Jim Davey Redwood Event Solutions Jim Davey

Small is beautiful: Redwood’s Jim Davey on why small festivals need our support

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Jim Davey, managing director of Redwood Event Solutions, explains why we need to support smaller events in 2023

I love smaller festivals, the under 10,000 capacity ones where you get to know everyone on site and can get around without a buggy! As a festivalgoer, you can make friends and bump into the same people across the weekend and every performance feels special.

It’s these events where youngsters cut their teeth and learn festival dos and don’ts, and where veterans stand loyal to their favourites and wouldn’t dream of missing them.

Small and medium-sized festivals are vital to the industry. We all know the “big boys” when it comes to festivals and there will always be a place and a demand for those, but I feel that the smaller ones allow variety, diversity, opportunity, and interest, and make festivals available to all.

They also support the local economy with opportunities for catering, bar, crew, and local jobs, and are key for emerging artists, giving them an opportunity to perform and grow. The event landscape would look very different without them…

In 2022, I saw music events, festivals and outdoor gigs filling the events calendar. It’s happening this year too and we are returning to some kind of post- pandemic normal – and it feels great!

But we must not forget or underestimate the impact those unplanned fallow years have had on the smaller and emerging festivals. A combination of national and international issues has been extremely challenging, then Brexit, COVID and now, the cost-of-living crisis, all affecting everyone within the industry, leading to a saturated and potentially soft market.

Association of Independent Festival’s data states that in 2022 nine per cent of festivals were cancelled, and in 2021 a massive 53 per cent were cancelled or postponed. While many of these may have postponed and returned, it is inevitable that some may not be able to financially weather the economic storm we have and are still experiencing.

With talent shortages across the industry, escalating costs and shortages of materials, every event organiser is still facing challenges to make their event happen – and this is compounded for those with less buying power and tighter margins.

From a health and safety point of view, there is some hangover from COVID and more pressure on working SAG groups which is then transferred and particularly felt by smaller events. I’m working with events that are launching year one and are being asked for all paperwork six months plus in advance of the show. Local councils are under pressure and pressing for even more controls and arrangements, meaning organisers need to engage specialists much further out.

So, what can we do as event professionals to make sure we keep the event landscape as rich and varied as it can be and fill the
UK with options for every taste, budget, and interest? Understanding the pressures within the industry and working out tangible ways – both as individuals and as businesses – that we can help and make a difference is key. I work with events of all sizes and am trying to ensure that small to medium-sized events can take place, by working with local events that I love, and even offering subsidised rates where I can.

I was struck by the similarities between the Music Venues Trust’s recent campaign to “Own our Venues” and what our event industry is facing. We should be looking to an industry-wide campaign or initiative that raises awareness and support, calling on everyone to do their bit to protect this wonderful industry so everyone has the choice of festivals to attend in years to come.