Music festival season may officially be over, but all that really means is we can start looking forward to next year.
While fans start saving up for tickets and getting their war paint on for the nerve-wracking sale days that lie ahead, organisers are preparing to make future festivals more sustainable than ever before.
Leading by example was this year’s Forwards Festival in Bristol, organised by AEG (the hivemind behind Coachella and All Points East) and Team Love. Considering 2022 was Forwards Festival’s first year in operation, their line-up was absolutely nothing to be sniffed at.
And, when they weren’t booking and hosting acts like Charli XCX, Little Simz, The Chemical Brothers, and Self Esteem (to name but a few), organisers were working tirelessly on a series of social initiatives to change the future of inner-city music festivals.
For example, between the two main stages in Clifton Downs - where the festival was held this September - was an information stage chock full of inspirational experts, artists and activists hosting talks and debates on everything from current affairs to cultural issues.
Meanwhile, Team Love ran a number of accessibility schemes to make sure locals from all walks of life got in on the conversation and had their voices heard. – in between all the partying, of course.
On day one of the festival, one of the head organisers noted: “I can see our audience out there today has a really diverse range of people. I'm really proud that we're amplifying the voices of local campaigns to local people who can then proactively get involved in them.”
She was right. You didn’t have to walk around the festival grounds for too long to notice just how diverse the crowds were – from toddlers jamming out on their parents’ shoulders to older couples sitting out on the grass, from festival fanatics who had travelled from far and wide to locals who just stopped in to take a look.
What stood out most, though, was the Team Love’s huge effort to preserve the future of music festivals by focusing massively on sustainability, both on-site and behind the scenes.
You can tell almost immediately that, when it comes to climate change, this festival means business.
For one thing, there were so many recycling bins across the grounds that, no matter how many pints you’d had, there was very little chance your rubbish was going to be left on the ground.
And if, for some reason, you missed them, it’d be impossible to ignore the smell of the compost loos wafting through the air every so often.
Perhaps less easy to spot was the team led by Sustainability and Social Cohesion Co-Ordinator Pauline Bourdon, keeping track of the festival’s food waste, energy consumption, water use, etc. so that next they can make plans to reduce their impact next year.
Starting as they mean to go on, Forwards took the Vision 2025 pledge this year, meaning they’ve promised to reduce their entire environmental footprint by 50% by 2025, with an aim for to be at net zero by 2030.
“It’s a bit more ambitious than current legislations”, said Pauline.
“We thought it was perfect for Forwards. The idea is for events to start understanding their impact and then once they have enough data to be able to measure that, then reduce it.”
Once Pauline and her team had all their data from the 2-day festival, they'd get to work on plans to reduce the impact of next year’s event. Towards the end of a full-on festival season – which definitely had its share of bumps in the road - Pauline seemed pleased with how things were going at Forwards when I spoke to her. She put it down to the great communication between organisers and ticket-holders.
“It’s about transparency”, she said.
"You can't ask people to do something or to behave a certain way if you don't show them that you're doing something.
“We’re not saying, ‘Look how great we are’, we’re saying, ’if you can recycle and do these things, we want you to know that we are also taking care of things behind the scenes and we all in this together.’”
Today, Vision 2025 has gotten more than 40 music festivals across the UK on-board with their pledge to cut down on GHG emissions and leaving no trace, so we can keep the party going.