AIF Festival Congress 2019 announce first speakers

The flagship festival conference will return to Sheffield 6 to 7 November for the 2019 edition and the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) has revealed the first wave of speakers.

The theme of this year’s Festival Congress is ‘Utopia and Dystopia,’ and confirmed speakers include Bing Jones from the socio-political campaigning group Extinction Rebellion and cultural historian Jen Otter Bickerdike.

Bing will discuss the planning and tactics behind Extinction Rebellion’s campaigns, and Jen will deliver a talk on fan communities.

The event will also feature Music & You’s Jack Williamson talking about supporting attendee’s mental health and wellbeing at events, and Chris Sheldrick who will cover the What3Words and their work with location efficiency.

Other sessions at the event will cover sustainability and innovative green initiatives, festival hacks, and the meaning of independence in the current festival climate.

This year the Congress will move to a new Sheffield venue, The Abbeydale Picturehouse and Picturehouse Social, and the full programme will be revealed in September.

Paul Reed, chief executive, AIF says: ‘We’re delighted to announce initial details of AIF’s Festival Congress 2019, our second in Sheffield. The theme of ‘Utopia And Dystopia’ feels very timely and we’re very excited about the conference moving to Abbeydale Picturehouse, which is an incredibly atmospheric 1920’s cinema. As ever, we aim to reflect the creativity, innovation and hard work at the heart of the independent festival sector as well as seeking outside inspiration. That is what makes Festival Congress a unique event in the festival industry calendar.’

The annual AIF Congress attracts 350 to 400 delegates, has achieved five consecutive sold-out events and is attended by festival organisers like Glastonbury, Boomtown Fair, Bestival, End of the Road and Liverpool Sound City.

Previous speakers and keynotes include Jude Kelly OBE (former Artistic Director, Southbank Centre), John McGrath (CEO and Artistic Director, Manchester International Festival), Huw Stephens (BBC Radio 1 and Swn Festival Co-Founder), Simon Parkes (Founder, Brixton Academy), Fabien Rigall (Founder, Secret Cinema) and many more.

For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit




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