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Portuguese festivals eye ‘Covid-free bubbles’

Portugal’s music festivals are looking into the possibility of restricting entry to ‘bubbles’ of vaccinated fans as a way of enabling their events to go ahead safely this summer.

A proposal to create infection-free “safe bubbles”, comprising fans “who are already vaccinated against Covid-19 [and carrying] their vaccination records”, was presented to the Portuguese government by the Association of Promoters, Shows, Festivals and Events (APEFE) in a meeting with the minister of culture, Graça Fonseca, on 15 January.

The meeting, also attended by the Association of Portuguese Music Festivals (Aporfest) and the new Association of Show Agents and Producers (AEAPP), also led to creation of of an industry-government working group that aims to find a solution to restarting live entertainment in Portugal in 2021.

Speaking to the Lusa news agency, Aporfest president Ricardo Bramão explained that while the meeting yielded no “guarantees” from government that there could be festivals this summer, “a door was opened” for festivals to present “specific solutions” as to how they could go ahead.

The ‘bubble’ solution, as being explored by APEFE, takes inspiration from hospitals, where a negative Covid-19 test or proof of vaccination is required for certain procedures, says the association’s head, NOS Alive festival director Álvaro Covões.

Speaking to Blitz, Covões explains: “What we are trying to study is the possibility of creating bubbles for events, as is done today in hospitals. To be operated on, you have to be tested, and you may only enter the hospital after you have been tested.”

“What we are trying to study is the possibility of creating bubbles for events”

“Travel is also a bubble,” he adds. “Theoretically, to get on a plane people must all be tested and be negative [for Covid-19].”

The APEFE solution is similar to the yet-to-be-implemented ‘Full Capacity Plan’ introduced last summer by Festival Republic’s Melvin Benn, which would only permit entry to those who test negative for the coronavirus.

The festival bubbles, however, should be even more rigorously enforced in hospitals, where staff are not tested every day, continues Covões.

The NOS Alive boss adds that similar conversations are currently taking place in other countries, including neighbouring Spain. “Barcelona, ​​for example, is very focused on this, both the municipality and the autonomous government [of Catalonia],” he adds, “because they have Sónar and Primavera Sound and they absolutely want to be working at that time, because otherwise they lose another economic year.”

The next meeting – between APEFE, Aporfest, AEAPP and APSTE (Portuguese Association of Technical Services for Events) on one side, and Fonseca, the State Secretariat for Tourism and the State Secretariat for Health on the other – is scheduled for this Wednesday (3 February).


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

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Sustained growth for Portuguese festival market

There were 249 music festivals held in Portugal in 2016 – 39 more than in 2015, or an 18% year-on-year increase – according to a new report by Aporfest (the Association of Portuguese Festivals).

Aporfest’s findings, presented at last week’s talkfest festival conference in Lisbon by Ticketea marketing director Ismael García, also reveal ticket sales grew by 300,000 to 2.1 million.

Portugal’s population is approximately 10.5 million, appearing to suggest one in five Portuguese bought a music festival ticket last year. However, according to García, the growth in sales in fact owes much to what Eventbrite calls ‘super fans’ or ‘hardcore festies’, with 30% of respondents saying they had been to two or more festivals in 2016.

The Portuguese festival scene has seen sustained growth in the past three years, growing from 127 events in 2013 to 156 in 2014, 210 in 2015 and 249 in 2016. According to talkfest director Ricardo Bramão, the number of festivals cancelled in 2016 also fell, to 14, a “figure lower than in previous years”.

Rock festivals were the most popular (attended by 25% of all festivalgoers), followed by alternative music (23%), indie (18%), electronic music (9%), pop (8%), jazz (6%), hip hop (4%) and metal (3%).

The most popular events overall were Rock in Rio Lisbon, NOS em D’Bandada, Sudoeste and Nos Alive (see graphic below).

Aporfest top 15 festivals 2016

While steady growth can only be a good thing, Aporfest cautions that the market remains immature and reliant on subsidies from local authorities.

Festivals that last more than three or four consecutive editions are rare, as it is “difficult for events to be able to attract new sponsors and audiences and achieve profitability”, the report reads. “In recent years, the only festivals that have grown steadily are those that are supported or supported by municipalities.” The organisation also expresses its concern the gulf between “the so-called ‘big festivals'” and smaller players is growing, with a majority of Portuguese festivals now having fewer than 1,000 attendees.


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