Supply Chain Crisis, Workforce Shortage & Brexit: AIF Warns Of ‘Perfect Storm’

End Of The Road Festival at Larmer Tree Gardens in Salisbury, England, is one of currently 93 AIF members.
Burak Cingi/Redferns
– End Of The Road Festival at Larmer Tree Gardens in Salisbury, England, is one of currently 93 AIF members.
This picture shows the Garden Stage during day two, Sept. 3, 2021.

Paul Reed, CEO of the UK Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), warned that a live entertainment supply chain crisis, workforce shortages, and the effects of Brexit could create a “perfect storm” as the 2022 festival season approaches.

Reed made those remarks in his opening speech that kicked off the AIF Festival Congress 2022 in Bristol, England, today (Feb. 15). 
He warned that suppliers simply didn’t not have cash reserves to invest further funds into inventory, in a year when there will be near unprecedented demand and event activity both across the private and public sector. 
AIF currently represents 93 UK events. According to the association’s own data, festivals are facing cost increases of 20% to 30% across operations and infrastructure. This is a result of real cost increases in labour, staffing, materials and transport being passed on by suppliers. 
Gruff Rhys performs at SWN Festival 2019 on October 18, 2019, in Cardiff, Wales.
Mike Lewis Photography/Redferns
– Gruff Rhys performs at SWN Festival 2019 on October 18, 2019, in Cardiff, Wales.
SWN is another AIF member festival.

According to a statement sent out by AIF, this cost increases are “way beyond inflation in the UK, which hit a three decade high of 5.4% in December 2021 and is expected to exceed 7% in the spring.” 

More than half (53% according to AIF data) of all festivals in the UK above 5,000 capacity did not take place in 2021. Since many of them are honoring tickets purchased in 2019 and rolled over to 2022, promoters can’t simply pass on all of the cost increases to the customer.  
The association also finds that the UK government’s so-called Live Events Reinsurance scheme isn’t fit to cover the live events market due to its “limited scope and excessive cost.”
The scheme offers no insurance against artists getting coronavirus or against social distancing measures being reintroduced and making an event economically unviable. It only covers local and national lockdowns.
Paul Reed.
– Paul Reed.
CEO of the Association of Independent Festivals.

Reed, in his opening remarks, also asked that government maintain the reduced VAT on tickets (5% instead of the usual 12.5%) rate on tickets beyond the end of March, when the temporary rate is currently set to expire. 

He also called for a government-backed loan scheme for suppliers to alleviate some of the above-mentioned pressures and encourage investment in the festival supply chain.
Addressing the 300-plus delegates from across the independent festival industry at today’s Festival Congress, Reed said: “The UK festival industry is a powerhouse, contributing £1.76 billion [$2.38 billion] in GVA to the UK economy and supporting 85,000 jobs. The cultural and wellbeing benefits of festivals cannot be measured. We know they are profound, and the absence of festivals has been felt keenly by artists, the wider supply chain and of course audiences.
“We are facing a perfect storm in many ways. I’ve spoken with many of you in the last few weeks about supply chains, loss of skilled workforce, 20-30% increase in costs across the board and a Government-backed insurance scheme that isn’t simply isn’t fit for purpose despite our best efforts.
“We may be emerging from the shadow of the pandemic in the UK, but this year will not be a case of ‘back to business as usual’ without critical support for festival organizers. That’s why we’re calling on the Government to aid our recovery and maintain the current reduced 12.5% rate on tickets beyond the end of March, as well as looking at some form of Government-backed loan scheme for suppliers to alleviate some of these pressures and encourage investment in the festival supply chain. 
“We also urge Government to reconsider removing the tax relief for certain biofuels, which further increases cost and is completely counter-productive to promoting better environmental practice across the sector. 
“AIF fought hard to represent the needs of independent festival operators during the course of the pandemic and made sure your voices were heard in the corridors of power. We will continue to do so during what is still a very challenging time.”
AIF chair Jim Mawdsley.
– AIF chair Jim Mawdsley.
He will step down from the role he assumed in 2014 effective May 2022.

In other AIF news, Jim Mawdsley will step down from his role as chair of the association effective May 2022, after seven years in the role. The organization will advertize the freed up position next week in search of a successor.

Mawdsley joined AIF as chair in 2014. He is also the Principal Advisor for Events, Culture Arts and Heritage at Newcastle City Council. Previous roles include a 20-year stint at music and creative digital development agency Generator, with 12 years as CEO. 
Mawdsley has also run music events ranging from 50-capacity bar gigs to 30,000-capacity festivals, including 12 years as co-promoter of world-renowned dance brand Shindig, and 13 years as director of the Evolution Festival.
Jim Mawdsley commented: “I feel really privileged to have been chair of AIF for the past seven years. We have achieved a great deal for such a small organization.
“When I took the chair role, it was an important body for independent festivals but we sometimes felt that we were a bunch of pirates that no one wanted to let dock. Following a restructure and departure from [the Association of Independent Music] AIM, we claimed our own independence, and oversaw some sometimes bruising campaigns including a lower PRS rate and recognition that Cultural Recovery Funds were needed for festivals as much as the established cultural powerhouses.
“As a result, we have grown in number and in stature and I leave AIF as an extremely significant body that is respected and consulted by the media, HM Government and, most importantly, our music industry peers.
“I will certainly miss the members and all the people who have given up their valuable time to support us as Board members.
“With Paul Reed at the helm, AIF is in great shape. Now is the time for the next chapter and for a new person to help steer the ship. I can only say to my successor that one thing is for sure: despite the inevitable choppy waters, they will have a blast. I certainly have.”
The AIF board currently comprises: Jim Mawdsley (Chair, AIF), Nick Morgan (The Fair and Vice Chair, AIF), Lauren Down (End Of The Road), Katherine Goodenough (Greenbelt), Kevin Moore (Vision Nine), Gill Tee (Black Deer), Zac Fox (Kilimanjaro Live), Kate Osler (AEI Group), Jon Walsh (Shambala), Alex Trenchard (Standon Calling), Becky Ayres (Liverpool Sound City), Chris Rutherford (Boomtown Fair).