AIF to operate AFO following Steve Heap’s retirement in April

Featured Image: Steve Heap and John Rostron (taken by Jody Hartley)

Steve Heap (left) is set to retire from his role as general secretary of the Association of Festival Organisers (AFO) in April, handing over the reins to John Rostron (right) and the team at the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF). 

Heap has acted as AFO’s general secretary since it was founded in 1987, growing the organisation from a handful of founding members to representing over 100 festivals. Events range in size from as small as 500 to over 25,000 capacity.

While the AFO will continue to operate as normal, it will be run by the team at AIF, a not-for-profit festival trade association representing over 100 music festivals.

It is not the first time the two organisations have come together, having negotiated a new reduced percentage licence deal for live festival performances with PRS for Music; negotiating a reduction on VAT for ticket sales to 5% during the COVID-19 pandemic; and lobbying the UK Government over financial support to help recovery during this time.

“Since founding AFO in 1987, I have devoted a considerable amount of time, effort and love to the grassroots festival industry,” said Heap.

“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.”

Rostron added: “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.”