First speakers announced for AIF Festival Congress 2019

03 Jul 2019

Flagship festival conference returns to Sheffield on November 6 – 7

Tickets on sale now:

Initial speakers and details have been revealed for the 2019 edition of the Association of Independent Festivals’ flagship Festival Congress.

The conference, along with The Independent Festival Awards, will return to Sheffield for a second consecutive year on November 6 – 7.

Tickets are on sale now via

The theme of this year’s Festival Congress is ‘Utopia And Dystopia’. Initial confirmed speakers include Bing Jones of socio-political campaigning group Extinction Rebellion, and Rock ‘n’ Roll cultural historian Jen Otter Bickerdike.

Jones will speak about Extinction Rebellion’s tactics and the planning process behind their campaigns, and Bickerdike will deliver a quick-fire talk about fan communities.

Jack Williamson, founder of mental health and wellness company Music & You, will talk about supporting attendee’s mental health and well-being at music events, including the ‘LiveLive’ initiative his organisation launched in partnership with Lewis Capaldi for the star’s 2020 arena tour.

Chris Sheldrick will also attend to talk about how his frustrations in the live music industry with suppliers and artists struggling to find the correct venue entrances resulted in the foundation of What3Words, which divides the world into a grid of 3m x 3m squares and assigns each one a unique three-word address.

Other sessions will include ‘Festival Hacks’, with quick fire tips from festival organisers, a panel discussion on the meaning of independence in the current festival climate and a wide-ranging sustainability session that will cover innovative green initiatives from the 2019 season.

A full programme will be announced in September.

The Congress will move to a new Sheffield venue, The Abbeydale Picturehouse and Picturehouse Social, a stunning 1920’s art deco cinema, in 2019.

The Independent Festival Awards will again take place at 92 Burton Road, a warehouse venue that is well known for its ‘Peddler night market’ street food events. This year’s awards programme will be refreshed with new categories.

AIF CEO Paul Reed said: “We’re delighted to announce initial details of AIF’s Festival Congress 2019, our second in Sheffield. The theme of ‘Utopia And Dystopia’ feels very timely and we’re very excited about the conference moving to Abbeydale Picturehouse, which is an incredibly atmospheric 1920’s cinema. As ever, we aim to reflect the creativity, innovation and hard work at the heart of the independent festival sector as well as seeking outside inspiration. That is what makes Festival Congress a unique event in the festival industry calendar.”

The AIF’s annual Congress has become a major fixture in the festival world’s calendar, attracting between 350-400 delegates annually, with five consecutive sold-out events.

The event offers unique networking opportunities alongside a platform for industry discussions. Its progressive format includes quick fire talks, interactive workshops and fireside chats with leading industry experts.

Attendees include notable festival organisers from the likes of Glastonbury, Bestival, Boomtown Fair, Kendal Calling, Shambala, End Of The Road, Liverpool Sound City and many more.

Previous speakers and keynotes include Jude Kelly OBE (former Artistic Director, Southbank Centre), John McGrath (CEO and Artistic Director, Manchester International Festival), Huw Stephens (BBC Radio 1 and Swn Festival Co-Founder), Simon Parkes (Founder, Brixton Academy), Fabien Rigall (Founder, Secret Cinema) and many more.

Tickets to Festival Congress are on sale now, priced at £100 for AIF members; £135 for Friends of AIF; £185 for non-member festivals, educational establishments and other organisations; and £235 for non-friend of AIF suppliers.

The event is on-sale exclusively through headline event sponsor Eventbrite. Festival Congress will again be supported this year by Sheffield City Council.

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