second Networking Session.

 For those intending to run Covid-safe events in 2021, Eddy Grant from Conference sponsors, Symphotech, took over the screen and demonstrated the real facts and figures of how it is possible. His Q&A session attracted 110 people with endless streams of discussion and questions in the Chat Room for the rest of the day.

The second Big Debate was to try and anticipate what the festivals will do when there is a royal demise. Sadly, at the time the Duke of Edinburgh was in hospital and Conference wished him a speedy recovery and a happy 100th Birthday in June. The discussions of course, came up with no firm solutions but led to a very interesting debate and raised this issue with many festival organisers. Also, they must plan, and they must be ready for another pandemic, should that arise.

Diversity in All Areas discussed breaking down the barriers of class, race, sex and ability. With four great speakers on these subjects whom Sarah Bird from Wild Rumpus introduced and chaired a deep discussion and a short Q&A.

The programme was then lightened with two excellent bands from the stable of Frusion Music in Vienna. Followed rapidly by the famous AFO Interview where Colin Irwin spoke with Cockney Rebels’ Steve Harley.

Early evening brought two ticket companies, Conference sponsors TicketSellers and Ticket Pass talking about the safe ways of getting ticketing back in action to support our festivals, “were festivals concerned about the vaccines”, “testing at the gate or passports”.

The second Festival Story was Craig Mathie from Bournemouth 7s which uniquely combines over 400 competitors in sport with thousands of music fans. A unique event.

And the day was rounded up by the General Secretary with thanks to all concerned and in particular to the technical team of Tim Selley from Dynomite Productions and the technical manager ich Mowatt from Sounding Post, both of whom did a sterling job on presenting the whole conference day.

Music from Merry Hell brough the evening to a close.

AFO can hopefully now look forward to a face-to-face AFO Conference 5 / 6 November 2021 in Birmingham.

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