4 FYRE Lessons for Event Managers Everywhere

The much-anticipated insight into the notorious Fyre Festival went live on Netflix on Friday. Must-watch viewing for Event Managers everywhere, the trailer promised an ‘exclusive behind the scenes look at the infamous unraveling’ of the 2017 event.

Fyre Festival was the brainchild of ambitious entrepreneur Billy McFarland and music mogul Ja Rule. Its unique point-of-sale was selling an Instagram dream; an island paradise in the Bahamas, private planes, luxury accommodation, headline performers and an audience full of the most beautiful, most popular, and most dewy-faced supermodels and influencers.

For a small fortune, you too could be a part of it! And in a world fuelled by FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), many people did want to be a part of it. Fyre promised to be the music festival at which to see and be seen and anyone who was anyone (and had a few thousand dollars to spare….) bought tickets. The festivals launch pad was Instagram, where a well-funded series of orange squares appeared on the grids of key influencers overnight, creating the ultimate FOMO. Within 48-hours, tickets had sold out.

Fyre’s social media popularity was however also instrumental in its downfall. When festival goers arrived in the Bahamas to ‘luxury accommodation’, which were actually hurricane relief tents and the infamous cheese sandwich ‘exclusive catering’….they took to the ‘gram. And Twitter. And Facebook. They posted pictures, and videos and shared their experience with the world. Any hopes of trying to salvage a bad situation or Billy keeping it all hush hush were dashed. The world knew it had gone horribly wrong, and they wanted to know why?

And so did I! So, on Saturday afternoon, I sat down with a cup of tea ready to get a behind the scenes look at how it failed so spectacularly. The documentary was fascinating, and scary and quite frankly, pretty shocking throughout!

There are a million and one lessons to be learned from the Fyre Festival; it is a true case study of how not to put on a music festival. Below we explore four of the main storytellers from the documentary and some different lessons to be learned from each of them:

Ja Rule, Festival Partner

Ja Rule was the celebrity face of Fyre Festival. His existing business partnership with founder of Fyre Media, Billy McFarland, worked as the perfect breeding ground for new ideas and they agreed that the Fyre Festival would be the perfect way to promote their music-booking app. Having an established notoriety within the music business, Ja Rule gave the new venture the authenticity it needed to gain the trust of other influencers, acts, and brands. If Fyre Media had convinced him, then it was good enough for others.

If you are looking for sponsors, start small and initially just try to secure one brand. If your event is a success, that brand will come back, and spread the word. The same works with influencers and customers. If you contract one key celebrity to promote and attend your event in year one, their fan base will follow. Do the event well, and they will tell their industry colleagues, meaning more people will open to attend your event in year two. The level of trust and reputation will already be in place.

Since Fyre Festival, influencers and celebrities are even more acutely aware that what they are promoting and attending needs to be reputable. They need to know what they are putting their face to.

Lesson to Learn:
If you are putting your name to something, know it. Know it inside out. And if you are asking (or paying) someone to put their name to something, make sure it is clear that it is an #ad and they know what they are promoting.

Maryann Rolle, Owner of Exuma Point Bar and Grille

Maryann’s interview was the one that really pulled at the heartstrings and showed the wider impact of this failed venture. Maryann runs the Exuma Point Bar and Grille, and was contracted to supply up to 1,000 meals per day for staff, artists and guests. She explains how she drafted in 10 additional staff, working 24 hours a day to ensure she fulfilled her end of the bargain. And she didn’t get paid a penny. As soon as they had decided to pull the plug, the Fyre organisers jumped on their private chartered plane, and never looked back. They left hundreds of local Bahamians unpaid for the work they had completed and totally out of pocket. Maryann put her hand in her own pocket and paid out around £50,000 of her own money to ensure her staff got the wages they were promised. Any hopes of Fyre ever paying up what they owe people seem slim.

The footage of Maryann highlights the wider impact that big events can have on the local community, infrastructure, and economy. A large scale event like a festival or exhibition can bring in huge amounts of visitors, suppliers, and staff. Not only will they be there to get a job done or enjoy a show, but they will also need somewhere local to stay, to go and eat, to buy a drink. The additional spend into a local community that an event can generate in turn creates additional jobs for the people within the local community. The potential economic impact that an event success, or failure, will have on the surrounding community cannot be underestimated.

Lesson to Learn:
Your event is bigger than you and the client. Think about the wider implications all your decisions and actions will have.

Billy McFarland, Festival Founder (And Fraudster King)

I’m not even sure where to start with Billy McFarland. He is the ultimate salesman, the ultimate con man, and the ultimate liar. His dishonesty seems to know no bounds (proven when he continued his dodgy dealings even when out on bail.) Fyre Festival was his idea, and his disaster to take responsibility for. He is the extreme example of a client with an amazing event idea but literally no clue how to go about pulling it off, but also not willing to listen to good advice. For many organisations, events are just an added extra. For example, Fyre Festival was intended to be a launch event for Fyre Media app. It was an added extra to help launch the service, sell the product and impress existing customers.

Events of this scale take a huge amount of planning and non-professional event planners can often underestimate how much attention an event project needs and deserves. In some organisations, existing members of staff, with other responsibilities, priorities, and areas of expertise, are often asked to take on the additional load of event planning. This seemed to be the case with Fyre Festival. The documentary seemed to show that McFarland thought he knew it all and was reluctant to bring in experts until he really didn’t have a choice. Had he done so sooner, the situation may not have been as dire as it was.

Lesson to Learn:
You are not an expert in everything, and you are not expected to be an expert in everything. Get help from people that can do things better than you and your combined efforts will make you successful.

Andy King, Event Producer

Billy McFarland was a long time client of Andy King and he was contacted by Billy late on in the project (45 days until the event) when it became glaringly apparent that the Fyre team were in desperate need of some actual event planning expertise. The documentary highlighted Andy’s unwavering determination to pull rabbits out of hats and get a good result. If you have ever worked on a difficult project or with a difficult client you will understand that the feeling of responsibility to ‘pull it out of the bag’ is huge. The client’s idea becomes your idea, and you eat, sleep and breathe the event.

If you know the event vision is a good one that could be a huge success, advice landing on deaf ears, a lack of budget to build basic infrastructure and warnings not being heeded, are all incredibly frustrating. The event success is no longer just business, it is personal. It is your responsibility to get the client to listen, it is your responsibility to fix their problems, and it is your responsibility to make it happen no matter what.

However, (and it is a big HOWEVER!) Andy King’s on-the-record admission of just how far he was willing to go was probably the most shocking revelation of the entire documentary. (If you haven’t watched it yet, watch out for the Evian catastrophe and what the client demands to fix it!).

Lesson to Learn:
“No” is not often a word in the Event Managers arsenal. We are ‘Yes’ men, determined to make the impossible possible. That is part of the pride of the job and proof of your talent as an Event Manager. But sometimes, personal pride needs to come first, and a NO is absolutely entirely necessary.


American network Hulu released a similar documentary, Fyre Fraud, five days prior to the Netflix release and the social media frenzy around the Fyre Festival since both documentaries aired has been massive. And all without the help of any paid influencers!

Whether it is condemning McFarland for the fraud committed, questioning Ja Rule’s financial gain and how he got away with it, making a donation to Maryann & Elvis Rolle of Exuma Point Resort or being absolutely baffled by the lengths at which Event Producer Andy King was willing to go to, social media has been full of Fyre Festival commentary.

Since the documentaries were filmed, McFarland has been jailed for six years for multiple counts of fraud and is banned from being a company director for life.

The Fyre Festival dream held so much promise. With the right management, event team, time, money, and resources it could have been the event of the year. Instead, it was probably the most epic festival fail in history.

Have you watched the documentary yet? Do you think Billy’s prison sentence is enough? What did you find the most surprising element?

Let us know on Twitter @eventsnorthern


What is Event Management?

As surprising as it may seem, some people haven’t got a clue what event management actually is, let alone what an event manager does every day!

At networking events, there can be puzzled looks on people’s faces trying to figure out what a professional event management company does. It is not uncommon to be asked, “but what does that actually mean? What does that involve?” Other times, people incorrectly presume Event Managers are Party Planners, which is about as far removed from corporate conference planning and B2B events as you can get!

In case you are wondering, here is a basic definition and overview of event management to get you up to speed.

Event Management Definition

Event Management is the project management required to plan and execute a successful event. This might be a conference, exhibition, festival or any other special event.

No two events are the same, and there is not a one-size-fits-all-plan to make sure that everything runs smoothly. An event professional will call upon their expertise and network of trusted suppliers to produce a quality event that surpasses the reasons for creating it and gives back a return on the event investment.  

What Does an Event Manager Do?

An event manager, or event management company, brings together all elements of the event to ensure that everything comes together in a timely manner and that the objectives of the event are achieved.  

This generally starts right from the initial event idea and involves bringing the vision of the client to life. The first step is often making suggestions and gathering quotes and availability for the key elements, such as the venue, catering, audiovisual requirements, speakers or performers and staff. This will help to determine the location, date, time and specifics of the event, as well as creating an initial budget of the income and expenditure items to confirm whether it is financially viable to proceed.  

The event planning process involves organising all elements of the event and communicating the relevant information and arrangements to the right people. An event manager works to simplify and share details in an easy-to-comprehend way to make sure that the right people are in the right place at the right time and know exactly what they need to do. This will often include briefing speakers, performers, staff, suppliers, and venue managers.

Marketing the event and the registration or ticketing process is important to ensure that the right people are there and that the payment, check-in process at the event is robust. There may be multiple stakeholder groups that need to sign up for the event, for instance, an exhibition will need to contract and support those exhibiting at the event so that they get the most from it and want to come back to the next event.

An event needs infrastructure, and if you are running an event in a field this means that everything needs to be brought in and put into place, from the toilets, to the electricity supply, to the WiFi, to the organisers office. Even within a hotel or a purpose-built event venue, items will often need to be hired and brought in. This could include the furniture, stage-set, and signage.

Running a safe event is paramount and there is a lot of guidance and best practice that event planners will advise on. Health and safety and risk assessments are a vital part of planning any large and complex events. Festivals and outdoor events may also require a license and communications with the emergency services in advance of the event.

The event manager will oversee the setting up of the event and check that everything is right ready to welcome the guests. Throughout the live event the team will ensure that everything runs to time and is prepared ready for the next part of the programme, making any minor adjustments as necessary to ensure that everything appears seamless.

After the event, the event management team will ensure that everything is removed in an orderly and safe manner and they will often be the last people to leave (as well as being the first people there hours before the event started).

This is in no way an exhaustive list but gives a simple introduction to some of the elements an event manager will take care of.

From the Big Picture Vision to the Smallest Detail

Event management can be a difficult concept for people to understand. If you have never run a large-scale event some people simply will not realise the time, effort and administration that is required to create a respected event, conference or exhibition. This is often why novice event planners often run into difficulties when they try to run ambitious events without professional help.

Without experience, many important details can be forgotten and it is usually easy to recognize an event that is created and run by a non-event professional. Some recent examples of event catastrophes to hit the headlines include the Fyre Festival, Tanacon and the Hope & Glory Festival.

If you are an organisation you should always consider the impact on your brand and reputation if you decide to put on an event using an inexperienced team. It is the attention to the tiniest details that will enable everything to come together seamlessly and surprise, delight, or make an impact on your guests.

Clients that have never used an event management company before quickly appreciate the enormity of the undertaking though and grasp an understanding of a multitude of tasks they had never even comprehended.

The Problem with Event Management

The problem with event management is that if an event is run well, the event manager(s) will often be unnoticed and it can appear as if the event has simply run itself. As most event management stays behind the scenes this may be where the mystique around event planning comes from. Event planners are there to make their clients look good and to give them the limelight, not for any egotistical recognition.

Making an event appear as if it has happened by magic can only happen though if there has been efficient pre-event planning. It is also likely that continuous tweaks and discreet running adjustments are being made by the event manager throughout the event too, to deal with any unforeseen elements, but very few people will ever notice this is happening if done well.


Being an event manager is an extremely varied role involving project management, creativity, financial management, marketing, and business management. It requires a lot of skills and experience to be able to produce a successful event, right down to the smallest detail and being able to cope with absolutely any scenario thrown into the mix.


T is for Training

As part of our #EventprofsAtoZ series we have lined up a number of guest bloggers to post on their area of expertise.

No one should have ever finished learning. Whether you have years of industry experience, are learning the ropes at University or have just taken your first events jobs, there is still always plenty to learn. How do you up-skill? 

Next up, we hear from Elly Martin, soon-to-be third year Event Management student at University of Central Lancashire as she talks about her journey into the sector so far. 

You can keep up with Elly on Twitter @ellymartin93 and Instagram @Atouchofgraceuk

I’ve always been exposed to training and education, from the age of 18 I was indulged in Wetherspoons’ comprehensive training package, from a hands-on training programme, they continued to incorporate regular e-learning to keep staff up to date with regulations and product knowledge, Wetherspoon’s clear investment for employees’ CPD has set a president for all future employment opportunities.

After leaving full time education, I started work at an events and training organisation, providing specialist training for Lancashire’s care sector, this is where my passion for event management flourished and my skills were developed within the professional sector. Employees’ CPD was at the forefront of the organisation, as a training provider we had a range of regular training opportunities on offer to all staff, as well as being encouraged to take up ILM and other appropriate training schemes.

With my job at risk of redundancy, I took the steps to apply to study a degree in event management at my local university, UCLan. Studying an event management degree has not only taught me the fundamentals of event planning, it has made me evaluate the reasons why the event is being organised, what motivations the visitors attending the event and the consequences every action has on the environment and community. I now notice the small touches that go into event planning, looking through different lenses, such as the customer’s, predicting their experiences ensuring each element is enjoyable and to the highest standard.

Of course, with most degrees, students require practical experience, this is where I could apply my theory learnt at university to the event industry, my tutors were great at sending out summer internships and volunteer work, but I wanted to find opportunities for myself, I wanted to build a relationship with local event organisations and have a true interest in their business. I took to twitter to connect with North West event businesses, this is where I came across Insite, Southport based software solutions organisation to the live events industry, something I knew little about but keen to find out more, this is now my second year that I have worked with Michele and the team at Insite, delivering customer facing event management at events such as Cannes Lions on behalf of Google and YouTube, Liverpool Food Festival and E3 Business Expo to name just a few.

It is with thanks to my previous work experiences and training, my outgoing personality and my hard working nature, that I have been fortunate enough to secure international event experience, I have worked with the likes of TM Forum Live in Nice, a telecommunications exhibition and conference, EMA Events in Berlin, a prop-tech conference for the real estate industry and GSA in Dublin, a launch event to dignitaries and investors for their latest student accommodation, these have all given me on the job training, as I learnt at first-hand from the experts, whilst also offering my fresh innovative ideas for development to their events

As much as I enjoy working with others, I wanted to do something where I could work for myself, show off my creativity and finesse for upcycling, which lead me to start my own business ‘A Touch of Grace’, specialising in reclaimed vintage props for hire. This type of adventure has made me realise that my degree in management is not enough to run a business and it has pushed me take part in start-ups and business management courses to ensure I have the best chance of succeeding after graduating.

N is for Nuptials

As part of our #EventprofsAtoZ series we have lined up a number of guest bloggers to post on their area of expertise.

Today, we hear from Louise Bashforth, Founder of L27 Weddings and Events.

 L27 is a creative event design studio, offering bespoke ​wedding and event ​planning and styling services. L27 create modern and stylish weddings and events which are personal, meaningful and memorable. From the studio in South London (and home in North Yorkshire) founder Lou, plans, designs and coordinates weddings and events across the country.

For dreamy wedding and event inspo, follow L27 on Instagram @l27weddings and check out their website at www.l27weddings.com

Nuptials, wedding, marriage, the best day of a couple’s lives… whatever you call it, it’s a celebration of love between two people and it is without doubt my favourite kind of event to plan. Yes, product launches are fun and corporate socials are great, but nothing beats assisting a loved-up pair create a day that’s super special and truly personal to them.

There are certain things which (almost) every wedding has: a happy couple, a ceremony, a reception (consisting of good food, plenty of drinks and a good old party), flowers, bridesmaids, groomsmen and a best man’s speech that will leave everyone in fits of giggles (hopefully!). But the rest is totally the couple’s choice.

From the venue, music, and food to the attire, stationery and décor… there are so many options that can make their day unique. Pinterest is a great place for inspiration, but its essentially full of other people’s ideas that might not really represent the couple’s style. I find that looking around a couple’s home, discovering their favourite restaurants/bars/pubs/coffee shops and finding out their top holiday destinations gives me a real insight to them and uncovers their “couple style”.

From here, it’s easier to narrow down the options. For a couple living in a trendy, East London flat, who enjoy spending their Saturday’s perusing modern art, I probably wouldn’t suggest a rustic barn venue (although there are always exceptions!) but perhaps a blank canvas warehouse is more their vibe. For a “cuppa tea” loving couple that adorn themselves with patterned outfits, maybe an afternoon tea reception full of wild flowers is their thing… I’m sure you get the picture.

Today is the day that the most talked about wedding of the year is taking place at Windsor Castle. Of course, it’s the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. A few details were released previously and it’s great to see they’re injecting some of their own style into their day, despite the royal traditions. Instead of the traditional fruitcake, they’ve opted for a lemon and elderflower cake by London bakery, Violet Cakes. Philippa Craddock is designing the flowers, creating wildflower meadows, full of “bee-friendly” plants, another personal touch for the environment-loving pair. Its also expected that the Bride will make her own speech – definitely a break from the norm – so let’s raise a toast to the happy couple, who have succeeded in making their day truly their own.

L is for Lighting

The importance of lighting at an event can often be overlooked. When it is done right, it can be one of the most effective ways of completely transforming a space. It can help set the atmosphere that you are trying to create far better than any number of themed props or table decorations.

Here are just a few examples of how different lighting can be used really effectively to help you create the wow factor that your attendees deserve!


Up lighters can be used to throw splashes of colour around a space. They can be used to highlight key features of a room that you want to showcase, while cleverly drawing the eye away from those that perhaps are not as visually appealing. In this example, up-lighters were used at the magnificent space at the Natural History Museum to draw the eye to the amazing architectural details of the stunning building.

Light Up Decor

Making lighting a feature in its own right is increasingly popular, especially int he case of light up letters as showcased above. In this instance, the letters created a brilliant photo opportunity for attendees to capture at the event, as well as being a real focal point on an expo floor. They offer a relatively inexpensive way to showcase your brand or key message which will continue to be shared across social media platforms.

Showcase Lighting

Event lighting doesn’t necessarily mean spotlights, up lighters and chunky floor lights that all come with wires that you would like to blend into the background so  There is now an abundance of alternative options out there that mean the fixtures and fittings of the lighting themselves are meant to be seen! Fairy lights, Edison light bulbs and neon symbols and phrases are just a few examples of lighting that wants to be centre stage. Here, twinkly fairy lights create an almost magical appearance, and completely transform what is just an empty, bland barn space. Combined with long trestle tables, rustic flowers and vintage table dressings, this kind of lighting would be perfect for a wedding breakfast.

Mood Lighting

Colour has a huge impact on mood, and can instantly create the feeling you are trying to share with your attendees. Lighting can change the colour of a space almost instantly. As you can see from the images above, the orange surrounds work towards closing in the space, warming it up and making it feel smaller and more personal. In comparison, the cool blue colour choices on the right hand side give the impression that the venue is larger, more open, and slightly more clinical.

B is for Brands

As part of our #EventprofsAtoZ series we have lined up a number of guest bloggers to post on their area of expertise. First up is Freelance Graphic Designer, Nicola Darwen. Nicola has experience working for some of the worlds top brands; now living and working in the North West of England she brings that same understanding and integrity to projects big and small.

You can follow here on Instagram @nicoladarwen and check our her latest projects at www.nicoladarwen.co.uk

You’ll often hear it said that your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room; it’s who you are, what you do and how you do it. To put it bluntly it’s a whole lot more than a clever logo and slick business cards.

Whilst that can seem daunting (especially if you’re a small business) the key is building trust, and that should come from what you’re already doing – providing products people love or services they can rely on.  That trust is what keeps customers coming back to you, recommending you to their friends and leaving great reviews; without that this whole thing falls flat…

But if you’ve come to a place where it makes sense to step it up, consistency is key – from internal communications to packaging, from uniforms to how your phrase your Instagram captions, make sure everything feels like it’s coming from the same place.  Think about your tone of voice and define your core values, then find ways to weave that into every interaction you have with potential and existing customers.

Visually it starts with your logo, but a brand is brought to life through colour, type and photography, through pattern and interiors and print. Your particular needs will depend on your sector and your business (an online consultant needn’t worry about shop fitting, just as an independent café doesn’t need a fully functioning ecommerce site) but no logo is an island and a fully fleshed out brand will help your services sing.

As digital continues to enter every aspect of our lives and visual literacy across generations increases, the content we put out on social media is all that much more important. Look for a story you can tell (about your product, about your customers, about yourself as you build a business) and then commit to telling it through photography, graphics and video – make it a common thread across platforms and engage in meaningful conversations with customers wherever possible.

In a world where everything from dishwasher tablets to YouTube personalities are packaged and sold as fully formed commodities, cutting through the noise with a clear and consistent brand is more important than ever.

If you brand it, they will come.

#Eventprofs A to Z

We all know how hard it is to stay on top of our business related social media activity. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Blogging all take time, and without prior planning, it can be difficult to make sure your content is consistently relevant, engaging and fun! With that in mind, a new month seems like the perfect place to kick start an idea we’ve had noted down for a while now, the #Eventprofs A to Z!

Using the hashtag #eventprofsatoz, we’ll be kick starting our campaign on Sunday 6th May 2018 and we’ll be posting using a letter a day then until the end of the month!

Sharing ideas, photos, projects and thoughts is key within the event industry and we would love it if other #eventprofs joined in!

To give everyone a head start, we’ve come up with the A-Z list below so you get your thinking caps on about what you could post.

All prompts are just suggestions, feel free to interpret them however you want! No rules apply!

To follow us for some inspo, we can be found @eventsnorthern on both Twitter and Instagram.

We can’t wait to get started!

Happy Sharing! #eventprofsatoz

A: Awards.

This could be Awards Ceremonies you’ve organised, attended or even won! Let’s start as we mean to go on and shout about our successes!

B: Brands

Whether this is showcasing exciting brands that you work with, brand activation events that you have run, or even great examples that you have attended.

C: Conferences

Let’s hear about the most engaging, content driven conferences you have planned or attended!

D: Delegates

Without them, we’d be out of a job! Let’s see your best delegate moments!

E: Exhibitions

A huge part of the events sector, notoriously hard to get off the ground, huge amounts of planning but enormously rewarding when you pull it off! Let’s see your experiences of exhibitions.

F: Festivals

Whether you run them, or just love to attend them, lets see your favourite festival moments.


The four little letters that are on everyone’s lips. With the legislation beginning to be enforced on 25th May, #eventprofs everywhere need to make sure they are doing their best to be GDPR compliant, and that their clients are too! What are you doing?

H: Health & Safety

The completely unglamorous but completely necessary side of event planning. Health & Safety isn’t sexy, but it does contribute to eliminating risk and facilitates quick reactions when necessary.

I: Innovation

#Eventprofs must think on their feet! Give us a great example of innovation!

J: Jobs

This could be about your job, your colleagues, your team. What sums it all up for you?

K: Keynote

The biggest draw of your event. The expert everyone wants to see and hear. Who have you had as keynote at your event? Or who would bee your dream Keynote speaker if money was no object?

L: Lighting

Lighting can make the biggest transformations to a space. Small or large scale, give us some examples of impressive lighting in action.

M: Meetings

Vital for any event. Whether face to face or virtually, constant communication with the client is key. What do meetings normally look like for you?

N: Nuptials

One off the most important days of your life and so much planning to do! Weddings are another huge part of the sector so whether you organise them, dress them or just attend them, show us your best wedding moments!

O: Office

Where is your ‘office’? If you are freelance, this could be your local coffee shop, a shared working space, your desk at home, your sofa, or on a Monday…maybe even your bed! And if you have an office, what does your desk say about you? All we need today is a phone and wi-fi connection and we can rule the world! So where do you do your ruling from?

P: Presentations

Get it right, and they can really enhance a speaker’s keynote or workshop, get it wrong and they can distract from the main purpose. So, whether its PowerPoint, PDF or Prezi…. what do you have to say about presentations?

Q: Queues

Queue Management is key! What do you do to deal with this inevitable issue and keep problems down to a minimum?

R: Registration

So many platforms to register on, so many ways to set up, so many ways to collect your badge. What represents Registration for you?

S: Suppliers

Trustworthy suppliers are your best industry buds! Sing their praises here!

T: Training

No one should have ever finished learning. Whether you have years industry experience, learning the roles at University or have just taken your first events jobs, there is still always plenty to learn. How do you up-skill?

U: Unique

What’s unique about you, your agency or your events?

V: Venue

Your favourite venue? The most unusual? The most unexpected? The one you’d love to use if you had chance? Tell us all about it!

W: Wellness

Event Planner is listed in the Top 5 most stressful job roles. With this in mind, as a sector we need to take wellness and wellbeing really seriously. How do you promote wellbeing and wellness when things get hectic?

X: X-traordinary

Sometimes you get the dream #eventprof trifecta, the right venue, the right budget, and the right idea, and you can create something absolutely extraordinary. Well, this is your chance to show it off! Or have you attended an event that has really blown your socks off and given you endless inspiration?

Y: You

Let’s see you or one of your colleagues in action! Events wouldn’t be possible without the rarely seen, hardworking #eventprofs!

Z: Zone

In the zone! We all know that feeling, be it on a good day in the office when you are powering through your emails or mid live event when you are everything to everyone everywhere! Share your best ‘in the zone’ moments!

International Womens Day 2018

In celebration of International Womens Day, this year we wanted to take the opportunity to tell you a little bit more about some of the tremendous business women that we are lucky enough to have collaborated with recently.

Shabana Mirza
Muslim Lifestyle Expo 

Shabana is one half of the power-couple that came up with the original idea for the Muslim Lifestyle Expo (MLE) way back in 2014. MLE has broken the mould for events aimed at the Muslim market and 4 years later, they are still the leaders in the game. Shabana is mega sales lady and shrewd business woman and it is has been marvellous to work with her right from the beginning of the MLE adventure!



Derri Burdon & Caz Brader 
CEO & Deputy CEO/Director of Cultural Programmes

Derri and Caz  are the captains of the good ship Curious Minds. Curious Minds is an organisation dedicated to improving the lives of children and young people through great art and culture. Working across multiple sectors, they aim to drive equal access, continuous improvement and innovation in the field of creative and cultural education.



It is impossible not to notice the commitment that Derri and Caz have to the arts, cultural and education sectors, and the passion that they have for empowering the lives of the children and young people they work with. An all round top organisation, with two all round top ladies at the helm!




Ruth Evans & Louise Blunt
Managing Director & Operations Director
Patient Experience Network  

Ruth and Louise are the backbone of the Patient Experience Network (PEN). PEN is a not-for-profit membership based network whose aim is to provide a valuable, practical resource for all healthcare organisations wishing to improve the patient experience.



Ruth and Louise’s passion and dedication to sharing best practice and engaging as many people as possible is truly outstanding as proven by the annual PEN National Awards event which is going from strength to strength, run alongside a huge variety of workshops across the country throughout the year. They are also the perfect hosting duo on stage, and have the kind of working relationship that anyone should strive for!



Helen Woodward
Education Consultant, Coach and Facilitator

Helen Woodward is an independent education consultant, coach and facilitator, and previous Head of School Improvement with the Department for Education. Events Northern were lucky enough to work with Helen on the School Led Conferences project over a number of years. Alongside all this, Helen has also co-founded ReBuilding Schools Nepal, an organisation that is rebuilding the structure and sustainable education programme of  Antarastriya Yuba Barsa Ssecondary School, Ramechhap, Nepal and regularly organises fundraising projects for this cause. (She is also a talented musician, singer AND yoga teacher, so just an all round superwoman!)


Rebecca Dunne 
Prestolee Teaching School Alliance

Rebecca is Director of Prestolee Teaching School Alliance, a group made up of many different schools who are at the forefront of a self-improving and sustainable school-led system. Rebecca was a key member of the School Led Conferences team which was highly successful in giving respected names within the education sector a platform to speak to school leaders across Greater Manchester and the wider North West region. These events brought together headteachers, senior leadership teams, governors and policy makers and offered them a chance to debate and discuss the most prevalent issues affecting the region, as well as creating a wider network of support to help implement the necessary changes. If your looking for a strong female role model within leadership, Rebecca is your lady!




Kath Ashton, Gill Barton, & Jennifer Clough,
Economic Development Officers
Preston City Council, Chorley Council & South Ribble Borough Council 

Kath, Gill and Jennifer are key members of the Economic Development teams from Preston, Chorley and South Ribble Councils. Events Northern have worked with Kath, Gill and Jennifer for a number of years on Central Lancashire Business Events, an annual collaboration across the three organisations that provides advice and networking opportunities for local businesses and entrepreneurs across the 3 boroughs. The annual event has seen highlights from keynote speakers such as Dragons Den entrepreneur Kirsty Henshaw and Customer Whisperer, Kate Hardcastle (Another two successful women in business!)


Nicola Darwen 
Freelance Graphic Designer

Nicola is a graphic designer with years of experience, having worked with some of the worlds top brands, including British Airways and Coca Cola. Events Northern enlisted Nicola’s services to update our existing brand and we are delighted with the final results which we are slowly starting to roll out across all platforms. She takes on board the ethos of a business, and works with them to produce something relevant, innovative and stylish. (Also, she is super trendy and just so damn cool!)


Educating Drew: The Real Story of Harrop Fold School [Review]

One of the best things about having a little bit of extra time to yourself over the Christmas break is getting the chance to catch up on some well over-due reading!

There are always quite a few books in the ‘To-Be-Read’ pile but the first one devoured was Educating Drew: The Real Story of Harrop Fold School, by Headteacher, Drew Povey.

Events Northern have been lucky enough to work with Mr Povey on a couple of different events over the recent years, as well as having had Harrop Fold students join us at a couple of the education-sector based conferences we have been involved in. Drew has always spoken extremely passionately about Harrop Fold School and for that reason, our interest was peaked when hearing about the TV series coming to Channel 4, and the accompanying book was on pre-order with Amazon before it was released!

Harrop Fold is the latest school to place itself under the spotlight for the ‘Educating…’ series produced by Channel 4. The premise of the show is to put hundreds of cameras in place in a school, from the beginning of the academic year in September, right the way through to Results Day in August. They capture the everyday happenings of British high school life.  Instead of just solely concentrating on classroom content, it is often the moments that occur on the corridors, in the staff rooms and offices that become the water-cooler highlights for viewers.

Mr Povey’s accompanying publication tells the story that you don’t see on screen, filling in the gaps of both his and the school’s history. The book focuses on the story of the school, and how Harrop Fold has come to be in the difficult situation in which it finds itself.

Educating Drew: The Real Story of Harrop Fold by Drew Povey

It wouldn’t be too much of a spoiler alert to tell you that at the time when Drew Povey took over as what he describes as the ‘Unexpected Headteacher’, the school was in £3 million of inherited debt. This amount is absolutely unprecedented for any teaching establishment and puts Harrop Fold in a truly unique situation, that no-one really seems to know the best way of getting out of.

Educating Drew shares the story of the three Brothers Povey; Drew, Ross and Ben, all which now have their own particular role in #TeamHarrop. It starts at the very beginning, with an insight into childhood with the Povey’s (Which sounds as cheeky and troublesome as you could expect from 3 brothers growing up!) The chapters go on to cover the career path of all three, including both sporting and musical highlights (Ah, what could have been!) and culminates in the eventual coming together of the Povey’s at Harrop Fold. Perhaps it is the unique relationship (unfaltering honesty, boundary pushing mockery, and unquestionable dedication) that only siblings can have that has rubbed off on those around them and helped #TeamHarrop become the community it is today. It must be noted however that Drew makes it clear throughout the book that it is not just the success of himself and his brothers alone that has helped change the culture at Harrop Fold:

‘So Harrop Fold isn’t the story of three brothers. It’s the story of how three brothers – and thousands of others turned around a school.’

Extract from Educating Drew by Drew Povey

It is this ‘all-in-this-together’ spirit that comes across right the way through the book. The focus on building a tight-knit staffing body with everyone singing from the same hymn sheet seems to play a large part in Harrop Folds turnaround success. Mr Povey’s open minded approach to learning and leadership is also perhaps a key factor in encouraging the pride and passion that seems to be part of every member of staff at the school. Always ready to listen to a new idea, or theory or approach, Mr Povey draws on a wide and varied body of inspiration and motivation. The book quotes everyone from Winston Churchill to Will Smith, and just goes to prove that thinking creatively and taking inspiration from wherever, or whoever, it comes, is the way forward!

If his obvious knack for leadership and passion for continuous development aren’t enough of a giveaway that he his quite clearly headteacher material, Mr Povey’s book is also peppered throughout with tell-tale signs of his job role. Being able to drop an appropriate Aesop’s Fable at a moment’s notice, to being a secret (or not-so secret!) musical performer have to be part of the mandatory skill set for any Head Teacher vacancy.  Thinking back to your own time sitting cross legged on a school hall floor should confirm that these are both absolute must-haves for any weekly assembly!

One of the closing chapters of the book sees Mr Povey explain how he was never a gambling man, until he found out about the school’s debt:

‘I never played the lottery until I found out about the debt at Harrop Fold. I play it every Saturday now. If I won the money, I’d pay off the school debt and carry on working. That’s how much I care about this situation and how badly I want it wiped away.”

The TV series, the book deal, the weekly lottery ticket, these are but a few of the ways in which #TeamHarrop is thinking of unique ways in which it can pay off its debt.

In late January Harrop Fold announced that the ‘Educating…’ cameras had signed on the dotted line to come back to Little Hulton to film not one, but two more series of the show. This is the first time that the ‘Educating…’ production team have returned to a school to follow its story, and obviously goes to prove that #TeamHarrop, and all its characters, dramas and drive, have had a huge impact on the viewing public. It’s brilliant to see that so many people now feel so invested in the community and its success, and fingers crossed, the publicity and promotion that another two television series will bring could be just what the school, staff and students need to clear that debt and continue to prosper. And who knows, perhaps Series 2 and 3 will also encourage the writing of books 2 and 3 as well. Maybe penned by Brothers Ross and Ben to get their take on the #TeamHarrop story.

Hats off to Mr Povey’s (Plural!), you are all doing a marvellous job! And well done to the further thousands that work with them. The story of the #TeamHarrop turnaround so far is a truly remarkable one, which could only have and will only continue to be achieved by truly remarkable people!

Rating: * * * * *  5 stars.

The ‘Educating’ series and accompanying book give a fascinating and rare insight into normal, everyday British high-school life. Series 1 of ‘Educating Greater Manchester’ can be found on All4 Catch Up and Educating Drew: The Story of Harrop Fold School by Drew Povey can be purchased from John Catt Publishing here.

First Monday in May – Film Documentary [Review]

Netflix is a treasure trove of great documentaries and I was delighted when a friend directed me to the ‘First Monday in May’, directed by Andrew Rossi. The title refers to the long-standing Met Gala annual date, and the 90-minute film is a must-watch for any event professionals that want to get a glimpse into behind-the-scenes planning of one of the most prestigious events of the year and its accompanying art exhibition.

Image by Kevin Tachman as used on Vogue.com

The Met Gala is the annual fundraising event for the benefit of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in New York City. It recognises the opening of the Costume Institutes annual exhibition and first took place in 1971. Since Editor in Chief of American Vogue, Anna Wintour, took over as Chair of the Met Gala in 1995, its popularity has rocketed even further. With the support and  backing of  US Vogue and its esteemed following of designers, supermodels, and more often than not, celebrities, the Met Gala has developed into the high fashion event of the year, raising millions of dollars to ensure the continued development of the Institute. At the time of filming, the associate curator of the Costume institute was Andrew Bolton, and it is his vision that drives the annual theme. Early in the documentary, Bolton is described as a ‘creative genius’ by Anna Wintour which (if the The Devil Wears Prada story is to be believed) is high praise indeed and so you know he is the man to watch. Being from Lancashire myself, it also delighted me to find out that Bolton was born and raised in Blackburn, a mere few miles down the road from my own home town. In my eyes, he is the ultimate northern lad done good!

Even working within the sector, organising an event of this scale, magnitude and headline-making capability is almost too much to get your head around. A seemingly infinite budget, an unrivalled guest list, a truly exceptional venue; as an event manager, it is everything I would wish for and more. The dream job!

Image by David Arnold as used on Vogue.com

The documentary aired in 2016, and focuses on the work that went into the 2015 Met Gala and Costume Institute exhibition, of which the theme was ‘China: Through the Looking Glass.’ This was one of the Met’s more controversial, yet highest attended exhibitions in years, and it explored the Chinese inspired Western fashions and the way China has been depicted by the West via Fashion and Film over many years.

One of the documentary highlights for me was seeing the continued guest list and seating plan reshuffles. With such an exclusive reputation, yet such an overwhelming demand for invitations, it was interesting to see that even Anna Wintour has problems with guests. We get a glimpse into the private Manhattan home of the Editor in Chief when table settings are being discussed. Place cards, table wear, utensils, glasses, napkin shades, floral arrangements, chair types; not a single aspect is left un-inspected, and every choice is scrutinised. Even the day before the event, we see last minute seating changes as final walk rounds see Wintour herself directing table moves and chair reshuffles.It is this kind of usually un-seen footage that show the level of involvement and eye for detail that the Vogue Editor in Chief clearly applies to all aspects of her role, and is something that event managers everywhere will be familiar with.

Image by Taylor Jewell as used on Vogue.com

Flowers play a huge part in the Met Gala, and it is not so much floral arrangements that are specifically designed, as huge floral installations. What will be waiting for guests at the top of the stairs as they enter the Great Hall is almost as anticipated a sight as the dresses seen on the red carpet. Over the years there has been giant double helix, larger than life costumes and ballgowns and even live peacocks caged within floral dressing! The guests at the 2015 were met by a ‘porcelain Chinese vase’ made from hundreds of thousands of blue and white roses. The floral event designer that has looked after the Met Gala since 2007 is Raul Àvila, and the documentary explains how he and his team turn around the extraordinary space virtually overnight. That, combined with a bamboo forest lined stairway and the countless floral displays on tables and throughout the main space, it really is venue transformation at its absolute peak!  It’s the ultimate example of what prior planning and dedicated event professionals can do to make something happen for the client.

Following the 2015 Met Gala, Bolton has since been promoted to Curator in Chief of the Costume Institute and of course the powerhouse that is Anna Wintour remains the Editor in Chief of American Vogue, Chair of the Met Gala, and the ultimate Event Planner.

Rating: * * * * *  5 stars.

The documentary strikes the right balance between revealing industry secrets, to displaying celebrity wardrobe choices and so for me, this is a must-watch for anyone working within the event industry, or with an interest in high fashion. It can be found within the Fashion Documentaries category on streaming service Netflix.