Challenges of tomorrow – festivals and events

Glastonbury festival at night

Events are a major element of the UK economy, with an estimated £3.3 billion revenue in 2023.

We ran the “Challenges of tomorrow – festivals & events” panel to give students an insight into how to get into this exciting sector, with expert input from Pauline Bourdon, Stevie Lee-Bennett and Charlie Wall.

Here is a quick introduction to our panellists, their backgrounds, and current roles:

Pauline Bourdon

Pauline Bourdon is a Director at Soliphilia (a green touring & sustainability consultancy), a lecturer in event sustainability at BIMM Bristol, a sustainability consultant with UNSW Cardiff, and the Head of Sustainability & Social Cohesion at Team Love – an event production company producing 6 festivals a year including Love Saves the Day in Bristol, Silver Hayes at Glastonbury Festival and Waterworks, London.

Charlie Wall is the Events Manager at University of Bristol.

He previously worked with the University of Bristol in the enquiries team. Following that, he was the event assistant and subsequently the undergraduate recruitment manager of the undergraduate recruitment team.

Charlie Wall
Stevie Lee-Bennett

Stevie Lee-Bennett works as an Assistant Production Manager at Boomtown Fair.

She has previous experiences working across the event industry which includes site production operations, accommodation and travel as well as working with artists.

What are the current challenges and opportunities facing the events and festivals industry?

Following Brexit and post-pandemic cost of living challenges, Charlie and Stevie pointed out that the cost of production for events has been increasing. This has prompted the industry to respond with innovations such as reusing and recycling materials at festivals, providing opportunities for creative and sustainable solutions to be implemented throughout the sector.

As the Head of Sustainability & Social Cohesion at Team Love, Pauline highlighted how the organisation manages environmental, social and economic aspects of the festival industry. For instance, the team works with local traders and partners with organisations such as EarthPercent, ClimateLive and Safer Spaces at their festivals to help address some of the more complex issues within the sector.

The top three skills needed to work in events and festivals

  • Staying calm and positive under pressure. The ability to tackle unexpected problems and react to situations is important within the events and festivals industry. Stevie also highlighted that having a positive attitude especially when working long hours during festivals and providing support for other team members is crucial.
  • Be passionate about what you do. Pauline and Stevie encouraged students to show their passion in job applications and be open to sharing any unique ideas that they might have. Speaking on the topic of approaching festivals on sustainability, Pauline mentioned one way to do this is by writing to festivals to showcase an understanding of the festivals’ unique selling points and practice, and demonstrate how new ideas can be applied to them. Production companies are often eager to learn more about creative and innovative solutions tackling some of challenges within the industry.
  • Be enthusiastic and willing to learn. While students might not necessarily have specific work experience in the industry they are applying for, willingness to learn is one of the skills that employers such as Charlie look for in applicants. This also includes being enthusiastic in learning and keeping updated with industry trends and current news. For example understanding the different roles within the sector, reading industry-wide reports and familiarity with companies values and guidelines on best practice.

How can you make an application stand out?

Charlie and Stevie caution against the use of AI for applications. It is important that students showcase their personal background, interests, and experiences and relates these back to job descriptions. Pauline encourages students to think about “how does my personality fits within the job description” when applying to roles. For example, she mentioned finding an alignment between her love for planet and people and Team Love’s stated values, which helped her secure her current role.

Stevie reassured students who might be worried that they do not have directly relevant experience in events highlighting that transferable skills from part-time jobs, hospitality roles or volunteering are equally as valuable to help get you into the events and festivals industry.

This blog was written by Syndy, a final-year Law student and Career Peer Support Assistant.