shambala festival

The Big 200: Access celebrates its 200th issue

From a quarterly showcase to a monthly must-read, Access has changed a lot in 200 issues – and so has the events industry. Take a trip down memory lane.

How do you contextualise 200 issues? It’s a landmark number, a number that didn’t come easily or without its own winding journey. And just as Access has evolved and changed – from a newsletter-type paper to a feature-led magazine – so has the industry it covers.

When Access All Areas launched – first with a pilot issue in 1993, followed by a Spring edition in 1994 – the European Union was just a year old. The first-ever cover feature focused on that newly formed body and its potential effect on the UK and European events industry. Fast forward 23 years and we’re facing the potential exit of the UK from the EU and wondering what new challenges an isolated Britain may have to tackle – what a difference two decades can make.

It’s not the only change Access has been here for.

From the early ‘90s, when mega-festivals like Glastonbury and Reading dominated the scene, to the noughties and beyond, the live music and entertainment industry has evolved with the rise of boutique and niche festivals that feature everything from music and acrobatic performances, to highbrow theatre and top-tier comedy.

An out with the old, in with the new approach has dominated the past two decades, starting first with the election of New Labour to government, signalling an end of austerity and the start of an almost 10-year-long celebration of everything consumer. We were spending more, doing more, borrowing more and taking more – perhaps a little too much. From the hedonistic party and club scene emerged new genres of entertainment – acid house, raves, glow sticks, questionable dance moves based around Big Fish, Little Fish, Cardboard Box… shudder – that birthed a new demand for different types of music events. Some of today’s biggest festivals like We Are FSTVL, Beat Herder, Creamfields and SW4 can directly trace their roots back to the explosion of ‘90s dance music.

And who in those days knew that the Blur vs Oasis uber-rivalry would eventually fizzle out, with both bands if not mellowing then at least settling into ‘cool dad’ territory, and Noel Gallagher and Damon Albarn playing gigs and festivals like Latitude and Barclaycard British Summer Time with nary a naked groupie in sight.

We’ve also watched the evolution of feminism and gender equality. The 14, 15 and 16-year olds who listened to The Spice Girls’ pop-infused battle cry of ‘Girl Power’ are now grown up, helping shape the events industry and beyond. From Beyoncé performing in front of a giant screen with the word ‘feminist’ blazing behind her, to the open discussion around preventing sexual violence at festivals, to the rise of important voices like Attitude is Everything’s Suzanne Bull and Zibrant’s Fay Sharpe, there are issues that the events industry has bravely faced head on. Access is proud to have been there all along to help champion key issues and to have broken down barriers for the betterment of our industry.

The first issue of Access in Spring 1994

The first issue of Access in Spring 1994

Access was also around to see the launch of London’s Millennium Dome, that supposedly ill-thought government over-spend, a signal of the trouble ahead for Tony Blair and his New Labour. While we watched Labour devolve into in-fighting and leader quarrels, an American billionaire took over the Dome, renaming it The O2, transforming it over the past 15 years into what is now the most well- attended music venue in the world, surpassing even New York City’s Madison Square Garden, and pouring money into the UK’s economy.

Consumerism gets a bad rap most of the time – but The O2 stands by the Thames as one of its greatest triumphs.

The UK has become a major player on the events stage. It would be remiss of Access not to mention London 2012. The elation in 2005 when the host city was announced, that feeling of pride in both our capital and our country, buoyed us through the immediate tragedy of the 7/7 terrorist attacks on London. We, as a proud nation and industry, came back stronger and together in celebration. The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games rejuvenated our industry, which had been wounded by the 2008 financial crisis, and left a lasting economic legacy in both cities.

Yes, 200 issues is difficult to put in context. So many things have happened in the 23 years since we started – remember ‘Gangnam Style’? Remember how angry we all were about Jay Z playing Glastonbury? It’s impossible to talk about them all. Luckily, Access has been there through everything, and we have the magazines to prove it.

Thank you for reading and supporting our magazine – we can’t wait to see what the next 200 holds.

See part 2 of this feature here.

This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of Access All Areas

Shambala Festival: Genuinely eco-friendly and anti-consumerist

With 2015’s Shambala coming this month (27-30 August), revisit our review/interview with founder Chris Johnson, published in October last year.

Described to Access as ‘the festival that festival organisers attend’, Shambala is a place where spontaneous can-canning, eccentric costumes and arty curiosities are the gleeful offshoots of a wider, anti-commercial spirit that has been in place since the event’s inception 15 years ago.

“I see festivals in terms of their place within our culture, and we like to blur the line between audience and festival,” Shambala director Chris Johnson said.


This ethos of visitor participation is evident at every turn when navigating the event’s secret-until-the-last-moment Northamptonshire location. The picturesque country estate hosts around 7,000 visitors, the majority of whom are clad in studiously detailed, and often hilarious, costumes.

Johnson rejects the term ‘boutique’, but says Shambala’s countercultural inclination and spirit of togetherness is also evident in a small breed of modern festivals, including Secret Garden Party, Wilderness and Boomtown Fair. “We’re tapping into something that has perhaps been lost in our Western society: The need for celebration and connection on a deep level without the passive consumerist messages and corporate agendas,” he added.

The event (21-24 August) was all about creating an environment for self-expression rather than deliberately manufacturing any particular ‘vibe’, Johnson told Access. “The visitors have been defining the culture of Shambala since it started,” he said. “It’s important to us that the event remains ad-free and is a counterpoint to a culture where our motivations are constantly exploited,” he adds.

Roaming theatrics, carnival parades, food from rustic caravan units and creative workshops create a kinetic and vibrant atmosphere that helps build the event’s culture of involvement. The festival’s production is eclectic but cohesive, with a bohemian fairground bent and reassuring attention to detail. Meanwhile, a diverse line-up of musical acts across 12 stages includes Femi Kuti and the Positive Force, Kate Tempest, Nozinja, and This Is The Kit.

Shambala does not use marketing or advertising, instead engaging with its audience via social media. Tickets completely sold out in 2014 – Shambala’s strategy seems to be working.

The festival’s website and pre-event information puts sustainability at centre stage. It undertakes independent carbon auditing, and was the first organisation ever to achieve a three-star Industry Green certification from Julie’s Bicycle back in 2010. Elsewhere, a three-star IG certification was awarded for the 2013 festival, followed by A Greener Festival outstanding award in 2013.

Green innovations this year included a hybrid generator by Firefly that runs on repurposed vegetable oil and solar power, employing a power saving mode during less demanding hours. “This was a big new innovation for us, and I was impressed by the generator’s smart use of power that deals with the intermittent demand we face. The unit even stored any excess power generated into a battery,” Johnson said.

Johnson also praised the attendees for embracing a new recycling initiative in which campers were provided a box for any compost, which can account for 20-30 per cent of the total waste of the event.

Shambala will return in 2015. Expect sustainability, participation and eccentricity to remain at its core, but don’t count on getting a ticket at late notice.

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Shambala Festival appoints Eventserv

Shambala Festival has awarded Eventserv a two-year contract extension to provide infrastructure support.

EventServ’s partnership with Shambala Festival started in 2013 when it was appointed to supply fencing, barriers, observation towers and bridges to the festival over a three-year period.

This led to the renewal of EventServ’s contract to cover both the 2016 and 2017 Shambala festivals.

“We always go the extra-mile for our clients and to win a contract extension is the ultimate recognition for EventServ, especially when we have been servicing a client for more than three years,” said Lee Collis, south regional manager at EventServ.

“EventServ has developed a real partnership with Shambala Festival and we are proud to be able to continue working with them for the foreseeable future.”

Based in Northamptonshire, Shambala Festival is a small, diverse festival featuring a variety of music including rock, pop and folk music.  It takes place over the four-day August bank holiday weekend this year (27-30 August).