Nicola Macdonald

Nicola Macdonald, Reporter

Skye’s the Limit

The organiser of Skye Live on the magic of the mountains, the picturesque backdrop of the rural Scottish event and the logistical nightmare that is the Highlands.

With the festival market reaching saturation point, organisers are asking themselves: what can we offer that’s new? The conclusion that some are reaching is – a boutique festival.

For audiences, it’s the smaller-scale and independently owned festivals that are increasingly becoming must-attend, not least because they frequently offer fresh, original content for a fraction of the ticket price of a major event. Skye Live is no exception. The small Scottish festival, now in its third year, has returned to its original site after a year away, offering the best of the Scottish Highlands’ food and music.

This year’s festival took place on 22-23 September, after previously being held in May. These months are known for being the best for weather, as the island has a reputation for an otherwise high rainfall as well as an unpopular native inhabitant in high summer: midges. But neither stopped co-founder and director, Niall Munro, from getting the event up and running three years ago. Munro says: “I felt more comfortable about it being held in September this year, as compared to previously in May. The last two years, people were only just getting over the festive period and getting back into work, so I feel this year, doing it over Skye and Glasgow’s long weekend, worked incredibly well.

“Generally speaking, the weather is always quite nice in September,” Munro adds, touching wood. “Which means, as the festival season is coming to a close, this is one last hurrah to really make the most of the festival season.”

Given that Skye Live is in a relatively remote location, it’s little surprise that Munro describes it as a ‘logistical nightmare’. He concedes, however, that the scenic view of the Skye Cuillin – the island’s mountain range – makes it all worthwhile. “The site we have this year, which was also our original site, has a real kind of magic about it, it is amazingly picturesque event. The site itself only has one main access point, so it becomes quite tricky. Everything needs to work efficiently and
run like clockwork.”

“Skye is very accessible compared to how it used to be; there are various modes of public transport. It’s not too much of a drive from any major city in Scotland,” adds Munro. The only way onto the island is over the Skye Bridge that crosses Loch Alsh, connecting Skye to the mainland. Without a doubt, the organisers’ main worries are the practicalities involved in getting the production and sound equipment to the site. “Obviously there is a lot more cost involved because of all the haulage that’s required to take everything up here. That is, by far, our biggest challenge, but we just need to be aware of it and budget with that in mind.”

“Logistically, the original site it is an absolute nightmare, but the land lends itself so perfectly to a festival that it’s worth the work to make it happen!”

In order for Skye Live to return to the original site, Munro tells Access, he and the Skye Live team needed to develop the ground and call in landscapers to create a larger site to hold two stages. “The site is a place called The Lump, right in the heart of Portree on this piece of elevated ground, which has these amazing views across the Cuillin mountain range and across the island further afield.”

The population of the quiet island is of about 10,000 but, despite midges, August this year witnessed an influx of more than 70,000, according to The Times. Skye is quickly becoming known as a key tourist destination in the Highlands, with visitors making the most of its outdoor activities. “Skye is the second most-visited place after Edinburgh in the whole of Scotland and in terms of tourism that is crazy,” adds Munro.

“There has always been a gap in the market for something like this,” he says. The original Isle of Skye Music Festival ran from 2005 until 2008, stopping after the organisers ran up over half a million pounds of debt, leaving a natural space for Skye Live. “A friend and myself looked into securing a site, booked a couple of artists and the next thing we knew, we were running a small-scale festival,” says Munro. “It became obvious that something like this was needed in Skye.” He tells Access that the founders had only initially considered the event as a one-off. “After the festival happened, we realised that it would make sense to try and make it an annual thing.”

“Last year we stepped it up a bit, in terms of the line-up and artists… The site was good in that it was in the heart of Portree and logistically, more easy. It was a big playing field, fit for purpose and allowed us to extend the festival. It grew to two stages in the second year, whereas we could only have one focal point musically in the first.”

After scouring the island to find another site, all the while trying to organise the festival this year, the founders returned to the original location.

“We actually realised that we could develop and make use of some of the unused ground. We’ve got two stages, the main stage and a power stage that’s hosted by a club in Glasgow called Sub Club. We were so happy about it going back up to the more rural part of Skye, and it was all on the off chance of: ‘let’s go for a walk back up to the original site’ and we actually realised we could make this work.”

With the main aim of the festival to make the original site a success with two stages, Munro had to consider two musical offerings for each. “The last thing we want would be to have the two stages last year but then to go back to the original site and only be able to have one. Luckily we have managed to achieve what wanted and we are now into our third year. It’s all coming together and we’re really happy with the lineup.”

As to the acts that the Skye Live team book, says Munro, “Part of the reason we were able to secure them and afford them is because they want to visit Skye and make a weekend of the isle.”

“Django Django are a band that I’ve been trying to nail down for the last two years… this is actually their only gig this year. One of the band members has a strong, personal connection to Skye, so I think that was part of the reason.”

The festival is music and food focused, specifically showcasing the produce that the island has to offer. “Skye is quickly becoming a real ‘foodie’ destination,” confirms Munro.

“We are noticing visitors who are beginning to come back year after year, we are recognising more people now. Even now, there are a lot coming from further afield, from countries like Germany, France and the US, which is nice because it shows that our marketing guys are doing pretty well,” Munro adds.

“But it is amazing to see such a mix of people, especially visitors from overseas mixing with the locals, it’s a good mix of folk. With people coming from that far away, it makes it really special for us that our festival is worth it and it’s great to be able to introduce people to the island.”

Hire Space unveils top trends for 2017 Christmas parties

Venue booking platform Hire Space has unveiled the top trends for this year’s Christmas party season, compiled from extensive research by its Venue Experts.

The top venues receiving enquiries for Christmas parties show a mix of trendy modern spaces and elegant historic venues. The most popular venue this Christmas is RSA House, located just off the Strand, it offers a wide range of spaces, with everything from modern reception rooms to grand dining halls.

Runners up include Shakespeare’s Globe at number two, Andaz London, Liverpool Street at number three, The Brewery on Chiswell Street at number four and Carousel in the West End at number five.

This year’s most popular date for Christmas celebrations is Thursday 14 December, closely
followed by Thursday 7 December, Friday 8 December, Wednesday 13 December, and Friday 15 December. So, if you’re out on any of those dates prepare yourself for tipsy tube travellers and sozzled Uber surges.

This year’s Christmas party bookings show an increased focus on informal dining options, which are now far more popular than more formal, seated dinners when it comes to Christmas entertaining. This is down to the surge in popularity of street food as well as buffets. This is a trend that shows no sign of stopping increasing from last year by 14.28 per cent.

Taking a look at party spending by sector, Hire Space found that it’s the property industry which throws the biggest Christmas parties. However, when you look at spending per head, it’s the media industry that lavishes guests with the highest spend at parties with an 12% increase in spend per head compared to 2016.

The best time to book a Christmas party is August. That’s because most Christmas enquiries are received at the beginning of September, and finalised by the end of the month. Larger events tend to book earlier and take longer to finalise bookings.

The South and Central London remain top choices for Christmas parties, however East London continues to grow in popularity as a Christmas destination, with companies starting to favour areas closer to Liverpool Street.

Edward Poland, Hire Space co-founder and COO said: “Our research into Christmas 2017 trends is a result of enquiries received by my team of Venue Experts for this Christmas season.

“We’ve seen a 39.5 per cent increase in the number of enquiries received and an increase of 104 per cent  in the total value compared to last year, so it’s safe to say we’ve been busy. We have a unique Christmas party culture in this country with the majority taking place in London, the undisputed Christmas party capital of the world.”

TicketQuarter secures festival contract

Ticketing agency TicketQuarter has confirmed it will be the primary ticketing partner for Macclesfield Festival for the second year running when it returns on 21-22 July 2018. More than 7,500 people attended the inaugural event this year.

Andrew Kleek, chief executive and founder of the Macclesfield Festival, said: “This year’s festival was a huge success and we will soon be making more exciting announcements about next year’s event.

“In the meantime, we are pleased to appoint TicketQuarter as our primary ticketing partner. We are confident they will help us deliver a seamless ticketing experience, making it as efficient as possible for customers to purchase and redeem tickets.”

Writing on the Wall, Liverpool’s longest running writing and literary festival, which celebrates writing, diversity, tolerance, story-telling and humour through controversy, inquiry and debate, has also confirmed the company for its May 2018 month-long festival – which will be themed ‘Crossing Borders’ – and for all future events.

TicketQuarter recently provided services for Liverpool Music Week, which kicked off with Chic featuring Nile Rodgers, as well as On the Verge festival, which took place on 19-22 October.

Henry Brown, head of TicketQuarter, said: “Festival season may be over for 2017 but at TicketQuarter we are preparing for tickets to go on sale for a variety of live events taking place across the North West next year. We are proud to partner with our growing portfolio of festival clients – applying our experience and expertise to the ticketing and enabling our clients to concentrate on delivering fantastic entertainment.”

TicketQuarter sells tickets for music, comedy, theatre and arts, family entertainment, exhibitions and sport for a variety of regional venues and more than 200 events across the North West including St George’s Hall, Farmaggedon and Aintree Racecourse.

As the ticketing arm of The ACC Liverpool Group, home to BT Convention Centre, Echo Arena and Exhibition Centre Liverpool, it also provides tickets for Echo Arena Liverpool and Exhibition Centre Liverpool events such as forthcoming exhibition Star Wars Gathering on 7 July 2018.

The company provides support for event promoters and venues including online ticketing; contact centre and hotline; marketing and promotional support; customer service support and account management.

Powerful Thinking launches Industry Green Survey

Not-for-profit industry think tank Powerful Thinking is calling on festival organisers to take part in the Industry Green Survey 2017.

The survey will help Powerful Thinking track the industry’s progress towards more sustainable events, and gain greater understanding of the challenges festival organisers faced this year so that they can direct their research and create resources to help move toward more sustainable practices next year.

Those who will in the survey will also be in with a chance of winning a free delegate pass to the Greener Events and Innovations Conference 2017.

The survey is anonymous and has to be completely before the 22 December deadline. Winners will be announced in January 2018.

Take the survey now.

AEG Europe makes key move to target corporate events

AEG Europe, operator of The O2 and SSE Arena, Wembley, has announced that the two venues will be partnering up to “maximise the large-scale corporate event potential of both”.

The move will also enable the two venues to cross-refer business where appropriate.

Both The O2 and SSE Arena Wembley have hosted some of London’s biggest entertainment events, with the former hosting the Brit and NTAs Awards while the latter is often used for X Factor auditions and recently hosted the MTV EMAs.

Becci Thomson, head of corporate sales at The O2 and Jo Peplow-Revell, event sales coordinator at The O2, will work across both venues with the objective of securing new business and exploring opportunities for additional revenue streams.

Thomson said: “It’s an exciting time for us as we look to grow the reputation of both venues as the go-to destinations for high-profile events. The venues have experienced teams, as well as the latest in event technology and state-of-the-art production. Now, as sister venues, it provides an unrivalled opportunity for us to cross-refer business and enhance the experience and opportunities we can offer clients.”

 

Getting forensic about festivals with AIF

It was with a sense of anticipation that Access departed London’s Paddington station on Monday 30 October and headed west for the last AIF Festival Congress to take place in Cardiff (at least for the moment).

If there was a thread that ran through the fourth edition of the conference put on by the Association of Independent Festivals (other than the central ‘Pseudoscience’ theme) it was a sense that the AIF was continuing to shake up the traditional conference format.

With 10-minute talks, panels of varying length and scope, extensive interactive workshops and forward-thinking topics, the conference was clearly an event designed for some of the UK’s most innovative festival organisers.

The two-day congress began in Cardiff’s National Museum with a welcome from AIF general manager Paul Reed, who announced that the 2018 edition of the event would be taking place in Sheffield. Although Cardiff has been a fantastic host of the first four years of the event, the move is sure to further shake up the format and keep the congress new and fresh.

Hot topics

A wide range of subjects were tackled throughout the first day of the conference, including topics as diverse as Brexit, event safety and planning in 2017, and ‘the science of hedonism’.

Of particular interest to Access was an update on the progress made by the FanFair Alliance – presented by MMF chief exec Anna Coldrick – in tackling issues around secondary ticketing and the legislative changes that have been happening in the sector. While secondary ticketing remains a controversial topic in the industry the FanFair Alliance has been invaluable in driving change and debate at the highest levels.

The headline debate of the day covered one of the most serious topics faced both by festival and event organisers in general: sexual violence and assault.

Panellists reflected on how to deal with a case of alleged assault and how to best help someone who has come forward with an allegation

Renae Brown (AIF, chairing), Kate Lloyd (journalist), Rebecca Hitchen (Rape Crisis), Tracey Wise (Safe Gigs for Women) and Ami Lord (Standon Calling) very eloquently debated the challenges faced by both visitors to events and the people who organise them.

Brown headed up the 2017 ‘Safer Spaces‘ campaign by the AIF to raise awareness of sexual assault in the industry, which the other panellists were also involved in.

There was an emphasis on education; not just educating the general public about what behaviours are acceptable and unacceptable but also educating everyone involved with an event – throughout the chain of command – on how to deal with a case of alleged assault and how to best help someone who has come forward with an allegation.

Independent Festival Awards The panel also covered potential ways to make festival sites safer and more welcoming, and how organisers who might be worried about the negative nature of the topic can change the discussion into a positive marketing message – making potential visitors feel safer.

Independent Festival Awards

As the first day of the conference drew to a close it was time to head to DEPOT Cardiff for the annual Independent Festival Awards.

One of the big winners of the evening was Greenbelt Festival, which won the much-coveted ‘Act of Independence’ Award for its showcasing of Muslim art and culture in partnership with Said Foundation project Amal.

Another highlight of the evening came when Freddie Fellowes, Secret Garden Party founder, was honoured with the newly created Pioneer Award for his work on the festival and impact on the wider industry.

Freddie Fellowes, Secret Garden Party founder, received the inaugural Pioneer Award

Day two of the AIF Festival Congress, now at Millennium Centre Cardiff, took a deep dive into the science of festivals, with in-depth workshops on counter-terrorism training, digital marketing, crisis management and a three-hour workshop on sexual violence training by Jane Bullough of Rape Crisis South London.

Among the day’s panel discussions was ‘Brave New Worlds’, where Phil Smith (Coalescence Collective), Joanna Mountain (MAMA) and Cara Kane (Bestival) looked beyond the music to the creative production, visual arts and experiences that make each festival unique.

In an era when there are more festivals than ever, and less than 10 per cent of the audience are attending predominantly for the headline acts, it’s more important than ever for festivals to provide an artistic, immersive and imaginative experience for their guests.

After a hugely stimulating two days of debate, networking and celebration of the industry, Access set off back on the train to London, already looking forward to the next edition of this innovative congress.

AIF Awards 2017

AIF Award winners 2017

AIF Independent Festival Awards winners 2017:

Unique Festival Arena – Womb With A View at Shambala

Best Smart Marketing – Secret Garden Party’s VIP/Celebrity Obsession Theme

Live Act of the Year – IDLES

Mind Blowing Spectacle Nozstock – The Hidden Valley’s Closing Festival Fire Show

Festival Caterer of the Year (in association with NCASS) – Happy Maki

New Festival on the Block – Aespia

Act of Independence – Greenbelt Festival

Pioneer Award – Freddie Fellowes of Secret Garden Party

Wolverhampton council chooses Ticketmaster

Ticketmaster has been named as the new ticket provider for City of Wolverhampton Council’s entertainment venues Civic Hall, Wulfrun Hall, Slade Rooms and Wolverhampton Art Gallery.

The council has chosen the agent following a competitive tender process. As part of the contract, Ticketmaster will provide the full ticketing service for events at the four venues for the next eight years.

Councillor John Reynolds, cabinet member for city economy, said: “A new ticket provider was required at our box office to meet the demand in changing technology and to bring our venues up to date.

“The newly-formed partnership with Ticketmaster will make buying tickets quick and easy, while also offering the opportunity to pre-book drinks, food and parking, so that customers can enjoy live events with their friends and family.”

As well as providing technology solutions, marketing reach and customer insight, Ticketmaster will also offer dedicated contact centre support services. Fans will also be able to take advantage of the Ticketmaster Experience app to pre-order food and drinks, or order direct from their seats.

 

Andrew Parsons, managing director of Ticketmaster UK, commented: “At Ticketmaster we have been working very hard to ensure our client box office tools remain best in class and we are very excited to be able to team up here with Wolverhampton City Council’s iconic venues.

“Ticketmaster will be providing a faster, more engaging purchase experience for fans and will enable customers to order food and beverages before a show, or even direct from their seats, with our Ticketmaster Experience app.”

AEG Presents announces Victoria Park festival

AEG Presents, organiser of British Summer Time, has announced All Points East, a new 10-day festival.

All Points East will take place in Victoria Park, with the promoter signing a four-year exclusive contract with Tower Hamlets Council, meaning events like Field Day and LoveBox will no longer take place in the park.

Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs, said: “The council is pleased to be working with AEG, who were selected following a rigorous procurement process to deliver some exciting events in 2018 which can be enjoyed by local people, Londoners and visitors from across the UK.”

Field Day announced last week that it would be ‘upping sticks’ and moving to a new London location, with the festival taking place on 2 June 2018.

Headline acts already confirmed for All Points East, which will take place from 25 May to 3 June 2018, include The xx and The National.

“We couldn’t be happier to have The xx and The National as the first two acts for the new event and we’re beyond excited to unveil over 200 more acts across the diverse programme,” said Laura Davidson, VP of live music for AEG.

The event will take the form of a three-day music festival over its first weekend, followed by a four-day midweek event. The second weekend will then feature three headline shows.

“We are thrilled to be able to launch this new festival concept and bring some of the world’s most exciting artists to Victoria Park,” said AEG Presents EVP, live music, Jim King. “With a new three-day music festival followed by a programme of midweek events offering open access to the local community all culminating in three huge standalone shows, we’re confident that this is the most exciting new event in the country.”

Field Day announces change of location

The organiser of Field Day has announced that the festival will be moving to a new site for 2018.

While the new London location is yet to be announced, the organiser has confirmed that the event will be taking place on 2 June 2018.

This news follows unconfirmed reports that AEG Presents – the company responsible for British Summer Time in Hyde Park – has signed an exclusive contract with London’s Victoria Park – a move set to shake up the capital’s festival scene.

If true, the news may mean that other festivals which have historically take place in the park, such as LoveBox and Citadel, may also need to relocate.

Access has reached out to AEG but the company has declined to comment at this time.

We will keep an eye on this story as it develops.

Entries open for EPAs 2018

Entries for the Event Production Awards (EPAs), are open. The dedicated awards for the festival and outdoor events industry, will return in 2018 and will take place on 28 February, the first evening of the Event Production Show, the event organised by Mash Media.

The awards recognise outstanding companies and individuals across the industry. Organised and held by Mash Media for the last seven years, the EPAs have become a highlight of the live events calendar.

This year’s ceremony will be held at a new venue chosen to accommodate the fast-growing event. More than 500 event professionals will descend on the Novotel London West for a three-course dinner, awards and networking.

Among the 19 categories now open for entry are the Venue of the Year Award, which has returned for 2018 due to popular demand, and the Legend Award, which recognises an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the live events industry.

The awards will also recognise the very best live events from the worlds of music and sport, with the Music Event of the Year and Sporting Event of the Year categories.

“The EPAs are a chance for the industry to get together and recognise the world-class work that is being done at events across the UK and abroad,” commented Mash Media portfolio director Duncan Siegle. “We’re hugely proud of how the event has grown over the years and the 2018 awards are set to be even bigger and even better!”

Closing date for entries is Friday 1 December 2017. For general enquiries and to learn about sponsorship opportunities at the event contact James Linin at jlinin@mashmedia.net or call 0208 481 1122.