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Sweden’s capacity limits: How low can they go?

While markets across Europe charge towards a full reopening, the Swedish live industry is still crawling to the finish line thanks to its government’s ever-stringent capacity limits.

The Scandinavian nation yesterday (28 June) announced that it will move to the second stage of its reopening roadmap on 1 July, permitting indoor standing concerts with a grand total of 50 people.

As of tomorrow, seated indoor concerts will be allowed to take place with 300 people, standing outdoor concerts with 600, and seated outdoor concerts with 3,000.

The government presented the five-step plan for removing Covid restrictions on 27 May, which commenced on 1 June.

Capacity limits for public gatherings, public events and private gatherings aren’t due to be removed until September

In the first stage of Sweden’s roadmap, the government imposed a capacity limit of just eight people for indoor standing shows – one of the lowest in Europe at that time.

Capacity limits for public gatherings, public events and private gatherings in Sweden aren’t due to be removed until step four, which is due to be initiated in September.

Meanwhile, FranceBelgiumthe Netherlands, DenmarkAustria and the UK have set a date this summer for the resumption of large, non-socially distanced shows.

The removal of restrictions comes too late for Swedish festivals, the majority of which have already been cancelled.

Major events such as Way Out West (12–14 August), Sweden Rock (9–12 June), Lollapalooza Stockholm (2–5 July) and Statement Festival (3–4 September) were called off earlier this year.

 


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FKP Scorpio cancels August festivals

FKP Scorpio has cancelled three more of its summer festivals, saying the spread of the highly transmissible Indian (Delta) variant of the coronavirus in Germany makes going ahead with Highfield, M’era Luna and A Summer’s Tale this year impossible.

Alternative music event M’era Luna, which was scheduled for 7–8 August, and Leipzig rock festival Highfield, which was to have taken place 13–15 August, have both been postponed until 2022, while the relaunch of boutique event A Summer’s Tale, which went on hiatus in 2020, has also been delayed by a year.

Like flagship events Hurricane and Southside, which were called off in March, all tickets for the rescheduled events remain valid. Kraftklub, Casper, Deichkind and Limp Bizkit will headline Highfield 2022, with goth icons Sisters of Mercy newly announced for next year’s M’era Luna.

“The situation is still unpredictable because of the Delta variant, among other things”

At press time, FKP’s autumn events, including November’s Rolling Stone Beach and Metal Hammer Paradise, are still on.

There are currently no nationwide rules for major events in Germany, with the continually changing state-by-state rules making planning a festival a near impossibility at the time of writing.

“As with the Hurricane and Southside, we have done everything in consultation with experts to ensure that our August festivals can take place,” says FKP Scorpio managing director Stephan Thanscheidt. “However, despite falling incidences [of Covid-19], we were ultimately forced to postpone it again, as the situation is still unpredictable because of the Delta variant, among other things.

“For this reason, in order to protect the health of our guests and the teams, we have to wait another year until we can finally meet again in 2022 for an unforgettable festival summer. ”

 


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Festivals axed after UK lockdown easing delay

As predicted, a number of UK festivals, among them Black Deer in Kent, have been forced call off their 2021 events at the last minute after yesterday’s government U-turn on lifting remaining coronavirus restrictions on 21 June.

Black Deer, which has a daily capacity of 10,000, was scheduled for 25–27 June, having already postponed by a week to be after the 21st, the final date for lifting all restrictions in England under the UK government’s now-abandoned roadmap. The Americana event, which debuted in 2018, would have featured a line-up that included Van Morrison, Robert Plan’s Saving Grace, Jake Bugg, Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls, Imelda May, Band of Skulls and Foy Vance.

Trade body LIVE had warned that any delay to the 21 June reopening date would wipe an estimated 5,000 concerts, festivals and events from the calendar and cost the live music industry hundreds of millions of pounds in lost revenues.

“We can’t quite put into words how we are feeling right now,” say Black Deer organisers on social media. “The delay by the government on the easing of restrictions means we’re unable to bring you Black Deer Festival 2021. It’s devastating news for all connected with Black Deer. But we’ll be back in 2022.”

https://twitter.com/blackdeerfest/status/1404551430707585024

Elsewhere, several other smaller events have also thrown in the towel, with Glastonferry (5,000-cap.) in Warrington, Bingley Weekender (5,000-cap.) in West Yorkshire and Noisily (2,000-cap.) in Leicestershire among other festivals saying the four-week delay makes their 2021 events untenable.

A statement from Noisily, scheduled for 8–12 July, says: “It is with heavy heavy hearts that we write this message. Today’s announcement was the one that we dreaded – a delay to the release from Covid restrictions. The woods and fields in which Noisily takes place are a part of a working farm, meaning that there is no scope to delay until later in the summer, which means that Noisily 2021 cannot go ahead.”

“We can’t quite put into words how we are feeling right now”

“We know how gutting this is for you all,” organisers continue. “We needed that soul food of meeting in the woods once again, and after pouring our heart and soul into the event on a wing and a prayer, hoping against hope – to have all of that dashed again is beyond devastating.”

Other festivals under threat include popular Sheffield event Tramlines (30,000-cap.), which begins on 24 July, just five days after the new ‘freedom day’.

As the Sheffield Star reports, “that means it could legally still go ahead if the government sticks to the new date”; however, “any further postponement of lockdown easing would force its cancellation, with the existing limit on capacity for outdoor events standing at 4,000, leaving little time to react should that happen.”

Latitude (35,000-cap.), meanwhile, is still on at the time of writing, according to Festival Republic MD Melvin Benn.

In an update posted to the Latitude Twitter account, Benn asks ticketholders to give the company “a little more time” to digest yesterday’s announcement, saying that a decision on the festival should be made by the end of the week. However, the delay doesn’t mean “the end of our hopes for Latitude this year”, says Benn.

Latitude 2021, headlined by Wolf Alice, the Chemical Brothers and Bastille, takes place from 22 to 25 July.

 


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Report: UK’s inaction over insurance blamed for ‘lost summer’

The UK government’s “refusal” to back insurance for events at risk of cancellation due to Covid-19 restrictions is “directly” responsible for the festival sector’s second consecutive ‘lost summer’, a report has found.

The report is a result of a January inquiry into the future of UK music festivals, conducted by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Select Committee.

The findings come after culture secretary Oliver Dowden stated that the government would not provide commercial insurance until 21 June at the earliest, when all restrictions are due to be lifted. However, MPs say that at that point, it would “simply be too late” for summer festivals.

Now, MPs express caution on whether the government’s roadmap will enable festivals to go ahead at all this summer, raising doubts about the scope of the government’s Events Research Programme and uncertainty over the spread of new Covid-19 variants.

“Music festivals have been treated as the poor relation by the government,” says DCMS committee chair, Julian Knight. “Despite the huge economic and cultural contribution they make, few have benefited from the Culture Recovery Fund, and without our efforts the sector would have been left out of the pilot events programme on the safe return of audiences.

“It has been made very clear to us that the vast majority of music festivals do not have the financial resilience to cover the costs of another year of late-notice cancellations. If the commercial insurance market won’t step in, ministers must, and urgently: events need to know now whether the government will back them, or they simply won’t take place this year.

“Events need to know now whether the government will back them, or they simply won’t take place this year”

“We repeat our call for the government to announce an insurance scheme to cover festival organisers if events need to be cancelled as a result of Covid-19 restrictions continuing beyond 21 June. There’s still time to get the music playing, but no more room for excuses.”

The UK live industry, along with the DCMS Select Committee, has repeatedly called for a contingency fund for live events, as more and more marquee festivals have cancelled.

Glastonbury, Download, Bluedot, Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, Bluedot, Boomtown and Shambala are among the UK festivals that have already called it quits, citing a lack of security for large events.

Commenting on the DCMS Select Committee report, a spokesperson from LIVE, the representative body for the UK live music industry, says: “The DCMS Select Committee is right when it says that the government is letting UK festivals down by refusing to deal with the absence of commercial insurance. After months of fruitless discussions with the DCMS and Treasury, the sector is exasperated at the government’s unwillingness to step in to help prevent the collapse of the festival sector for a further 12 months.

“Without some form of insurance the risk of going ahead will simply be too great for many festivals this year and, whatever happens with the reopening timetable, the vast majority of events could pull the plug in the coming weeks.”

Compensation schemes have been announced in Germany (€2.5bn), Austria (€300m), the Netherlands (€300m), Belgium (€60m),  Norway (€34m), Denmark (DKK 500m) and Estonia (€6m).

But while the UK government has underwritten the cancellation costs of all forthcoming Events Research Programme pilot shows – to a maximum of £300,000 per event – officials have been reticent to agree to a scheme more broadly.


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Rock en Seine cancels, French organisers get creative

France’s Rock en Seine has been called off, following the government’s announcement that festivals would be restricted to 5,000 seated and socially distanced attendees.

The Paris festival, which typically welcomes 120,000 festivalgoers each year, was set to take place between 27–29 August 2021, though the line-up had not been announced.

In a statement, the organisers say: “Even with the greatest optimism, given the health restrictions in place today we know that the event we want to create and experience sadly cannot take place this year.”

The French government announced the framework for the 2021 festival season back in February, along with a €30 million fund.

The aid was launched to compensate organisers – both for losses incurred due to the implementation of alternative formats and in the event that festivals are cancelled due to an increasing Covid-19 infection rate.

Many French organisers have already jumped at the chance to implement an alternative event, including the country’s largest festival, the Vieilles Charrues (Old Plows).

The festival will host an intimate concert series at the Parc du Château in its home region of Brittany between 8–18 July 2021.

“Even with the greatest optimism, given the health restrictions in place today we know that the event cannot take place this year”

The series will comprise 10 evenings concerts featuring 30 domestic artists including Vianney, Woodkid and Pomme. See the full line-up here.

Live Nation’s Main Square festival is also planning a concert series, which will comprise eight concerts in eight ’emblematic places’ of Hauts-de-France, the northernmost region of France. See the line-up and the list of locations here.

Those who have purchased tickets to the 2020, 2021 or 2022 editions of the Arras-based festival will have the opportunity to attend the six shows free of charge, in strict compliance with the current restrictions.

All six concerts will be filmed and broadcast online on the festival’s official website as well as on its social networks and those of its partners, on July 2, 3 and 4 – when the flagship festival would’ve taken place.

Elsewhere, in the French festival market, Eurockéennes says it is “now imagining the different possible options to offer another project, in a new format and adapted to the framework that will be imposed on us” though no further details have emerged.

France was the first major European market to make a decision on the 2021 festival season but countries including Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Switzerland have followed suit with tough restrictions.

 


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More major Spanish festivals pull the plug on 2021

Spain’s 2021 festival season has diminished once again with fresh cancellations from major festivals Mad Cool and Bilbao BBK Live.

Other marquee Spanish festivals including Primavera Sound and Sónar Barcelona were previously called off, while Arenal Sound, Festival Internacional de Benicàssim and Cruïlla are still forging ahead with this year’s events.

Live Nation-promoted Mad Cool (cap. 60,000) was set to take place between 7–10 July 2021 in Madrid but this morning (20 May), the organisers confirmed that this year’s event is cancelled due to the “current force majeure circumstances” of the pandemic.

“It has been a very painful decision to come to, as our desire (and probably yours) was to find ourselves all together again at Mad Cool in 2021,” they said in a statement.

“However, we would like to let you know we think this is the appropriate, sensible and right decision to make. Health is more important than anything.”

“[Mad Cool] would like to let you know we think this is the appropriate, sensible and right decision to make”

The fifth edition of Mad Cool will take place in 2022 from July 6–9. All purchased tickets for Mad Cool 2021 will be valid for the 2022 edition of the festival, while refunds and ticket changes will be available between 7–21 July.

A line-up announcement for 2022 is expected to be made before 7 July, with the organisers noting that “we are keeping as many artists as we can from 2021 and also adding some new ones so we can have the best line-up ever”.

The likes of The Killers, Haim and Cardi B had all been set to play at the 2021 edition of the event.

The cancellation of Mad Cool follows that of Bilbao BBK Live, which was called off on Tuesday (18 May) due to ongoing coronavirus restrictions.

The 15th anniversary of the Spanish event was due to take place between 8–10 July 2021, with the likes of The Killers, Pet Shop Boys, Supergrass and FKA Twigs.

“We appreciate [fans’] patience, and we share the same frustration for missing out on the festival yet again”

“First and foremost, a big thank you to all of you for your patience and resilience during these tough times,” a statement read.

“We feel your support now more than ever. As you can imagine, Bilbao BBK Live will not be held as originally planned nor on the scheduled date. We will have to wait a bit longer as the highly anticipated reunion is postponed to 2022.”

The post continues: “We appreciate your patience, and we share the same frustration for missing out on the festival yet again. All we can think about is how incredible the reunion is going to be after this long wait, and we guarantee it will be worth it.

We will return even more eager to celebrate and enjoy live music. See you next year!”

The line-up for Bilbao 2022 will arrive by 8 July.

 


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Sweden rules out major festivals this summer

The Swedish government’s new roadmap has hammered the final nail in the coffin of the country’s 2021 festival summer by ruling out major events until at least September.

The three-stage plan seals the fate of Swedish festivals – most of which have already pulled the plug.

Way Out West (12–14 August) is the latest major Swedish festival to be called off and follows high-profile cancellations from Sweden Rock (9–12 June), Lollapalooza Stockholm (2–5 July) and Statement Festival (3–4 September).

Regional events including Urkult, Bingsjöstämman, Storsjöyran, Dance Band Week in Malung, Gefle Metal, Putte in the Park (Karlstad and Luleå), Kiruna Festival and Uppsala Reggae previously called time on 2021 editions.

The roadmap, proposed by the Swedish Public Health Agency and commissioned by the government, suggests that from 1 June (stage three) outdoor events can take place with 500 seated and socially distanced attendees or with 100 standing.

Sweden Rock, Lollapalooza Stockholm, Way Out West and Statement Festival have been called off

Indoor events can take place with either 50 seated and socially distanced attendees or just eight standing.

Dates for the next two levels have not yet been given but the Public Health Agency believes that stage two will come into effect later in June or July, which is when outdoor events can take place with 3,000 seated and socially distanced attendees.

The majority of capacity limits will likely be scrapped in early September, which will mark stage one of the roadmap.

The Swedish government has been notably strict with restrictions for live music. In November, it imposed one of the lowest capacity limits in Europe, permitting just eight people indoors – a limit that, according to the roadmap, may not be lifted until July.

Sweden is the latest European market to pull the plug on the 2021 festival season due to uncertainty about the 2021 festival season, following widespread cancellations in Norway, Germanythe UKSwitzerlandDenmark and France.


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Denmark’s festival season wiped out due to restrictions

Denmark’s festival season has been decimated for the second consecutive year after the government announced that a maximum of 2,000 participants will be permitted at festivals between 21 May and 1 August 2021.

The announcement came last night (3 May) and was followed this morning by a raft of festival cancellations including Roskilde (26 June to 3 July), Smukfest (4–8 August), Northside (3–5 June), Tinderbox (24–26 June), Beautiful Party (4–8 August), Jelling Festival (20–23 May), Copenhell (16–19 June) and Heartland (27–29 May).

Vig Festival (8–10 July), Thy Rock (25–26 June), Nibe Festival (30 June to 3 July), Ringsted Festival (5–7 August), Langelandsfestival (18–25 July), Radio ABC Beach Party (17 July) and Kløften Festival (24–26 June) have also been called off.

The government’s reopening agreement states that 2,000-capacity events are permitted, provided attendees are divided into sections with a maximum of 200 people in each.

“It is a day of mourning”

After 1 August, the capacity limit will be raised to 5,000 with sections of up to 500 attendees. Events with 10,000 attendees will not take place until it is ‘assessed as sound from a health point of view’.

The agreement comes after the government’s expert advisory group warned that festivals with more than 10,000 participants should not be carried out as usual, which cast serious doubt over the viability of Denmark’s 2021 festival season.

The organisers of Roskilde, which typically gathers 130,000 people each year, say its enforced cancellation is not surprising.

“We are devastated by the fact that we can’t get together at our festival and contribute to recreating the communities that the corona crisis has destroyed for so many,” says a statement on the festival’s website.

“The cancellation is very serious for the festival, for the charity society behind it and for our community. And it is serious for the artistic environments and the growth segments of culture.”

“We are extremely annoyed that the politicians are writing off the festivals already”

Esben Marcher, head of Danish live music association Dansk Live, dubbed the government’s plan an “over-cautious reopening that does not leave much hope for the festivals”. “It’s a day of mourning,” he added.

Smukfest spokesman, Søren Eskildsen, believes that government acted hastily: “We are extremely annoyed that the politicians are writing off the festivals already, as we believe that it is too early to make such decisive decisions on the basis of conjecture about what the situation will look like in three months’ time and what can and cannot be done at that time.”

The reopening agreement has effectively rendered Denmark’s DKK 500 million (€67.2m) safety net redundant for the organisers of festivals and major events.

Announced in March, the safety net was designed to cover organisers of recurring events with at least 350 participants, taking place between 1 May and 30 September 2021, in the event that the Covid-19 situation results in the cancellation, postponement or significant changes to an event.

 


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Greece’s 2021 festival season undergoes shake-up

Greek festivals are in fight-or-flight mode as the summer season draws closer and uncertainty about the Covid restrictions looms.

Ejekt Festival and AthensRocks have cut their losses and pulled the plug on 2021, while Rockwave and Release Athens regroup after cancellations from international acts and The Athens Technopolis Jazz Festival and Athens Music Week assume hybrid formats.

The organisers of Ejekt festival say they ‘did everything possible’ to avoid cancelling this year’s event, which would have taken place on 26 June at Markopoulo Park near Athens.

“Unfortunately we find ourselves in the very sad position to have to cancel Ejeckt Festival for the second year in a row,” reads a statement on the festival’s website.

“With our main priority being the safety of fans, artists and festival personnel, we worked for many months on various plans and we tried to come up with solutions. We did everything possible in order to make the festival take place this year. But, our efforts and hopes are again thrown in the garbage bin due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We are as devastated as you are. We miss live music and we miss you so much. Even though we don’t like it, at this point all we can do is move on.”

“Our efforts and hopes are again thrown in the garbage bin due to the Covid-19 pandemic”

The festival has taken place each year since 2004 and is said to attract around 55,000 visitors.

Red Hot Chili Peppers would have made their second-ever appearance in Greece at this year’s Ejekt festival. It is not yet known whether the band will perform at the 2022 event – the date of which will be announced soon.

Those who have already purchased their tickets can roll them over for the 2022 event or from 7 June can exchange with a voucher of equal value, which will can be used at any concert of the same organiser.

AthensRocks, which would have taken place on 12 June at Athens Olympic Complex in the Greek capital, will also forego 2021.

The festival’s promoters High Priority Promotions have not commented on the cancellation apart from to say that the 2021 headliners – The National, Idles and Balthazar – are not able to return for the next edition, which will take place on 16 July 2022.

Athens Music Week and The Athens Technopolis Jazz Festival have decided to hedge their bets by adopting a hybrid format

Ticket holders will be refunded, rather than offered vouchers, ahead of the 2022 line-up announcement.

Elsewhere, Release Athens Festival, an annual concert series that takes place in Athens each summer, is forging ahead despite Pet Shop Boys and Judas Priest pulling out of this year’s edition.

At the time of writing, Massive Attack, Sabaton and Slipknot are due to play the series, which takes place throughout June and July.

Rockwave, an open-air rock festival that has taken place in Athens since 1996, is also “reviewing the festival programme” after Deep Purple dropped out of the June event.

Meanwhile, Athens Music Week (22–26 June) and The Athens Technopolis Jazz Festival (27–29 May) have decided to hedge their bets by adopting a hybrid format for 2021.

 


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