ILMC – Scene from the 2018 Green Events & Innovation Conference.
“Something will be lost from not being together physically in a space,” said conference organizer Claire O’Neill.
ILMC 33 is a week away and, as usual, the main conference is kicked off by two sister events, the ILMC Production Meeting (IPM) as well as the Green Events & Innovations Conference (GEI), both taking place March 2.
Pollstar reached out to Claire O’Neill, co-founder of A Greener Festival Ltd, organizers of the GEI, which celebrates its 13th edition this year – online only due to the restrictions placed on public gatherings in the UK.
O’Neill said that the forced downtime due to COVID presented “the biggest and possibly only opportunity we will have to make fundamental changes to the way that we operate and the way that money flows through our industry. Our modus operandi has been interrupted and this is the greatest gift to upload a new programme and let go of excess baggage. A shock to the systems is a great moment to change behaviour and that is something that we all need to do together.”
She explained that event with reduced capacities, wether that’s due to enforced distancing or due to being a boutique event, aren’t automatically the more environmentally conscious. “There isn’t a hard and fast rule,” she said, “some of the problems from an environmental perspective with large events is they often come hand in hand with a large amount of travel. Inevitably the attendees are less likely to be local.
“Conversely there are many large festivals that have extremely high public transport or even cycling rates (Netherlands I’m looking at you), whilst some small boutique events may attract and international crowd, who fly across the world.”
– Claire O’Neill
Co-founder A Greener Festival.
What often drives up the environmental impact of large events, aside from transporting their massive infrastructure, is their need to get internationally-renowned headliners on site. The fact that promoters of major events are usually asked to pay handsomely for the headliner, especially when they want him or her exclusively, “pulls money disproportionately out of the event ecosystem,” according to O’Neill, which “may be to the detriment of investments that could improve the events environmental impact and diversity, but also hampers another aspect of sustainability which is to be equitable and to nurture the grassroots.”
There are a lot of benefits that also come from larger events, as well, O’Neill continued: “If you speak to the plethora of charities and community groups who depend upon millions in donations that are generated by large festivals every year it’s quite phenomenal.
“Then there are the economies of scale, which can also be looked at from an ecological perspective. If you have 60,000 people eating and sleeping communally, away from their cars, kettles and heating for the weekend there are savings to be made. They also have the power and financial capability to change supply chains of the whole system for the better.
“Then there is the social impact of these gatherings. When you join a new small town that functions differently to the one you have grown up and live in it can open the mind to alternative ways of existing as a society.”
“The purpose of the event is important,” O’Neill summed it up. “If the purpose of a large event is to just make as much money from the large crowd as possible to make a few people richer, then frankly it’s days will soon be numbered and good riddance. If it’s to bring community, celebration, joy, inspiration and innovation then may the beat go on!”
When asked if she thought the first online edition of the GEI will be as engaging as the offline event, O’Neill said: “Well, personally I’m sure I am far more engaging after a few G&T’s in the bar – others may not agree – but I think that something will be lost from not being together physically in a space.
“We are social animals and there is a huge amount that happens in our interaction and through chance that is difficult to convey through digital means.
“That said, we have an incredible group of speakers, delegates and purpose. Plus the speed-dating section sounds fun. Apparently, it’s meetings but the proof will be in the pudding.”
Some of the confirmed speakers at this year’s GEI include Dale Vince (Ecotricity / Forest Green Rovers, UK), David Ojay (Naam Festival, KE), Nuno Bettencourt, Extreme (USA), Tom Schroeder, Paradigm Agency (UK), Frederic Opsomer, PRG Projects (BE), Anna Golding, AEG (UK), Gina Perier, Lapee (DK), Fay Milton, Music Declares Emergency (UK), Gordon Masson, IQ Mag / ILMC (UK), and Claire O’Neill herself.