BAFA Conference for Festivals 2021: Reconnect

Thank you for attending the BAFA Conference for Festivals 2021: Reconnect! This page has been updated with all the information about the event, including post-event recordings, presentations, links and resources if available.


The conference programme is here.

Tuesday 16th November 2021

12pm: Registration/coffee

12:30pm – 1:45pm: Lunch

1:45pm: Welcome and opening thoughts

2pm – 2:45pm: Beyond the Market: re-imagining the arts during the pandemic

Alan Lane, Artistic Director of Slung Low, talks about how Slung Low has transformed its work during the pandemic, the ways in which it works with, by and for its community and what this might mean for the future of the arts. Chaired by Dr Jane Ali-Knight of Edinburgh Napier University. Listen to the recording here

Watch the Slung Low video: A Club on the Edge of Town

2:45pm – 3:15pm: Coffee

3:15pm – 4:15pm: Changing the narrative

Gary Briggs (Manchester International Festival) and Jocelyne Underwood (Field 19) talk about apprenticeships and their role in inclusive recruitment. Chaired by Ashley Morris of Newbury Spring Festival. Listen to the recording here

Access Joss and Gary’s slides here

The Northern Apprenticeship Project is looking for creative organisations and employers to come on board to join up to the network and also as host employers. Do get in touch with Joss directly for more info or to be involved – they hope to hear the outcome of the bid in December.

4:15pm – 5pm: Roundtables: looking at a range of topics including insurance; apprenticeships; youth ambassadors; data

6pm – 7.30pm: Drinks receptionHotel du Vin

8pm: Evening dinner (optional)

Wednesday 17th November 2021

9am: Registration

9:25am: Welcome

9:30am: Reconnecting with audience

Katy Raines from Indigo will present research on audience return to live events, following up on their work on lockdown and audiences for digital culture. This will include new research on ‘missing’ audiences – who haven’t yet returned – and exploring how they feel about returning to live events. Chaired by Dr Jane Ali-Knight of Edinburgh Napier University. Listen to the recording here

Access Katy’s slides here

Indigo is currently taking registrations for wave 2 which will take place in January/February 2022. Organisations can sign up and find out more via their website or get in touch (; and they can help.

10:30am – 11:30am: Re-imagined Organisations

Laurie Sansom (Northern Broadsides), Sharon Canavar (Harrogate International Festivals) and Justin Lee (Cambridge Music Festival) talk about the ways their organisations have transformed in response both to the pandemic and social justice movements, and what this means for their longer-term impact, organisational resilience and reach. Chaired by Erica Smith, Ports Fest. Listen to the recording here

Access Laurie’s slides here

Access Justin’s slides here

Nina Simon’s The Art of Relevance is available to read here

12pm – 1pm: Re-balancing: festivals and mental health

Mary Burch from the creative arts mental health charity Industry Minds talks about the challenges of work-life balance, the uncertainty and anxiety of the massive changes we have all faced since 2020, the isolation inherent in working in festivals and resilience, and gives some tips and resources to help re-balance. 1:1s will be available after the session or online. Chaired by Alison Giles of Presteigne Festival. Listen to the recording here

1pm – 1.45pm: Lunch

1.45pm – 2.30pm: Session breakouts: 1:1s for mental health; sustainability; research

2.30pm – 2.45pm: Coffee

2.45pm – 3.30pm: The Future of Festivals

Our closing panel includes Sam Hunt of Unboxed (Festival 2022) and Hannah Hartley of Xtrax and Without Walls. They present different takes on where festivals are headed, what partnerships and programming approaches will be necessary to recharge the sector, and how festivals can take forward learnings from environmental initiatives such as Without Walls’ Green Production Lab to develop more sustainable events. Session chaired by Lyndsey Fineran of Cheltenham Literature Festival. Listen to the recording here

Access Sam’s slides here

3.30pm: Close

Delegate list

A list of attendees is here.

Information for attendees

Information for attendees is here – this includes our approach to Covid management, information about the venue, accessibility and catering.

Post-event survey

The post-event survey was circulated to all attendees during the conference and the link to the survey is here.