Association of Independent Festivals announces Festival Congress 2017

Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) has announced its annual event will return to Cardiff for its fourth year in October.

The Festival Congress will play host to an incredible ‘Pseudoscience’ theme, set to play homage to the nonsensical and weird experiments made by scientists and festival promoters alike.

The standout event will be led by a keynote by artistic director and CEO of Manchester International Festival, John McGrath, in addition to quick fire talks from renowned author Zoe Cormier about her book Sex, drugs and rock n roll: The science of hedonism and the hedonism of science, and John Kampfner, chief executive of the Creative Industries Federation, who will speak about creative industry ‘red lines’ on Brexit.

There will also be a ‘Question time’ style panel exploring political issues in relation to festivals and featuring some leading lights of the independent festival world, with other key topics at the conference including event security, welfare, booking processes, up scaling small festivals and creative production. Another headline panel discussion will explore the next steps of AIF’s ‘Safer spaces’ campaign, which reiterated the zero tolerance approach that festivals have to sexual assault with a 24 hour coordinated website ‘black out’ in May.

Held in Cardiff’s Wales Millennium Centre (WMC) on 30-31 October, the Festival Congress is a major fixture in the festival industry calendar.

“We’re back for a fourth year with Festival Congress, the ultimate conference and festival party for the independents,” said AIF co-founder, Rob da Bank. “We’re proud of how essential this event has become and all at AIF HQ are buzzing to be joining the dots between festival promotion and science this year, in what promises to be a packed and extremely fun couple of days in Cardiff.”

Attendees include notable festival organisers from the likes of Glastonbury, Bestival, Boomtown Fair, Kendal Calling, Shambala, End of the Road, Liverpool Sound City and many more. The event also invites speakers from every corner of the music sphere with a speaker alumni of Jude Kelly OBE (artistic Ddirector, Southbank Centre), Huw Stephens (Radio One and Swn Festival co-founder), Simon Parkes (founder, Brixton Academy), Professor Tim O’Brien (Jodrell Bank observatory), Robert Richards (commercial director, Glastonbury) and many more.

Glastonbury accused of exploiting zero hour contract workers

Glastonbury Festival has been accused of firing 600 zero hour contract workers from Europe, two days into the job.

The organisers were said to have employed 700 people to collect litter at the festival for two weeks but most had their contracts cut short and were left stranded in Somerset two weekends ago (21–26 June).

The uproar comes after Jeremy Corbyn’s appearance at the festival on the Pyramid Stage alongside organiser Michael Eavis, where Corbyn received applause for his comments on young people, low wages and Labour’s plans to end zero hour contracts.


Workers had travelled to the festival from Czech Republic, Spain, Poland and Latvia after receiving zero hour contracts to help with the clean up that follows the event, after filling out an online application for the position.

Due to good weather and plenty of on-site litter teams, the rubbish left after the festival was not at the level they were expecting. Reports say that up to 600 workers were fired as a result.

Video footage by The Independent shows the protests after workers were asked to leave.

One of the workers, Simon Kadlcak from Czech Republic, said to The Independent he had arrived to the site, Worthy Farm, on the Monday to began work the next day after hearing about the job from friends who signed up to work via the online form.

“We found out quite soon that there was not as much garbage as usual, so there was less work,” he said. “Rumours were being spread about what would happen and there was no proper information.”

A spokesperson for Jeremy Corbyn commented: “Labour is committed to ending zero hour contracts, which was included in our manifesto, and the next Labour government will end zero hour contracts.”

New Glastonbury event announced: The Variety Bazaar

Glastonbury organisers have announced that an event called Variety Bazaar will take place at a new location following the festival’s fallow year.
The festival will be taking its traditional scheduled fallow year in 2018 to allow the Worthy Farm site to recover, with Glasto founder Michael Eavis also implying that his iconic festival might not return in 2019 either.
Speaking in a radio interview with Glastonbury FM, Eavis stated that he and his team would hold an event in 2019 called The Variety Bazaar, in a different location.
“It’s halfway to the Midlands from here,” he explained. “And there’s only one landowner. I’ve got 22 landowners where I am now. I just wonder whether the next generation will want to negotiate with so many people. It’s a very difficult job to hold it together.”
He went on to characterise the move as a “huge risk”, adding, ““I’ve been a risk taker all my life. In 47 years of taking risks, so far, touch wood, I haven’t come unstuck. This might be one risk too far, I don’t know.”
Organiser Emily Easvis took to Twitter to clarify the statement, saying, “We’re still planning an event in the future at a different location – which we are calling Variety Bazaar. But Glastonbury Festival will always be called Glastonbury and will remain at Worthy Farm.”

Tellin’ Stories

The Charlatans’ Tim Burgess talks coffee, festival memories and his favourite gig in an exclusive conversation with Access

It’s not often that Access gets to interview a bonafide rock star, but then, it’s rare that such a figure makes the move from festival headliner to festival venue operator.

Tim Burgess – The Charlatans front man, Britpop icon, solo star and two-time author – is one such figure.

His venue Tim Peaks, started in 2012 in a log cabin at Kendal Calling, is now a regular feature on the festival circuit. Burgess curates the artists who play there, opening up his little black book to invite superstars to perform surprise sets.   

While he may not yet think of himself as an event prof, his informed views on festival gentrification and the difficulties associated with organising greenfield events certainly qualify him as one.

In this candid chat with Access, Burgess reminisces about his own festival history – sitting at his first festival in 1987 dreaming of playing on the main stage – and how Twitter helped lead him to starting Tim Peaks.

Hey Tim, tell us how Tim Peaks evolved.

It started on Twitter – it was metaphorical and metaphysical. It slowly became real; we got a name for the place, a logo and our own coffee. Then the Kendal Calling gang sent us a photo of the log cabin by the lake on their site and it looked like the perfect place to make Tim Peaks a reality. That was in 2012 and among our first guests were Edwyn Collins and Roddy Frame – I joined them on a version of ‘A Girl Like You’.

It’s a real word of mouth thing, so it’s not hard to get the vibe going. Unannounced special guests have included Pete Doherty, Suzanne Vega and Blossoms, and I’ve played a few times too. The Vaccines and 

Kaiser Chiefs have DJ’d and we have Northern Soul Dance Classes and scale models of the solar system made by Professor Tim O’Brien – there’s always something going on from 10am to 3am.

What motivates you every year to keep Tim Peaks going?

I’ve always loved festivals and it’s often away from the main stage where the crazier stuff happens – where you can find your new favourite band or learn to speak Welsh.


It’s maybe hard for a festival organiser to have the resources or even know of enough performers to put together all the smaller stages. So they give me a shout and we bring the Tim Peaks travelling circus to town.

John Giddings from Isle of Wight Festival is The Charlatans’ agent, so he was the first outside of Kendal Calling to ask us – it’s been great to go back there each year. I’d heard a brilliant new band called Sleaford Mods a couple of years ago and got in touch to ask them to play at Isle of Wight for us. In the time between asking them and the performance, they really blew up so it was a memorable show at two in the afternoon with lots of the bands from the other stages coming in to see what all the fuss was about. They totally lived up to the hype and went way beyond it.

Liverpool Sound City gave us a call a couple of years ago and we’ve been doing Festival No. 6 for four years. It takes quite a lot of work so we’d never spread ourselves too thinly, but we headed up to Scotland this year for Electric Fields and had a brilliant couple of days. I’ve also just sent Emily Eavis a direct message on Twitter to say that I think we’re ready for Glastonbury.

Is bringing Tim Peaks to festivals a better experience than playing at them?

Both are fantastic. Often I play and bring Tim Peaks at the same festivals, so it’s the best of both worlds. Playing at a festival is a couple of hours, but three days of watching some of my favourite bands in the venue is a real thrill.

What’s the biggest thing that’s changed in festivals through your years?

The first festival I went to was Glastonbury in 1987 and as far as enjoying festivals goes, they haven’t changed too much for me, as long as the spirit is the same.

Technology means that sound systems, lights, screens and all of those emblems have changed but they don’t change the experience too much. New Order had a laser in 1987 and that blew me away as much as anything I’ve seen since.

I think the biggest change is in the locations. I was at Blue Dot at Jodrell Bank this year and that would have been unimaginable 20 years ago. But now the people who look after Jodrell Bank, or Portmeirion where Festival No. 6 takes place, they are music fans who want to share their amazing venues with as many people as possible. Lots of castles and places like The Eden Project are happy to host festivals. Maybe the change in the audiences means that the wider world now knows about festivals. Glastonbury 1987 wasn’t mentioned on TV or in gossip columns, but when the audiences became more than some musos eating a tin of beans in a field, that’s when people realised their potential.

Have festivals become more civilised since you first started going to them?

Yeah, there are lots of tepees and Hunter wellies. To be fair, those elements mean that it’s a wider audience that goes to festivals. There are Champagne bars and Michelin-starred chefs, but I wouldn’t say it was a bad thing – just as long as it isn’t the same at all festivals.


It’s whatever appeals to you. Lots of people have kids and maybe want a higher degree of luxury. If VIP ticket sales mean that regular tickets can be good value for kids to get tickets and watch bands, then that’s a good thing. There’s such a range of festivals, it’s about finding the one that appeals most to you.

The Charlatans broke through in a time when music venues were thriving. As an artist, how do you feel about venues around the UK closing?

Music venues are the lifeblood for bands to survive, not just as a place to play but music venues often have rehearsal rooms too. Fabric has just closed, which means there’s one less place for kids to be inspired to become DJs or to set up a club night. I was working with the Independent Venue Week gang this year and I’ll be working again with them in 2017 – it’s about getting along to support gigs and maybe even see future festival headliners before they’ve made it.

To what degree does the closure of venues affect the future of festival headliners and acts?

Blossoms are a band that cut their teeth in small venues and built grassroots support that helped them play bigger shows and then get themselves a number one album. We saw them in a small venue and asked them to support The Charlatans – without small venues, it’s much more difficult to get off the ground. There’s a real hope, though, when you go to places like The Trades Club in Hebden Bridge.

Do you have advice for people starting up new festivals?

I’d recommend anyone starting up a new festival to be very careful and to work with other people who already run festivals. Something small with 500-capacity might be possible to get off the ground but otherwise it’s crazy out there.


With Tim Peaks, we work with some of the most experienced festival folks around and it would be impossible without them. There are so many things that can go wrong; you have to have a big team behind you. I don’t want to sound like a doom merchant but anyone starting a festival has to be massively realistic and it can be quite a thankless task. I’d suggest finding a festival that needs more help and get stuck in there.

What are your fondest festival memories?

Maybe way back to my first, watching New Order headline Glastonbury in 1987. I was probably dreaming I’d get to play on that stage one day, not realising it would come true.

Best gig you’ve ever played?

The Charlatans at Castlefield Bowl last year. 8,000 people, a sunny day with lots of our friends and Stephen and Gillian from New Order joined us for ‘Sproston Green’. It was a really magical day. 


What’s the craziest rider you’ve heard of?

There’s a DJ, Steve Aoki, and he has a rubber dinghy on his rider. Rather than crowdsurfing, he rows out over the audience – he also has a cake that he launches into the crowd. My DJ rider is two cans of Diet Coke, but I might just add a rubber dinghy next time!


What makes for a good backstage experience?

Backstage can be a bit of a myth – it’s good to catch up with people you might not have seen in a while, but out front is where it all happens. It’s good to head out and have a walk round.

Who is the most fun band or musician to be at a festival with?

New Order, The Libertines, R Stevie Moore, Tear, Beds in Parks and The Brian Jonestown Massacre.

Any new bands to keep an eye out for?

Tear, Blueprint Blue, Beds In Parks – they played at Tim Peaks for us over the summer. Go see them if you get the chance.

You’ve just put out your second book. Was it difficult convincing your peers and heroes to contribute?

I think they all liked the idea of the book. They only had to choose one album and send a few notes if they wanted to, so it wasn’t too big an ask. With people it was a case of waiting for a text. With Bill Drummond I went to his art exhibition; he turned up on a raft and he gave me some marmalade. I pushed a note under Iggy Pop’s dressing room door at a festival as he doesn’t speak to anyone before he plays. I really couldn’t cover up the excitement when I saw the message from David Lynch.

Tim Burgess will be taking part in a panel at the Event Production Show on 1 March 2017. His book, Tim Book Two, is out now.

Glastonbury confirms 2018 fallow year

Glastonbury organisers have confirmed that the festival will take a year off in 2018 in order for the site to recover from the approximately 180,000 festivalgoers who attend the event each year.

A statement posted by the organisers read: “We can also confirm that we will be taking our next fallow year in 2018, in order to give the farm, the village and the festival team the traditional year off.

The statement also addressed speculation that an alternative event would be held in a new location during the fallow year, saying: “There are no plans to hold an event at another location in 2018.”

Tickets for Glastonbury 2017 will go on sale from 6 October, with the event taking place on 21-25 June 2017.

Quantum SFX supplies its biggest Glastonbury yet

Melksham-based Quantum Special Effects survived the mud of Glastonbury this year to provide its biggest service to the festival to date.

The Quantum team supplied bespoke visuals for Foals, Muse and Adele across the festival’s Friday and Saturday nights (25-26 June).

For Foals’ Friday night set, Quantum provided 30kg of white confetti alongside four stadium shots of biodegradable white and blue streamers for the band’s finale song. Muse, who headlined later that night, opted for a combination of comets and mines, fired from the towers on either side of the Pyramid Stage during the band’s song ‘Globalist’. During ‘Mercy’, 84kg of custom drone-shaped confetti poured into the audience; for the finale, 12 stadium shots were wirelessly programmed to release 132kg of red, pink, purple, yellow and blue streamers.

Quantum’s sole responsibility on the following evening was Adele’s headlining set. The team first set up 28 confetti blowers around the audience area so that the crowd was completely covered with 200kg of custom-printed confetti during ‘Rolling in the Deep’.

Brand new Glastonbury-inspired notes, handwritten by Adele, were added to the confetti, reading messages like, ‘Glastonbury 4 life’ and ‘I bloody did it!’

Finally, Quantum set up a 25ft pyro waterfall for ‘Set Fire to the Rain’, which lasted for 30 seconds and lit up the entire stage.

Gas supplier and sister company Gassed Up assisted all of Quantum’s work at Glastonbury.

The Halo Group creates set for BBC Music Tepee

For the third year running, The Halo Group worked with BBC Music at Glastonbury, which took place on 22-26 June, to deliver a colourful set build for the broadcaster.

The BBC Music Tepee formed the focal point for BBC Music’s radio and online coverage of the festival and featured acoustic performances from headliners.

This year’s design took the form of an Orangery, a large conservatory-like building where orange trees are grown. Orangeries were historically symbols of prestige and wealth, and features of many 17th-19th century homes.

Sam Matthews, creative director of The Halo Group, said: “There is something really special about working with the BBC at Glastonbury, two of the biggest British institutions. Over the past two years our set designs have become one of the most recognizable features at Glastonbury.

“The development and delivery of this year’s design is very much down to our fantastic creative team. This process starts in the office with our designers before being passed to our production team and set stylists. There is a great synergy between the different departments at The Halo Group and it is this partnership that has given us the opportunity to return to the festival and continue the development of our professional relationship with BBC Music.”

Half a million bags of rubbish left at Glastonbury site

Image Credit: Anna Barclay

More than 1,800 litter pickers have been clearing away an estimated 500,000 bags of rubbish and 57 tonnes of reusable items after this year’s Glastonbury festival.

This year’s festival, which took place on 22-26 June, has been described as the muddiest ever by founder Michael Eavis.

“Every single bit of woodchip in the south of England, all of it is here over 1,000 acres. I’ve never seen mud like it in the whole life,” he said. “In all 46 years, it hasn’t been as bad as this.”

The mud caused difficulties for revellers attempting to leave the site, many of whom needed the assistance of towing vehicles.

Charity Aid Box Convoy requested that festivalgoers donate their tents rather than abandoning them at the site. The donated tents are given to refugees in northern France.


Glastonbury festivalgoers affected by heavy traffic

Festivalgoers heading to Glastonbury this morning are experiencing delays and heavy traffic due to wet weather and ground conditions.

Throughout the night #Glastonburytraffic has been trending on Twitter, with attendees expressing their frustration at the slow progress.

At 8.30am the festival released an update, telling those heading to the site: “If you are coming to the festival and have yet to begin your journey, please do not set off yet. If you have set off and have yet to reach the site, please stop somewhere safe and warm. Grab some essentials, as you may have a long wait in your vehicle.”

Some attendees, who left yesterday evening hoping to beat the rush, have been queuing for more than 12 hours to reach the festival site.

More than 100,000 people are expected to descend on Worthy Farm for the five-day event, which has headliners Muse, Adele and Coldplay.

Today’s news comes after it was reported yesterday that a man had died after suffering severe burns at the Glastonbury site. A petrol spillage is thought to have been the cause of the blaze which badly injured the man, who later died in hospital. 

Glastonbury organisers hint at future plans

A Glastonbury spokesperson has confirmed to the BBC plans for a new event, which is in its early stages.

Rumours of the new event, planned for Longleat near Bath in 2019, have become intertwined with speculation that Glastonbury itself might be forced to relocate.

Founder Michael Eavis previously confessed his concerns to Sky News, saying that dealing with the 22 landowners involved in the festival has not been easy: “I’m always worried about the future, about the land not being available because I only own the middle bit.

“I may have to find a site that’s bigger and is all under the control of one person. That’s the ideal situation, so that might happen in the long-term.”

Glastonbury has long been plagued by fears that a pipe running under the site could be fractured by the combined weight of festivalgoers.

While the long-term future of Glastonbury itself is unclear, the standalone Longleat event looks set to go ahead in 2019.

The festival takes a break every six years so as not to cause lasting damage to its Worthy Farm site, known as a ‘fallow year’. The planned 2019 break will give organisers a chance to focus on planning the new event at Longleat.

Last month Emily Eavis confirmed to the BBC that the Longleat event wouldn’t be billed as Glastonbury Festival, saying: “It’s going to be the whole team behind the Glastonbury Festival but it’s not going to be called Glastonbury.”

Further muddying the waters around the future of the festival, she also added: “The main thing to set straight is that Glastonbury Festival itself will always be at Worthy Farm.”