BAFA Conference for Festivals 2023 Festivals Unite: Navigating the Future

Just a quick note to say thank you for a fab couple of days in Manchester with BAFA. The panels were great and it was lovely to meet so many friendly people from the Festival world – I really enjoyed it.” 2023 delegate

BAFA Conference 2023

Delegates at the 2023 BAFA Conference for Festivals, Aviva Studios

Thank you to everyone who attended this year’s BAFA Conference for Festivals, which took place in Manchester’s Aviva Studios on Thursday 23 (1pm – 5pm) and Friday 24 November 2023 (9am – 5pm).

The programme is here and featured sessions including:

  • Sustainability – how festivals are working in partnership to develop tools and share resources to reduce their carbon footprint; an introduction to the European Festivals Forest
  • Changing audiences, new approaches to ticketing – reviewing latest data on changing audience behaviours and exploring new ticketing models to reflect the changing audience
  • New approaches to programming – including reflection on the current challenges and potential new approaches to music programming, the impact of AI on festivals
  • Equality, diversity and inclusion – what festivals can do to diversify 
  • Research and data – the launch of BAFA’s Festivals Mean Business 4 research programme, latest updates on the BAFA/BCU collaborative doctoral award on arts festivals at a time of crisis, and the outcomes of QMUL’s literature festivals research

Speakers included representatives from Manchester International Festival, European Festivals Association, Wonderfeel, Black Lives in Music, Data Culture Change, Society of London Theatre, Cheltenham Festivals, USAN, BOP Consulting and QMUL.  

We also had roundtable sessions to enable delegates to talk together on specific topics including lobbying and advocacy; sharing sustainability successes and failures; the changing audience; team dynamics. The programme included plenty of opportunities for networking, a chance to explore Aviva Studios, a landmark new cultural space run by Factory International, the organisation behind Manchester International Festival, and a conference meal together at Côte on the Thursday evening. 

This map shows the location of the conference venue, the suggested conference hotel and Côte, plus the various rail stations.

Tickets were SOLD OUT and were held at 2022 prices for BAFA members. We offered reduced ticket prices of £25 for delegates aged under 26, and discounts for additional staff from the same organisation. We also had limited bursary tickets priced at £25 to help with conference attendance for first time attenders from local organisations and those who were struggling to be able to afford to attend.

It was fantastic to see so many of you in Manchester! All attendees and festival members will be able to access the private Conference page, which has resources from the sessions, including speakers’ slides, links and audio recordings. Please contact us for more information.

Aviva Studios by Pawel Paniczko