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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Lansley

Festival friends: A Congress of collaboration

Last week I got to stand onstage at Festival Congress - the AIF's annual conference with one of the best brains in accessibility, Alex Covell.


NB this is an Alex Covell stan post.


Attitude Is Everything were invited to be part of the lightning talk session at this year's AIIF conference (well, Alex was - then she kindly asked me to join her) and it was brilliant to be part of an update around "The Four Ts" in festival access.


Overunnning by a considerable margin before we even got to lunch, no one seemed to mind a schedule slip with so many great voices and brilliant ideas being shared. It's the only room I've been in where a bunch of stage managers appear relaxed about offpiste scheduling!


Our turn came, but when you follow new AIF appointees Adassa and Dan from AIF's new Youth Music funded EDI initiative it's hard act to beat. They discussed the opportunity before them and how they intend to take things forward within the AIF community and beyond - a brilliant step by the organisation, and a great spark for the future of festivals around the UK. More representation is sorely needed here, with very few projects existing to platform opportunities within the music industry in this way - with Continental Drift's Festival Lab currently one of the shining beacons of practice.


Talking of beacons... Festival Congress was held at Bristol Beacon this year - where I was lucky to attend for their opening night that featured the Paraorchestra. Very lucky I was to be invited as a guest of Drake Music :)


It was great to return, and to be taken on a facilities tour by Joe was not just a dream opportunity for myself, Alex and accessibility specialist Harry Jones - but genuinely humbling to see the scale of planning and development that has gone into their access provisions where so many can learn from what has been acheived here.


I also got to stand on the stage (which is not unusal for me given my evening and weekends job) but do hope to return here to perform one day as the acoustics are something else entirely.. That's Alex there photobombing me! Legend.


We followed the conference day with after parties at Lost Horizon, where Global Local were programming a night of brilliant music and I had a pizza that was roughly the same temperature as the sun. Thanks to my own bungled senses I was several slices in before I noticed my mouth had been stripped of any kind of nerve endings. I can't even begin to get across things I've done with the Lost Horizon and Global Local crews, but I guess a good example would be when I worked with them as a producer, manager and performer at a VR Festival during 2020, attended by 4.3m people.


At Lost Horizons we all hung out with a bunch of lovely neurodivergents for the evening, which turned out to be a great shout when we all realised no one cared if anyone did the backdoor boogie and enjoyed a respectful 9pm departure time.


I went back to my hotel and enjoyed two hours of learning the history of non-euclidean geometry (awesome, give it a whirl) to ease myself to sleep, so all in all a fabulous day that you can watch back here:


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