Venues move in on the festival act

The UK festivals market is one of the most dynamic in the world, not least because of the continuing vibrant British outdoor music scene.

Many festivals are broadening their horizons, from the facilities they offer to spin-off events. Many more venues seem to be getting a piece of the festival action.

According to the Business Visits and Events Partnership, outdoor events, festivals, music and sporting events are worth £5.8bn to the British economy.

Bluesfest last year saw 30,000 music fans descend on the Royal Albert Hall in London.

Live Nation will this year introduce a six-day celebration of blues, jazz, roots and soul, incorporating a range of daytime activities alongside concerts in the Arena and Indigo as part of this year’s offer.

With the appetite for the festival market as hungry as ever, venues are adapting their facilities to take advantage.

The Kent Event Centre has invested £150,000 in campsite facilities, which will be available for festivals and corporate events such as teambuilding and residential conferences.

The site will offer corporate groups a rural alternative to the venue’s hotel accommodation, as well as a range of teambuilding and outdoor activities, including archery, shooting, surf simulating, human table football and bungee running.


Suppliers shape up

Established suppliers to the festival sector are investing time, money and effort.

Crowd management and event security specialist Showsec has announced new appointments recently aimed at growing its business.

Mark Harding, Showsec’s MD, said: “The appointments give us considerable experience in vital roles within the new Product Resourcing Department. The prime objective is to provide an enhanced service for casual workers and clients.”

Elsewhere, crowd safety barrier specialists Mojo Barriers are bringing event suppliers to a wider market by appearing on the Discovery Channel’s flagship How do they do it? documentary.

Mojo Barriers’ patented stage barrier system featured on the show, looking at how it is made, and the role it plays at some of the world’s largest and most well known events.



Of course, the benchmarks of a good festival season, for many, will be the quality of the headliners.

In the UK promoters do not have to look far for big names. Hot on the heels of the Foo Fighters confirming their Glastonbury slot, alongside Kanye West, Latitude, which celebrates its 10th year, and V Festival, in its 20th, have revealed their respective line-ups.

Latitude, which takes place in Suffolk in July, will feature Portishead and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds.

V-Festival at Hylands Park and at Weston Park in August, meanwhile, has announced a line-up including Kasabian and Calvin Harris. Greenwich Music Time returns, 22-25 July, after an inaugural 2014 event that saw more than 16,000 ticketgoers gather at the Old Royal Naval College to see the likes of Goldfrapp, Jools Holland and Russell Watson.


Contracts and innovations

So how do these, and other, festivals function logistically and from a consumer perspective?

Canadian technology company Intellitix billed 2014 as the year that signalled a ‘turning point’ for cashless events. Last year, Intellitix recorded a 20-fold increase in cashless transactions compared to 2013. More than four million cashless transactions were made using its cashless payment system.

“This represents a true shift in attitude towards cashless payments, both from event organisers and the public. We launched our cashless system in 2013 and to see this level of growth in such a short time proves it is the way forward,” said Serge Grimaux, CEO, Intellitix.

Ticketscript is the ticketing partner for LPH Concerts’ Bedford Park Concert series this summer. Secondary ticketing remains a hot topic. Isle of Wight Festival director John Giddings said he couldn’t believe secondary ticketing was still allowed, as proposals to make secondary ticketing websites more transparent were rejected in Parliament.


Heritage sites

Moya Maxwell, chair of Unique Venues of London venue marketing consortium believes heritage venues are becoming increasingly popular as locations for big events. She told CN: “The grandeur of the buildings or picturesque setting make such spaces the perfect backdrop for festivals, such as the Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House, or Kew The Music Festival. Of course the considerations are different to those of a blank canvas or purpose-built venue and we have to consider each request on a case-by-case basis to ensure any build, staging or media is empathetic to the building and its brand.”

Barney Hooper, communications director at The O2 says his venue hosts a variety of large-scale events from live music to award ceremonies, performances, conferences and sporting events. “In the last few years we have hosted the Barclays ATP World Tour Tennis Finals, the only National Basketball Association (NBA) season game to be played outside the US, The BRIT Awards, KPGM’s ‘One Firm’ event and the Gymnastics during the 2012 Olympics, not to mention top music and comedy stars in our 20,000 capacity arena.

“With one-off events such as these, the pressure is on to remain the number one venue in the world. “These events are multi-faceted and complex operations, so it is vitally important to plan, plan and plan again,” says Hooper. “Catering, AV, Wi-Fi, operations, security and crowd control are just a few of the key functions that need to run simultaneously and without a hitch. Pre-empting any crisis is fundamental in ensuring that all eventualities are covered with a plan B ready to go.”

Festivals are meant to be fun fundamentally, so when everything is booked and ready, don’t forget to issue the rules of the game to all staff. Good behaviour makes for a success and if everyone knows the ground rules before the show gets going, there’s less risk of tears at the end.




Conference News resides at the heart of the conference industry examining the issues affecting organisers, venues, destinations and suppliers. Published monthly, Conference News features the latest news, interviews and industry analysis from market influencers.

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