Festival Congress 2022 line-up and events announced for Bristol

NME will be chairing a panel, while The Fall icon Brix Smith will be speaking at the event to celebrate independent festivals and discuss the issues they face

The full line-up has been revealed for the Association of Independent Festivals’ annual Festival Congress 2022 – with appearances from The Fall icon Brix Smith alongside figures from the UK’s esteemed festival circuit. NME will be acting as media partner and hosting one of the panels on the day.

Taking place at Bristol’s M Shed on Princes Wharf on Tuesday February 15, the Festival Congress is the annual flagship event of the AIF and the largest gathering of independent festivals in the UK – with over 300 industry delegates expected to attend in 2022. The event will offer high profile keynotes, engaging panel sessions, TED x style quick fire talks, breakout workshops and fireside chats with experts and inspiring personalities from across the festival and events world.

“In many ways, this year’s Festival Congress feels like the most important we’ve ever held,” said AIF CEO Paul Reed. “The pandemic has made an already challenging environment even more so as we return to the fields, and it’s important to offer members and the wider festival community an opportunity to connect in person. There is so much for festival organisers to discuss – from the latest operational considerations to stretched supply chains, diversity, climate action and the effects of Brexit.”


He added: “This year’s programme of subjects and speakers brings a breadth of insight, experience and expertise that will really benefit independent festival promoters.”

Brix Smith attends the 2018 NME Awards
Brix Smith. CREDIT: Getty

Brix Smith, who was recently announced as President of The F-List For Music, will be ‘In Conversation’ with Guardian’s Deputy Music Editor Laura Snapes, discussing the mission to achieve gender balance at UK festivals. The F-List For Music is a not-for-profit organisation set up to help female musicians gain greater representation and professional opportunities in the UK music industry.

“There are no excuses anymore, there should be equality everywhere for everybody,” said Smith. “There is so much talent not being heard, not having a chance, that you’re not even aware of. Bring the diverse talent to the plate!”

Reed added: “It’s a privilege to have someone of Brix’s stature and experience at next year’s Festival Congress to discuss the critical issue of gender balance at UK festivals. This is a headline session that will no doubt be incredibly engaging for the hundreds of delegates set to join us in Bristol for what will be an important stop off on the journey to the 2022 season.”

Mighty Hoopla 2021
Mighty Hoopla 2021 CREDIT: Luke Dyson


As well as an opening keynote from Black Lives In Music co-founder Roger Wilson, the Congress will also see the ‘State Of Independence’ panel with leading festival organisers offering key insights and reflections on ongoing challenges heading into the next festival season. The panel will consist of Jamie Tagg (Mighty Hoopla), Steven Campbell (Eskimo Dance), Lyndsey Wollaston (Vision Nine who put on Boardmasters and NASS) and Emma Holling (Underneath The Stars), and will be moderated by Andrew Trendell (NME News Editor).

There will also be a series of ‘Status Update’ sessions consisting of 10-minute talks from experts on various key topics and crucial issues as festival organisers head into the season.

The Status Update line-up is as follows: 

The Impact Of Brexit – David Martin (CEO, Featured Artists Coalition)
Festival Funding – Lucy Stone (No Stone Unturned)
Event Insurance And Reinsurance – Tim Thornhill and Tim Rudland (Tysers)
Working With Traders – Roxy Bentley (NCASS)
Covid And Safety Protocols – Jen Mackley (Mackley Projects and Events) and Emma Parkinson (Coventry University)
Staffing And Volunteering – Rob Wilkinson (My Cause)
Supply Chain Issues – Liz Madden (No Nonsense group)

Attendees will also be able to listen in on roundtable discussions on environmental impact in association with Vision 2025 and in-depth workshops on funding, crisis communications and digital marketing. The day will be capped off with a festival-themed party at Lost Horizon – an independent venue launched by the team behind Glastonbury’s legendary Shangri La area.

Visit here for tickets, the full line-up and more information on the AIF Festival Congress 2022.