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Paléo, MJF cancel, other Swiss fests await guidance

Swiss institutions Paléo Festival Nyon and Montreux Jazz Festival are the biggest casualties of the Federal Council's 16 April non-announcement on summer events

By IQ on 17 Apr 2020

OpenAir St Gallen, Switzerland

OpenAir St Gallen says it needs a Federal Council order before making a decision

image © OpenAir St Gallen

For the first time in 45 and 53 years, respectively, there will be Paléo Festival Nyon or Montreux Jazz Festival this summer, as several Swiss festivals take the decision on whether to cancel into their own hands.

In addition to Paléo (which would have taken place on 20–26 July) and Montreux Jazz (3–18 July), other smaller festivals to have given up on 2020 altogether include Rock the Ring (18–20 June) in Hinwil and Blue Balls Festival (17–25 July) in Lucerne.

The cancellations come as authorities in Switzerland yesterday (16 April) declined to be drawn on whether summer festivals would be allowed to go ahead, putting off the decision until a meeting of the Federal Council on 27 May.

Other major events, such as OpenAir St Gallen (25–28 June), SummerDays and Seaside Festivals (28–29 August), hip-hop festival Openair Frauenfeld (9–11 July) and pop event Zürich Openair (26–29 August), are taking a wait-and-see approach, with OpenAir St Gallen lamenting that the missed opportunity to provide the festival with a “clear decision” about the summer. “We need an order from the Federal Council as a legal basis” for any cancellation, it says in a statement.

According to Paléo, which has yet to announce its 2020 line-up, even in the absence of a formal ban on festivals, it “still couldn’t guarantee the smooth running of the event” amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

“We need an order from the Federal Council”

“Paléo is a temporary city that welcomes some 50,000 people every day. All conditions must be met to start the huge construction work, which relies on a whole chain of service providers, suppliers, artists, sponsors and technical teams,” organisers explain. “It’s highly likely that artists will postpone their tours and that the delivery of key equipment for the festival will be hampered due to the current climate. In view of these elements, maintaining the festival in July 2020 is not possible.”

“This Thursday, 16 April, the Swiss Federal Council announced that it would be gradually easing some of the protective measures against the coronavirus, but keeping the majority of the necessary hygiene and social distancing measures in place,” reads a statement from MJF, which put off its first line-up announcement late last month.”As such, it is now impossible for us to consider holding an event on the scale of Montreux Jazz Festival in July, just as it is for our fellow organisers of other summer festivals in Switzerland and around the world.

“Public health concerns naturally take precedence over all other considerations.”

“This is the first time the festival has had to be cancelled in its 53 years of making history, bringing people together and producing legendary musical moments,” festival organisers add. “Until the very end, all of us here in the festival team were still hoping to share these magical moments with everyone who, like us, cannot imagine a summer without the Montreux Jazz Festival.

“Public health concerns naturally take precedence”

“Our thoughts go out to the staff members, artists and their support teams, technicians and engineers and to all our partners who make the event possible, from local hotels and businesses, to everyone who lives in Montreux, and of course our loyal festivalgoers.”

“It’s a tough break,” adds Paléo. “This postponement will inevitably have heavy financial repercussions for the festival. Indeed, as a non-profit organisation (non-subsidised), Paléo generates close to 80% of its revenue through the sale of tickets, and food and beverage during the event. In this complex context, the organisation is working hard to mitigate the impact of this postponement.”

To help Paléo, says founder and president Daniel Rossellat, fans should keep hold of their tickets until July 2021, when the festival will return.

By not formally extending its ban on mass gatherings, the Swiss government is bucking a trend seen in many of its European neighbours, including Luxembourg (no large events until 31 July), Germany (31 August), Belgium 31 August), France (mid-July), Austria (30 June) and Denmark (31 August).


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