Leeds Festival is held every August bank holiday weekend in Bramham Park, near Wetherby, in the sprawling grounds of an historic Baroque mansion. It takes place simultaneously with its sister-festival at Reading, and they share the same bill dominated by the best of rock, alternative, indie, punk and metal. The two festivals are major UK music events, drawing crowds of up to 85,000 each over three days.
Leeds is produced by Festival Republic, the powerhouse behind a portfolio of some of the UK’s most iconic major festivals and best-loved boutique-festival experiences, from Reading and Leeds to the Electric Picnic in Ireland and Hove in Norway. Festival Republic was an early adopter of sustainability, employing one of the first dedicated sustainability managers - Meegan Jones - who has since published the definitive Guide to Sustainable Event Management drawing on her expertise managing the festivals.
Leeds festival has achieved 1 star Industry Green in its first year of assessment. The festival achieved a 9% reduction in diesel consumption between 2009 and 2010 and an 18% decrease in waste emissions due to 42% of waste recycled in 2010 compared to 34% in 2009 - a trend we hope to see continue. There was an increase in audience travel emissions which meant that overall, its relative primary carbon emissions went up. Audience travel represents a serious impact on every rural festival event, and a major challenge for an event of this size.
Festival Republic’s Sustainability policy is updated annually and overseen by a Sustainability Coordinator working across the festivals. Staff are provided with targets and strategies both operationally and for communicating to audiences, staff, volunteers and suppliers.
Working with suppliers
Contracts issued to certain suppliers included some regulation on sustainability matters; for examples traders and caterers were only allowed to use biodegradable cutlery, and bars could only serve drinks in reusable pints. Guidelines and sustainability initiatives were distributed to all traders, caterers, sponsors and artists via email, info sheets and the Green Republic intranet site. Meetings are also held with suppliers pre- and post-event to discuss progress and future goals. The Sustainability Coordinator is also responsible for overseeing the operations of suppliers during the festival.
A green section on Leed’s official website, as well as Green Leeds forums communicated initiatives to audience, and enabled audience to leave feedback and green suggestions. Further information was disseminated via Green posters on site and programmes for the festival.
Green team stewards and Recycle Exchange staff were also at hand to communicate sustainability initiatives, which included:
- Encouraging audiences to take home or recycling their camping gear. Tent Donation points were also provided for people to donate unwanted tents to charitable and community organisations.
- Promoting public transport and a Go Car Share scheme.
- Encouraging fans to compost food waste and the biodegradable packaging it came in.
- 10p cup deposit scheme refunded punters for recycling their plastic and cardboard drinks cups. Every year over 90% of cups have been recycled diverting around 6 tonnes from landfill through this deposit scheme.
- Banning gas, petrol and aerosol cookers, and promoting greener options.
- Encouraging recycling with Green Messengers on hand to assist campers and fans in what they could and couldn’t recycle and how to be as green as possible
Festival Republic has incorporated a reduction strategy for Leeds 2011 into its event planning, which includes targets for increasing waste vegetable oil biodiesel use, increasing recycling and composting, and reducing the overall impact of audience travel.