Ben Robinson has founded and directed multiple festivals over the last 20 years. Having launched Kendal Calling in 2006 and overseen 15 sell out editions in 2016 he spearheaded the creation of Bluedot festival at Jodrell Bank Observatory. Ben oversees the day-to-day operations and evolution of Bluedot while still playing a hand in the From the Fields portfolio of events that reach across the UK from the Lake District through to Bournemouth’s Victorian Gardens.
This month we asked Ben about his inspiration, goals and challenges in terms of creating sustainable events – read his answers below:
1. What is the proudest sustainability achievement or moment of your career?
Creating Bluedot and it’s a holistic approach to inspiring people to have new perspectives
2. What was your worst ever sustainability-related decision, project or initiative and why?
We used to buy about 20 sofas a year for Kendal Calling from a charity, we’d inevitably have to skip them all once they were covered in mud. Taking an axe to a perfectly good but muddy sofa didn’t feel great!
3. What are you excited about implementing this year?
We have a massive focus on dealing with left over tents for Kendal Calling, it’s a shame we’ve lost two seasons of developing that.
4. Which environmental issue do you most care about?
I think the loss of sanctuary within habitats, for all creatures including us humans. The world is so intense, I think of the city fox having lost the woods for shopping centers and endless roads.
5. What sustainable change have you made in your personal life that you are most proud of?
Coming from three generations of butchers I guess being a vegan.
6. What do you read to stay in touch with green issues?
Tyndall Center for climate change research
7. What is the most memorable live performance in your life?
Chemical Brothers premiering their new record and visual show at Bluedot, jaw dropping stuff.
8. Was there a moment you committed to taking action on climate change?
After travelling to some stunning islands in the Philippines and seeing the impacts of single use plastics floating around even the most remote and idyllic scenes.
9. What are the most important issues to tackle at your event?
Waste is our current priority and that comes from changing audience behaviour, that’s a big nut to crack.
10. What do you think is the most significant challenge for the events industry becoming more sustainable?
The impermanence of festivals and events: They are single-use in terms of their set up so will always involve a lot of travel and low cost solutions for infrastructure.
11. Can you share something sustainable from another artists or event or company that inspired you to make a change?
The band 1975 offering to screen print new tour artwork over old tour t-shirts – at shows we’ve now been exploring printing live onto clothing people bring to upcycle at the festival instead of creating new merch.
12. What is the secret to your sustainable success?
Persistence… then some more persistence.
13. Tell us something you feel positive about right now that relates to the environment
How embedded the desire for change is in the next generation.
14. Tell us a book, film or recent article you feel others should watch/read and why about positive change?
Factfulness – it shows in stats how the world is getting better. Child mortality dropping, wars not the norm. Compared to history it’s never been so good. [‘Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World and Why Things Are Better Than You Think’ Book by Anna Rosling Rönnlund, Hans Rosling, and Ola Rosling]
15. Can you give people new to sustainability in events a top tip?
A lot of work has already been done, check out the Vision: 2025 resource hub, charity ecolibrium, A Greener Festival and others.
16. What is the favourite festival moment of your career?
Bouncing samples of Kraftwerk & Anna Calvi off the moon at Bluedot 2019
17. What habit or practice has helped you most in your personal journey in life?
Having a creative outlet. I’ve always made music for fun and escapism. Events are high pressure and all consuming, having somewhere else you can take your mind and ideas is important.
18. Is there anything new or exciting you are planning or changing for the future that you can tell us about? Even a hint!
We’re setting up a foundation to further the work of Bluedot outside the festival weekend.
19. Will we save the world?
Maybe, but if we don’t AI will likely save it to assure its own existence.
20. What would your sustainable super-power be?
Eating plastic bottles!
This Q&A originally appeared in our December 2021 Vision: 2025 newsletter. Sign up to receive monthly event sustainability news, case studies and guest blogs direct to your inbox using the form below.