RECONNECT: Conference for festivals

BAFA are pleased to announce our first in-person conference since 2019, RECONNECT. This conference will be held at The Crown Hotel in Harrogate on Tuesday 16th November from 12pm until Wednesday 17th November at 4pm.

Tickets for the event are now on sale and can be bought here with a full programme to be announce shortly. The conference will cover a wide range of subjects including:

transformed spaces

re-imagined organisations

the changing audience – including an update from Indigo

mental health and festivals

building back better: diverse recruitment, focus on youth

Attitude is Everything: making 2022 the most accessible festival ever

the cutting edge: what is the future of festivals?


If you have never been to Harrogate before, you are really in for a treat – it has fantastic restaurants, shops, green spaces and access to wonderful countryside, as well as a fabulous festival. And Bettys!  We’re hugely looking forward to welcoming you in person to BAFA’s conference and very much hope to pick up the brilliant threads of conversation we had in Rewind, Play, Forward in February.  As ever, if there is anything you would like to discuss or see at conference, please get in touch.  We hope to see you in Yorkshire in November!

Graham Sykes Insurance Festival Team, the untold story!

Here at Graham Sykes Insurance we pride ourselves on providing an excellent level of service, we have a team at your disposal to help you reach the right answer for your Festival Insurance.

A brief introduction to each of them:

My name is Nick Smith, I have over 40 years experience in Financial Services and have been involved on charitable event organising across the UK and Europe for 20 years. I have organised events that have ranged from Film Festivals to Pro Celebrity Sports events raising many thousands for local and national charities.  

Debbie has worked with Graham for 5 years and has been fundamental in setting up the Festival process after we took it over from La Playa. Debbie is no stranger to events and supporting people to achieve high standards, her daughter is a National Sports Woman representing England. Her strong relationships with the festival organisers that she comes into contact with, means speaking to most on first name terms. She takes looking after her clients personally, her exacting standards and patience means she will try everything she can to ensure everything is “right and proper”.

Danielle has been involved with Graham Sykes Insurance since she was a small child, her mum who also works for Graham used to bring her into work. Hooked on insurance, she then rejoined in her teens and has continued to be part of Graham Sykes insurance adding her skills and attention to detail to the Festival Insurance Team shortly after our Festival Insurance began in 2018, we are in our fourth year now!

Jodie, our newest member of staff has also been involved in Festival Insurance from the very start, her personable attitude and sense of fairness means she sets a very high bar when it comes to clients service. A graduate in Theatre and Performance, Jodie has a keen interest in the arts. 

It would be very remiss not to mention the Captain of our ship, Graham Sykes. Graham has been involved in event insurance for 38 years and has a son, Michael, who is a professional musician with his own band called The Michael Sykes Band. Grahams passion for providing a high level of service and going the extra mile to ensure clients are given the correct level of cover is legendary in the insurance industry.

How has the industry responded to the pandemic and what can members expect when their policies come up for renewal?

As we appear to have nearly arrived at the point where “living with Covid” is “the new normal” I think there have been many lessons learned over the last 18 months:

The ability to innovate has been very important when having to deal with the huge impact of Covid, coupled with the fortitude to make very difficult decisions when the chips are down. I think the industry will emerge stronger and more determined than ever to keep the Arts and Music alive and well for everyone.

Insurance is an important part of looking after the unexpected, but pandemics on this scale have seen some Insurance Companies on the receiving end of some big surprises. It is not realistic to anticipate that an insurance policy will pay out all claims when circumstances like Covid 19 present themselves. So what should we learn from this?

Working with your broker is very important, insurance is not all about price it is about covering what is needed and understanding the risks. Asking questions and challenging your understanding with your broker has become very much more evident during the last 18 months. I hope this becomes a big part of the new normal. In 40 years in financial services I am still waiting to to be asked a stupid question!

What types of cover are offered to 2021 events in relation to the new risks and challenges related to the pandemic? 

I think this is something we have explored a lot during Covid and have developed a process for our Festival Policy that means it can be tailored to the reflect the things we know now and prepare for what might be. In essence the pandemic has meant our world is in a state of flux and so our insurance offer also needed to recognise that. The Festival Team worked with Festival organisers to provide a “pick and mix” opportunity for our clients, this means they can buy sections of the policy when they need it and leave other parts waiting in the wings for when circumstances are more clear.

To help provide additional advertising we have added a Whats On page to our own web site where you can add your event for free. Why not add your event now just follow the link!

Are there other changes to the types of cover being offered this year, particularly in response to the changing nature of festival organisations and their events?

Like you, as members of BAFA, we at Graham Sykes Insurance have had to change and innovate, thank you to each of you who have come with us on this journey. We have worked together in setting up policies that are still relevant to your needs but have been tailored to accommodate the pandemic. Whether you held an optimistic view as we picked our way through the carnage of this horrid desease or a more cautious one, we have all benefitted from your company, thank you.

As you continue to innovate, as I am sure you will, then letting your broker know early will help us meet your needs. I think it has become evident this last 18 months that arranging your insurance has become an integral part of your event set up, right from the first planning meetings to the final execution. The pandemic has meant most traditional events had to be cancelled or completely reinvented, the future is currently looking brighter and your Graham Sykes Team are ready and waiting.

What advice would you offer members in relation to insuring this year’s events?

Pick up the phone and share your thoughts, together we can get back to the “bright and inspiring new normal” whatever that holds.

My advice to all of you is keep talking, you want to put on a fantastic show and we want to be there with you. It is your stories and your needs that change our industry, communicating your hopes and desires means we can try to deliver the cover you need.

Good luck and thank you, your Festival Team are looking forward to talking to you.

Job Vacancy: Petworth Festival, Festival Manager

Petworth Festival in West Sussex is looking for a new Festival Manager. Responsibilities include the overall management of the festival/business; oversight and general administration of the marketing and box office operations; liaison with and management of the sponsorship programme; and financial and administrative liaison with the Artistic Director and the Events and Publications Manager.

It is expected that this will be a full time role with intense periods of activity in the build up to and during the twin summer and autumn literary festivals (July and November).

Previous experience of working within an arts environment is preferable but not essential. The preferred candidate should be a self-starter, should be IT/tech savvy, and should have the facility to work from home.

Salary according to experience

Please send applications to the Festival Chairman Neil Franks neilbfranks@gmail.com. Closing date Friday 30 July 2021

Petworth Festival has been a key part of the diary of this picturesque part of West Sussex for over 40 years. The organisation is a registered charity with oversight from a voluntary board of trustees and managed on a day to day basis by a small professional team – Artistic Director, Festival Manager, Assistant to the Festival Manager and the Events and Publications Manager. Production services are provided by Rhino Audio Visual. A substantial group of volunteers assists on many levels.

Funded by a mix of box office, sponsorship (private and corporate) and grant income, the summer festival runs for nearly three weeks and celebrates a wide range of the performing arts. Originally exclusively a classical music festival the festival now programmes across the genres, top artists in 2021 ranging from classical stars Jess Gillam, Isata Kanneh-Mason, Imogen Cooper and Mark Padmore to comedian and best selling author Adam Kay and The Blues Band, together with a free family weekend of events and participatory workshops. The literary week at the end of October will feature Sebastian Faulks, Jeremy Paxman, Dame Joan Bakewell, Barbara Dickson and the festival’s President Lord Egremont.

Events at both festivals happen across the immediate region the largest venues being Petworth House’s Stable Yard, Bignor Park and Midhurst Rother College and Seaford College (all C 500 seats). St Mary’s Church has long been the home of the festival and this houses the main classical events and a majority of literary week events. Following the successful streaming of the literary week in 2020, the 2021 will be streamed in parallel with the live events programme.

A Festival Career Online – Tickets on Sale

Monday 17th May
10am to 1pm


BAFA’s annual student conference A Festival Career allows students or recent graduates to network with festival professionals, with a tailored programme of 1:1 networking, round table discussions and panel debates. This is a great opportunity if you’re interested in pursuing a career in the festivals sector but want to know more about what kind of jobs are available and how to get your foot in the door.

Tickets are now on sale and can be bought here.

The programme for the day is as follows:

10am – 10:50am
Exploring Careers in Festivals
Our panellists, Tessa Deterding (Publicist, Premier), Adam Pushkin (Freelance Producer, SHOUT Festival) will discuss how they came to work in festivals, the reality of working in festivals and share tips on what they have learned along the way.

10:50 – 11:10am
Short Break/Networking on Wonder.me

11:10am – 12:00pm
The Future of Festivals
Fiona Goh of BAFA, Mark Currie from RHASS, and David Jarman of Edinburgh Napier University discuss what the future might hold for festivals as we emerge from the pandemic and what this means for the sector’s professionals.

12:00pm – 13:00pm
Mentor Sessions
These will be breakout sessions with festival professionals in which you will be able to ask them about their career progression within the industry.

Meet the Member: Devizes Art Festival

Devizes Arts Festival has been a major highlight of this Wiltshire market town for nearly 40 years. It takes place annually during the first two weeks in June and attracts a wide audience from across the county and beyond.

The aim of the Festival is to bring high quality events to the town, showcasing artists that local people would not normally be able to see. Every year it offers a wide programme of performing arts, including classical and popular music, jazz, theatre, comedy, choral music, poetry, dance, cinema and talks by leading personalities from the worlds of politics, history and literature. Over 30 events take place in a range of venues including the town’s historic Town Hall and Corn Exchange.

In addition to the main Festival, a programme of free fringe events takes place in pubs, clubs and churches across the town.

The Festival is organised and managed entirely by volunteers, supported by the Town Council and local businesses.