Association of Festival Organisers… Its take on COVID-19’s economic impact on festivals

With over 200 members, more than 100 of which are festivals, the AFO has been supporting its membership to help them get through this most difficult year.  With the news mostly a bit bleak on the festival scene, the association’s team, based in Matlock, decided to start early in promoting its member festivals for what is hoped to be a bumper season in 2021. “The virus has certainly taken its toll in 2020,” said Steve Heap, Gen. Sec. of AFO, “with 87% of our member festivals cancelling and moving over to their 2021 dates.

The economic impact of that alone will be felt in the communities where the festivals are both a respected arts and major contributing factor.” “The average size of an AFO festival is in the order of 3000-5000 visitors, so lost to the season are approx. 348,800 visits. From research conducted by EIF (the Events Industry Forum) and others, it is known that people spend around £320 per head at each festival.  With an average of approximately 3200 ticket holders visiting each festival in this AFO list, the spend reaches a total of at least £111,616,000 of gross takings lost to the industry, the UK and local economies.”  This is calculated at the beginning of May with several other festivals yet to declare their plans.

“Of course there will be casualties both in festival terms and the enormous band of contractors and suppliers to this very busy seasonal industry. Government financial support in the main has not recognised the impact of a lost festival season on the communities in which they are held, nor the damage done to the charities which so many festivals support. This, quite apart from the livelihoods of mainly self-employed festival organisers and back up teams.” “However, survive to present their festivals another day they certainly will, and to help promote those dates, AFO has produced a members and friends festival list for 2021 (with one or two still hanging in there for 2020). This list, posted on the AFO website, will be updated as new information comes in.  For now, please support what is left of the current season and plan now by booking tickets for 2021. As a festival goer your support will be much appreciated as AFO festivals recover.”