The Association of Festival Organisers (AFO) has announced the dates for its 2018 Conference. Now in its 32nd year the Conference will take place on 9, 10 and 11 November at the prestigious Stratford Manor Conference Centre and Hotel near Stratford upon Avon.

Based in the heart of the country with good road and rail transport links, Stratford is an ideal choice of location for the Conference which attracts festival representatives from across the UK.

Over the years the AFO has played a pivotal role in raising awareness of the socio-economic impact of the festival and events industry and brought about changes in attitudes, presentation and image of the sector.

This year’s Conference will continue that role with seminars that will cover sensitive, political and day to day topics. Discussions and talks will aim to address ways in which the festival industry can play its part in helping to conserve valuable resources focusing on the current crisis with plastics, recycling, and other pollutants and how festivals can reduce reliance on non-renewable energy. The impact Brexit may have on the festival industry will also be high on the agenda.


Topics that affect festivals of all sizes will include planning your festival site to make the best practical use of your space how to deal with waste management, how your festival impacts on the local community.

Other seminars will cover how to stay on the right side of new legislation following the introduction of GDPR, the new PRS tariffs and changes in Health and Safety requirements. And for festival organisers juggling with the finances of running an event, how to maximise charitable funding in the digital age through Crowdfunding.

On hand too are experts in many fields to answer specific questions on insurance, legal issues and accounting, dealing with contracts and artists, licensing and security.

But it is not all work and no play. This year the AFO has invited EFDSS Gold Badge Award recipient Ashley Hutchings MBE to be interviewed by highly respected journalist Colin Irwin. Best known as ‘the Guv’nor’, Ashley is the founding member of Fairport Convention, famed for inventing British folk rock. His career has taken him beyond the confines of the folk world into both the literary and theatrical spheres and he continues to create and inspire. These open interview sessions are an entertainment in their own right as Colin’s questions bring out many interesting stories and amusing anecdotes from his guest.

Showcase concerts on Friday and Saturday evenings will give delegates the chance to find new artists for their festivals. These concerts have traditionally proven to be a valuable opportunity for up-and-coming artists to be booked for their first festival experience. The concerts are also free to the public.

“Over the years the AFO has grown from a meeting of minds and shared experiences to an annual gathering that helps guide those involved in the festival industry towards best practices across all areas of an event” – Steve Heap, General Secretary explains “By keeping our finger on the pulse of changes, new legislation and new initiatives as they affect the events industry we can bring those subjects to Conference to share the knowledge and the ramifications”. He makes the point that the Conference will not teach someone how to start up and run a successful festival – more it will put them on the right road to thinking about every aspect of what is involved.

For those more experienced organisers, Conference is a mix of news, ideas and the best networking opportunity of the year.

“It is never too late to become part of our community” says Steve “So often new members tell us they wished they had known about the Conference when they first started their festival.

At Conference we try to help people avoid the pitfalls”

Adam is the co-founder and editor of Adam, a technology evangelist also organises Event Tech Live, Europe’s only show dedicated to event technology and the Event Technology Awards. Both events take place in November, London.