Is the festival boom over? Is the London Independent Festival scene about to collapse?

By September 3, 2019NEWS

The festival industry has grown enormously over the past 5 years and the appetite for new festival experiences
is, in fact, bigger than ever, as proven in the latest research Barclaycard have undertaken which found that
festival-goers are choosing festivals over the summer holidays.

Festivals are often seen as a rite of passage, environments where friendships are born, where people fall in
love – festivals are experiences that stay with audiences and aren’t easily replicated in other environments.
Our audiences are our stakeholders and are the heart of the industry and due to their current expectations,
shows have to provide an experience that goes beyond the festival site (and then some) in order to keep them
coming back.

Despite the rise in the number of shows and that the experience economy doesn’t seem to be going anywhere
anytime soon, I feel we need to address emerging challenges that are putting the industry at risk.
Firstly, shows are becoming more expensive and plunging organisers into the red as costs spiral. Infrastructure
costs have grown exponentially and green space rental is increasing as councils are under enormous monetary
pressure to plug their funding gap. Shows are heading into the red and can’t afford to carry on – This could
change the festival Landscape forever for Independents especially unless action is taken.
As well as this, the benefit to the local economy as demonstrated in the new white paper “The Political
the economy of informal events 2030” is often underestimated as are the Jobs created whether it be technical
production, causal labour from bar work to accreditation.

Importantly, and something that has become more prevalent recently is that residents are increasingly
mobilising their communities to object festival Licences and feel more aggrieved and rarely understand the
benefits festivals bring to the local borough. On a very simplistic level, without promoters paying greenfield
site rental, parks would fall into disrepair. As stated in the white paper, over £100m is paid each and every
year in greenfield rental.

We, as organisers have to attend Licensing committees, often annually, made up of councillors who these
residents have voted for to be their local councillors. In turn, councillors place more conditions on these
licenses in an attempt to demonstrate to their electorate that they are clipping the promoters wings and each
road closure, additional toilet, additional security personal needed to control these unsavoury actions all cost
more money.

This is becoming as much of a problem across London Boroughs as in towns and cities UK-wide and is
something we need festival-goers to support us on. The UK should be proud to be a world leader on
independent festivals #EventsMatter and without us showing a united front, challenging the preconceptions
and highlighting the huge positives, festivals will be no more.

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