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Organisers and local government are racing to save Tomorrowland after the municipality of Boom unilaterally announced the mega-festival's cancellation
By Jon Chapple on 21 Jun 2021
The 2021 edition of Tomorrowland hangs in the balance after local authorities decreed the dance music festival would not be allowed to go ahead, despite the Belgian government having cleared 75,000-capacity festivals from 13 August.
In an update to fans on Friday, the festival explained that the mayor of Boom – the town near Antwerp where Tomorrowland has taken place since 2005 – is of the opinion that events of more than 400 people are illegal until ministers publish details of the decree permitting large open-air events, first announced earlier this month. As a result, the local authority has “decided that the 16th edition of Tomorrowland cannot take place in 2021”, reads the Tomorrowland announcement.
The shock announcement hit the festival team “very hard, like a sledgehammer”, they say in a Dutch-language statement, and would have a devastating impact on the thousands of employees, freelancers and suppliers of the 70,000-capacity festival.
“We are very surprised and puzzled by these contradictory messages from our governments,” continues the statement. “In the next few days we will explore all possible options and try to obtain some clarity for our visitors and suppliers.”
Jeroen Baert, the mayor of Boom, says in a press release that “although the epidemiological situation is improving, the organisation of large events would still entail too high risks”, noting that neighbouring countries still have “stricter conditions” on festivals.
At a regional level, politicians in Flanders are pushing hard for the ban to be overturned, with Flemish deputy prime minister Bart Somers saying he intends to meet with the mayors of Boom and nearby Rumst to find a way forward for the festival – though the decision ultimately rests with local councillors.
“If Pukkelpop can go ahead, I am convinced that we can also organise Tomorrowland”
“Of course it falls under the powers and local autonomy of our cities and municipalities to decide for themselves whether certain events can take place on their territory, but the Flemish government has campaigned for festivals to be possible again this summer,” says Somers.
“This sector has suffered greatly from the coronavirus crisis and we have supported them with financial resources to help them get through it, but from 13 August it should be possible to organise larger festivals again. If Pukkelpop can go ahead, I am convinced that we can also organise Tomorrowland.”
Tomorrowland is scheduled across two weekends on 27–29 August and 3–5 September. Pukkelpop (66,000-cap.), which takes place from 19 to 22 August, is still very much still on, with organisers releasing the following statement: “In regard of the news about Tomorrowland, we would like to reassure our festivalgoers. The safety protocols and legal structures will become clear in the coming weeks. A special task force under government guidance is overseeing preparations for August.
“Pukkelpop and the city of Hasselt have been close partners for years, so it goes without saying that we are in continuous dialogue to make the festival a safe environment.”
Along with Serbia’s Exit Festival and a handful of UK events, the Flemish festivals are some of the only major music festivals to be going ahead in Europe this summer. Tomorrowland has been sold out since 2020, while Pukkelpop has sold 70% of its four-day passes, with only Belgians currently able to buy tickets. The international sale starts on 1 July.
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