Behind the scenes at All Points East with Emily Bigg, Publicist for The Outside Organisation
Working behind the scenes at a music festival is a dream job for any music lover; who wouldn’t relish the idea of being in such close proximity to some of the biggest bands in the world? But what does it take to actually manage such an event? Nerves of steel, a photographic memory, the stamina of a cross country runner and the ability to handle anything thrown at you with grace and aplomb; and that’s just for starters…
How did you get involved with the festival?
I started out at 20 as a receptionist with The Outside Organisation, a PR firm that, among other things, specialises in managing all stages of major events, such as All Points East and Barclaycard presents British Summertime in Hyde Park. We also look after a host of clients from various areas of the entertainment business, including the late David Bowie, Sarah Brightman, Blondie and others. After about nine months at the reception desk I was promoted to be assistant PA to the Executives Office for Alan Edwards and Dominic Mohan. From there came the opportunity to join the Publicity team. I’ve now been with Outside for five years.
How are the acts chosen?
All artists are chosen by AEG Presents, the company that actually puts on the event. They are our clients so we manage the event itself but we don’t have input in terms of who will play.
Talk me through a day in your life, behind the scenes during the festival.
My main responsibility is Media Accreditation, which initially involves vetting and choosing which media organisations will receive tickets, as well as organising and maintaining that throughout the event.
On festival days I get to the site about 10am, an hour before the box office opens, to ensure all the allocated tickets and wristbands are there and connected to the right names. There are several different levels of access so that’s crucial. For example, a photographer might have close proximity to the stage and there are a lot of considerations regarding that, not least of which is making sure there is clear access so that everyone is safe, including the audience. I also look after guests to make sure they have what they need, organise interviews with artists and generally do whatever is needed, so I am back and forth across the site any number of times throughout the day. For All Points East there were five stages across the park so, while not as large as British Summertime at Hyde Park, it covers a fair bit of ground.
We are a team of about 20 and we are a tight-knit group, which is invaluable. We use radios to communicate across the site so that everyone is aware of what’s going on at any given point in time; if something crops up it’s swiftly dealt with. The last act finishes about 10.30 or so and there are usually people in the media area afterwards so by the time everyone’s left it’s hitting midnight.
‘In the Neighbourhood’ is such a fabulous idea and a great way to knit the community together. Tell us about that.
The idea behind it is, as you say, to knit the community together. This year we had some amazing events and because it was half term, there was a lot on offer for families. All the events are free and AEG work closely with Tower Hamlets Council to structure it in such a way that it involves the community as well as entertains them. So it’s a great opportunity for residents to get involved by either performing or hosting workshops and events. For example, Hackney Arts put on a range of talks and workshops, Upswing had an aerial circus workshop and MoreYoga gave free yoga sessions. Deaf Ravealso hosted an event on the North Stage which included the hip hop artist SignKid and a chance to try out a sub pack, which is a tactile audio platform that delivers deeply immersive bass so that users actually feel the music. It was really amazing! There is a lot of diversity in terms of the sort of events on offer for In The Neighbourhood and I think that’s one of the reasons it’s so popular and why it works.
We were impressed with the quality of food, and, for a festival, the fairly reasonable prices. How are vendors chosen?
We make it a point to source as many local vendors as possible so that the benefit goes to the community and supports it. We publicise this in tandem with Tower Hamlets Council in the planning stages and local businesses can sign up for an ‘engagement fair’ whereby they can find out about what opportunities are there for them in order to be a part of the festival. It’s a great way to connect local businesses with each other as well.
Best bit about being behind the scenes?
This is going to sound odd but there is an enclosed access area that surrounds the perimeter of the festival, which we use as a short cut to get around quickly. It means we don’t have to wade through the crowds and when I’m in a hurry, which is all the time, it’s a godsend. But of course, being at the festival itself and meeting so many interesting people is great – and not just the artists; it’s a pleasure to get to know people from such a variety of organisations.
And the worst?
Haha – the stress! It’s a lot of juggling and thinking on your feet, needing to remember a million details and making sure it all goes to plan. That said, I thrive on that – I love working to deadlines and having the pressure to get things done quickly and efficiently, so there really isn’t a worst bit.
Any amusing stories from All Points East
Yes – Jarvis Cocker came as a guest on one of the days and there was a young intern in the box office assisting. We have a policy of checking ID to make sure the right person gets the right access, and since I know a lot of the media and guests, the procedure is usually quick. But the intern had no idea who Jarvis was and asked for his ID. Imagine, asking Jarvis Cocker for ID. I interjected, of course – ‘Hi Jarvis, great to see you! Here’s your wristband, hope you enjoy the day!’
All Points East is a 10-day event consisting of six days of world class ticketed music events and four days of free midweek community-focused activities. The event attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
Local community engagement is key to delivering the events And the team works year round alongside local stakeholders and the local communities who are consulted throughout the planning stages and the events
APE maximises the ways in which their event makes a positive impact, whilst reducing the negative impacts on the environment and community. All food packaging and cutlery is compostable and they have a Leave No Trace policy; every single item dropped on the grass is picked up by their litter team.
APE works closely with traders and suppliers to source local produce and services to support the local economy. They also ensure all food traders are ethically and environmentally conscious and there are 90% vegetarian options on site, and the traders serving meat only use free range meat. Additionally, event merchandise is ethically and sustainably sourced.
Want to get involved?
A range of opportunities is provided for local businesses, operators, suppliers and performance content to become part of the journey and employment and training opportunities are provided for local colleges and universities. There are also volunteer opportunities.