I went to Tokyo Disneyland. It was on my bucket list and as it is my last time in this grand city the decision to go was an easy one. Already on the train there I spotted several people in complete Disney gear. It made me wonder why people dress up like that. It’s not just Disney. You see the same at events like Comic Con and also at festivals. People like to go out of their way to dress up.
It’s almost 2017! So what are the event trends for the New Year? What will be different, or change, or revolutionise the events industry?
Whether you call them trends or expectations, it doesn’t really matter. Most event professionals seem to agree that event technology will become a bigger part of your event planning process. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are also hot favourites. Oh, and of course data… Not sure if that is a trend though. I think ‘big data’ has already been with us for a few years and, yes, the events industry will continue to utilise it in 2017.
The first one to publish their trends and predictions was Eventbrite UK. You can read their predictions here: Event trends that will shape your 2017! Over 50 event professionals tell you what they think will be a trend to look out for in the New Year. Most predictions lean towards: event technology, data usage, and virtual reality.
The Event Managers Blog produced a fantastic booklet 10 Event Trends For 2017. It’s actually more than 10 trends as they divided it into four categories: event technology, event design, venue management, and social media. You can read more about how the sharing economy will impact the events industry, about touchable tech at events, and on-site creation. One of my favourite predictions is Drone Streaming! You can read more about drone streaming and drone selfies at events here.
Music festivals in 2017
The Conversation is taking a different angle as they speculate whether large outdoor festivals will be a thing of the past. Smaller, more niche, or boutique festivals might be more a 2017-thing. The article refers to T in the Park, quite a large outdoor music festival, as a festival that seeks to take steps towards a smaller set-up. You can read the article Are Giant Music Festivals At The End Of The Road? here.
My 2017 event trend
And my prediction? With over 7,000 outdoor events each year the UK has one of the most buoyant festival markets in the world. Buoyant and crowded. I think we will see a rise of smaller, more intimate, and more sustainably oriented festivals in the UK.
This prediction is based on a trend we see in America. There, so-called transformational music festivals have established themselves as a unique, experiential and educational alternative to large festivals. The creativity (of venue layout, structures etc.) at transformational festivals is quite often top-notch. People want a unique experience when they visit a festival, a festival that they feel part of. These events seem to offer just that hence I think we will see more smaller and attendee-focussed festivals.
Happy 2017! You can follow me on Youtube: Every week an interview with an event expert.
Together with the Event Safety Institute in the Netherlands I am organising a two-day workshop about Sustainable Event Management. It will take place in Holland on the 18th and 19th of January and yes, it will be in Dutch.
This workshop is for event planners, festival organisers, event suppliers, and event licensors. The aim of the workshop is to provide you the tools to make your organisation and your events more sustainable.
You can find more information here. All info is in Dutch but feel free to contact me of you have any questions.
Afrofest Music Festival in Toronto, Canada, has been told they can no longer organize a 2-day festival as a result of noise complaints. The alternative is a one-day festival. City councilors, neighbours, and a festival organizer are arguing about music levels. Or noise levels. So, when does music becomes noise?
In a waste management plan you identify how you will deal with waste and the different waste streams at your event. There are different forms of waste. You can think of rubbish, air pollution, noise pollution, soil pollution, and sewage. When creating a good waste plan you should look at the layout and logistics of your event site.
I've just finished a Skype conversation with someone from Sheltercare. Sheltercare is a Belgian company producing sustainable tents for, among others, festival goers. The company is born out of the realisation that so many tents are left behind at festival sites. At European festivals this tent dumping is a real problem.
Pictures of the 2013 edition of Reading Festival in England showing the vast amount of waste left behind at the festival site went viral. Outcry followed but it's pretty much the same at other festivals worldwide. Festival attendees, tired after several days partying, look at their tent and think: it's a cheap tent, I'm tired, and I can't be bothered to break it down and bring it all the way back home. Let's leave it!
The assumption is that the festival will clean it up. After all you paid a lot of money for your ticket so surely they can afford someone to clean it up. You see the same attitude in cinemas. People buy a gallon of coke and a bucket of popcorn. Once the movie has finished people get up and leave the buckets behind making sure Hans & Gretel can use the popcorn on the floor to find their way out of the theatre. After all, you paid for the ticket so someone else can clean your mess.
But if that is the attitude than surely that attitude changes when people visit a festival organised by a non-profit? Not really. Last year I worked at San Francisco Pride. A not-for-profit organisation that is well known here in the Bay Area. Last year the event welcomed almost one million people. That's a lot of people and also a lot of waste. A lot of waste is created by sponsors handing out gadgets wrapped in plastic or cardboard. The audience likes getting stuff for free so they accept the gadgets. Once they had a good look at it, they throw it away. Not in a bin. Bins are overflowing with waste already anyway. So on the floor it is. It makes the festival site look like a mess (let alone a safety issue). Not what the organisation had in mind and surely also not what a festival attendee wants?!
So is it 'green fatigue'? I guess it comes down to the psychology of the attendees. If something is already a mess you don't feel guilty for littering. After all you didn't start it, you just did what all the others are doing. Right... But still someone started it and must have thought that is was okay to do so. So what can we do to change that attitude?
Millennials are not as green minded as they say they are, according to a 2013 research study from DDB Worldwide. They don't recycle as much as baby boomers for example. But interestingly they do feel that an individual can make a difference.
Can festivals promote their cleaning activities to an individual rather than a crowd? I think they can. Make it a personal issue! Perhaps they can promote the benefits of their waste program to their audience. How they deal with waste and why they want to reduce the amount of waste collected needs to be communicated. What is it that a festival wants to achieve with their waste management program? A cleaner site, more pleasant environment for attendees, a safer place, sustainable motives? Whatever the goals are they need to be communicated to the audience in easy to understand messages. And for crying out loud make it easy for your attendees to actually do what you want them to do. Your average Joe doesn't know the difference between biodegradable plates, recyclable plates, and those plasticky looking plates. Is that plastic? Don't give them a reason to get 'green fatigue'.
As far as the audience goes they need to understand that their behaviour has a price tag attached to it. Someone has to pay for cleanup and a festival organisation will recoup the money somewhere; most likely your ticket price. No one likes to sit on a waste dump so try to keep the festival site (relatively) clean. I hope you agree with me so why do you litter when you're at a festival site? Don't tell me you're too wasted (...) to think about it.
So, this summer we'll all pick up the cr*p we've created when at a festival site. We promise to throw everything in the bins provided and we promise to take our tents back home with us so we can reuse them again. And again! Let's start a culture change. Somehow I need to think of the South Koreans who made it to the semi final in the 2002 football World Cup. Huge crowds gathered to watch the game and afterwards they made sure they took all their stuff with them, leaving behind a clean place. So perhaps we need a Korean approach at festivals: a change of culture!
Over the years festivals have launched initiatives such as 'love your tent', 'leave no trace', and 'pack it in, pack it out'. Great initiatives but the real struggle is to convince the audience to participate. Let's hope 2015 will be the year that we start loving our tent and we pack it in and out so that we don't leave a trace. Please!
California is in a drought. No rain and not enough snow. Hardly any snow fell on the Sierras this winter and, as it is spring already, not a lot more snow is expected. Hence governor Jerry Brown's statement last week that California is more or less running on its water reserves and that we, the residents, need to cut down our water usage. The idea is to cut overall water consumption by 25%. Fair point, I thought. Do-able as well for the Stegeman-Sheard household.
But how bad is it really? California has been in a four year drought. Normally it relies on snowfall in the Sierras and the water coming from that should get the rest of the State through the summer. Besides the lack of snow it also doesn't really rain in California. Already at the beginning of March I received an email from a ski resort near Lake Tahoe that they were closing for the season. Normally they close at the end of April. Go figure...
Residents will have to rethink how they're using water. That made me wonder how Californian festivals will deal with the drought. It's tricky to come up with an exact figure for water usage per person at a festival. How much water is used depends on where and when an event is taking place. It depends on the weather, the nature of the event, and on the audience. According to research done in 2009 by Stew Denny, a former student of mine, it was estimated that a visitor at Glastonbury Festival (UK) used about 13 liters of water per day. That's almost 3.5 gallons of water per person per day.
So let's have a quick look at some festivals: Coachella (90,000 visitors per day), Lightning in a Bottle (15,000 visitors), and Bottle Rock (120,000 visitors) are only 3 of the many festivals here in California about to kick off the festival season. That's a lot of water... The key thing is that festivals need to look at how they can minimize their water usage. Lightning in a Bottle actively communicates to its audience their sustainable intentions. Some great ideas have also been implemented at several other festivals here in the USA. From faucet monitors to shower fairies and from dry showers to dishwashing programs, there are some great ideas out there.
Are festival attendees aware how much water is used at festivals and do they know what happens to 'non drinking water'. You know, the water used at showers, the production area, the staff kitchen, toilets, food stalls, bars. They all use water or they produce some form of water (sewage for example). It might be a good time for festivals to start creating awareness among their audiences about water usage at festivals.
Earlier this year The Huffington Post published a story that carried the title 'ecstasy levels spike in rivers near major music festival in Taiwan'. Turns out that traces of xtc, ketamine, and caffeine found their way into the soil and river near the festival site. The effects on local wildlife are yet unknown. Think about that next time you squat behind some bushes. On their website Glastonbury Festival is asking their attendees to please use toilets and not to pee on the ground as it will increase toxic levels of the water table. So there you have it... potty training done by festivals.
Meanwhile in Belgium they came up with something new. In 2014 Rock Werchter festival in Belgium introduced an onsite water treatment station. Unique in the world! This mobile water treatment unit collects sanitary and other wastewater the festival has produced in a holding basin. Within the basin the water is filtered and separated from the waste. All of it is done in a biological manner. A great initiative!
This week I've published an e-book. Event Management: Your Environmental Plan. It covers water usage at festivals as well. Coincident? I think not!
The forecast is for rain tomorrow. Let's hope it actually rains this time... I think we need it.