Steve Heap sets retirement date, hands AFO operation to AIF

Steve Heap will retire from his position as General Secretary of the Association of Festival Organisers on April 2 2024, handing over the operation to John Rostron and the team at the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF). The AFO will continue to operate as usual following Steve’s exit.

Steve Heap has been AFO’s General Secretary since its formation in 1987. Since then, the organisation has grown from a handful of founding members to representing 102 festival and event organisers, with events ranging from as small as 500 to over 25,000 capacity.

The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) is the UK’s leading national not for profit festival trade association representing the interests of 101 UK music festivals, ranging from 500 to 80,000 capacity.

Together, the AIF and AFO will have a collective voice representing 202 festival promoters and events organisers across the UK.

The two trade bodies have come together many times in the past to fight for the combined interests of their members, often as a catalyst for significant change benefitting the UK festival industry.

Achievements include negotiating a new reduced percentage licence deal for live festival performance with PRS for Music; negotiating a reduction on VAT for tickets sales to 5% during Covid; lobbying government for financial support, and leading to the contribution of over a billion pounds from the Cultural Recovery Fund to a wide variety of Arts organisations.

Steve Heap said: “Since founding AFO in 1987, I have devoted a considerable amount of time, effort and love to the grassroots festival industry. Members and I have worked together to build a stronger, well-recognised and sustainable future. Retiring from this desk now, after 38 years, is a big tug and I will leave all the ‘thank yous’ to my personal letters later. For now and the future, I am delighted to be giving the reins to John Rostron and the team at AIF, where I know AFO members will find support, knowledge, campaigning and unity in this world of festivals. AFO members are creative, conscientious, and resilient, and I believe will embrace this change of management with enthusiasm, leading on to a real recovery and strong, successful season in 2024.”

AIF CEO John Rostron said: “Steve is a legend in the festival world and he’ll be greatly missed as he begins his retirement from AFO. I’m enormously pleased that his departing gesture is to entrust AFO to myself and the team at AIF. We’ll continue to support AFO members in the way they’ve become accustomed, but also bring new opportunities and strength by having so many independent festivals together in one place. I’m pleased that I’ll still get time with Steve as he offers his wisdom and support to me and the members as he steps back to enjoy more time in the fields, and less time at a desk.”