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40+ UK festivals cancelled: What’s going on?

Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) CEO John Rostron has unpicked the key issues facing the beleaguered UK sector this summer, with more than 40 festivals already postponed, cancelled or shut down in 2024.

The family-run Towersey Festival – the UK’s longest-running independent, having launched in 1965 – became the latest casualty earlier this month, announcing that its upcoming August edition would be its last, citing “increasing financial and economic challenges since the pandemic”.

It joined a list of losses from this year’s calendar that already includes NASS Festival, Bradford’s Challenge Festival, El Dorado, PennfestConnect Music Festival110 Above Festival, Leopollooza, Long Division, Bluedot and Barn On The Farm, with the majority of organisers blaming significant increases in operational costs.

Rostron tells IQ that promoters have described the current climate as “the most challenging time it’s ever been”.

“It’s an incredibly challenging environment, because they’ve got multiple things that have all come together at the same time – some of which is long wind from Covid and Brexit impacting,” he explains. “There are a couple of wise people who saw this coming out of the pandemic, but obviously it is very different seeing it to now feeling it.”

While the supporting data is limited up to this point, Rostron says the indications are that the cost of living crisis “has definitely come to bear” ahead of this summer’s season.

“What we feared would happen, is happening – and it will get worse before it gets better”

“One thing we have picked up on is that the overall sales pattern is changing,” he points out. “A lot of people might want, or intend, to go to a festival, but cost of living means they won’t buy their tickets as early as they used to. They’re waiting a lot later – and that ‘later’ adds to the problem.

“Somebody saying, ‘I’m going to go, but I haven’t bought a ticket yet’ is no good to a festival organiser who’s got to pay a bill for a stage upfront. But it’s understandable, because we know what cost of living feels like. We’re all in it, so we’re probably all making similar kinds of decisions.”

Former Welsh Music Foundation chief Rostron, who co-founded Cardiff’s Sŵn Festival, says he was first alerted to the unfolding situation within a month of taking the AIF helm in November 2022.

“I had an individual say to me, ‘There is a cultural crisis coming; I can see a real problem coming down the tracks,'” recalls Rostron. “At the time, it was the only voice saying that, because a lot of the festivals were feeling incredibly energised because they’d finally put Covid to bed. But what I hadn’t realised is how many of them had made a loss on the events they’d delivered in 2022. They’d sold out, but they’d still made a loss.

“This one voice said, ‘I think there’s a cultural crisis’ and then as some festivals began to fall in the spring of 2023, that voice became loud in my head. What we feared would happen, is happening – and it will get worse before it gets better.”

Rostron suggests that headlines about record-setting A-list global tours and more than one million people attending live music events in London in a single week had distracted from the growing concerns lower down the food chain. But there has since been a reality check.

“We talk to the supply chain a lot, and they need two or three years of relative calm in order to be able to build back and relax their terms”

“There were a lot of people in the ecosystem doing well and feeling very optimistic, so the voices of errors and problems felt like they were on the fringes,” he says. “But that is coming home and you can see it in two big areas: grassroots music venues and festivals. And it’s not just our voices anymore – you hear it from other people in the talent development pipeline: artists, managers and agents, because they’re not getting as many bookings this year.

“The number of stages and events has gone down and they’re like, ‘Oh, this is a problem, because we’re not getting the opportunities we used to get; what does that mean for the future?’ Those voices are beginning to join with us now.”

Regarding escalating supply chain costs, from fencing to toilets, Rostron says there is no simple solution for either side.

“Within their world, there’s been a lot of upheaval,” he says. “A lot of it is Brexit and the pandemic, but they have other issues – their ability to buy new gear is challenging when there’s high interest rates, and it’s challenging to store them. Those things add pressure to their ability to settle prices, alongside that foundation of Brexit, which has caused huge problems for the supply chain in terms of locations and costs.

“We talk to the supply chain a lot, and they need two or three years of relative calm in order to be able to build back and relax their terms. Everybody’s under pressure, so the prices have not just gone up, but they want their money upfront and that is incredibly difficult. That’s not the environment that existed in 2019 where if you had a loss one year, you could cover it the next year. That’s all gone.

“There are lots of great people in the sector working very hard to try and come to deals and help people through – from generator and audio companies to agents and artists – but they can’t always make it, and that’s why you’re seeing so many fall.”

“It’s clearly already too late for 43 festivals, and it’s going to be too late for four more that I know are going to go”

In response to the developing crisis, the trade association has launched a campaign called Five Percent For Festivals to encourage festivalgoers to contact their MPs to lobby for a VAT reduction on tickets. AIF states that a reduced VAT from 20% to 5% on ticket sales for the next three years will give festival promoters the space they need to rebuild, and will resume its campaigning in the wake of next month’s UK general election.

“I’m very optimistic that we will get something,” says Rostron. “I’m very confident. Naively confident? I don’t know. We’ve had regular conversations and we haven’t had a ‘No’. The sad bit is, the more festivals cancel – and what we said might happen begins to happen – the stronger those conversations are.

“The CMS inquiry into grassroots music venues made a recommendation to look at modelling of VAT in the grassroots, and the conversation has widened to say that should include festivals. All of that will take time. It takes time to model, it takes time to implement, and there’s still obviously a chance that it won’t happen – they can make the recommendation and then say, ‘No’.

“I think there will be intervention. My concern is that by the time something does happen, how many [festivals] will have gone? We’re going to see more independent festivals go because they’re not going to be able to make it to that point of intervention, whatever that intervention looks like. It’s clearly already too late for 43 festivals, and it’s going to be too late for four more that I know are going to go.”

He continues: “What’s good for us is there is an election about to happen, so we’ll have a new group of politicians with a five-year mandate, and that is stronger to work with than where we were, which was with a group of MPs that didn’t know how long their futures would be.”

“We’ve had a lack of new energy and blood and ideas because of Covid, and we’ll begin to see that trickle back”

Indeed, sounding an optimistic note, Rostron can already picture a brighter tomorrow for the industry – with Generation Z leading the charge.

“What will the festival sector do creatively? Well, they’re already planning it,” he observes. “You’ve got people going, ‘There’s a headliner issue? We’re going to change the way that we book.’ A lot of festivals sell the majority of their tickets without announcing any artists – people go because they love Shambala, or Mighty Hoopla, or Green Man, or End Of The Road. And as long as those artists are of good quality and fit with the audience’s expectations, they’re not really looking at who’s playing, so I think festivals will double down on that.

“For some of them, you’re going to see degrowth. You’re going to say, ‘As we expanded, we got to the point where we needed those [big] headliners. If we shrink down a bit, we don’t need that anymore.'”

He concludes: “You had this big gap with young people that couldn’t go to festivals because of Covid, and that’s impacted us in ways that we can’t understand. But some of them went to festivals in 2022 and 2023, and they’ll go again this year. And guess what? They’ll now start to leave their footprint creatively in the festival sector.

“You will see some of those individuals be inspired to create their own events, or pockets within existing events. You’ll see that magic start to sprout up because that’s where innovation always comes from. We’ve had a lack of new energy and blood and ideas because of Covid, and we’ll begin to see that trickle back.

“Next year, I think you’ll see the seeds of some future great festivals and some others change quite dramatically. That will be quite Gen Z-driven, and I’m really excited to see what they do.”

 


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More than 40 UK festivals cancelled for 2024

More than 40 UK festivals have been postponed, cancelled or shut down in 2024, according to a new report from the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF).

Bradford’s Challenge Festival is the latest casualty, with the free event axed just days before it was scheduled due to “unrealistic demands” being placed on the organisers.

In the past five years alone, 172 festivals in the UK have disappeared, according to AIF, the UK’s leading not-for-profit festival trade association.

Of those, 96 events were lost due to Covid-19, 36 were lost throughout 2023, and 40 have been lost since the start of the year.

El Dorado, Pennfest, Connect Music Festival110 Above FestivalNASS Festival, Leopollooza, Long Division, BluedotBarn On The Farm and Splendour are among this year’s losses, with the majority of organisers blaming a significant increase in operational costs.

AIF has warned that without intervention, the country will see over 100 festivals disappear in 2024 due to unpredictable rising costs.

“The speed of festival casualties in 2024 shows no sign of slowing”

In response to the crisis, the trade association has launched a campaign called Five Percent For Festivals that aims to inform festivalgoers about the problems that organisers have faced over the last five years, encouraging them to contact their MPs to lobby for a VAT reduction on tickets.

It states that temporary support from the UK Government – lowering VAT from 20 per cent to five per cent on ticket sales for the next three years – is all that’s needed to give festival promoters the space they need to rebuild.

“The speed of festival casualties in 2024 shows no sign of slowing,” says AIF CEO John Rostron said. “We are witnessing the steady erosion of one of the UK’s most successful and culturally significant industries not because of a lack of demand from the public but because of unpredictable, unsustainable supply chain costs and market fluctuations.”

“In asking for a temporary reduction in VAT related to ticket sales, we have provided the government with a considered, targeted and sensible solution, which would save this important sector. We need action now.”

Challenges are being felt by festivals of all sizes across Europe, with FKP Scorpio’s Stephan Thanscheidt recently telling IQ that it “has become very challenging to promote festivals in a way that keeps pushing things forward and is economically viable.”

Read the full 2024 festival preview, which also features Christof Huber (Gadget, Yourope) and Jim King (AEG Presents), here.

 


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Festival bills ’24: Paléo, Lolla Berlin, Pukkelpop

Switzerland’s Paléo and Lollapalooza Berlin in Germany head the latest festival lineup announcements for 2024, while Belgium’s Pukkelpop is celebrating a speedy sellout.

Paléo Festival Nyon returns from 23-28 July with a bill headed by Sam Smith, Burna Boy, Booba, Mika, Sean Paul, Major Lazer Soundsystem, Gazo & Tiakola, PLK, Nile Rodgers & Chic, Patti Smith, The Blaze, Paul Kalkbrenner, Aurora and Royal Blood.

Expanding its musical horizons with a mix of pop, rock, rap, dancehall, Afrobeats, reggae, electro, opera and funk, the event will welcome 130 artists in all. Its Village du Monde (Village of the World) will focus on the Balkans, featuring around 20 acts.

Set for 7-8 September at the German capital’s Olympic Stadium and Olympic Park, Lollapalooza Berlin will be headlined by Sam Smith, Martin Garrix, Burna Boy, Seventeen, The Chainsmokers, Niall Horan, Louis Tomlinson, Shirin David and CRO.

Other acts will include Loyle Carner, Nothing But Thieves, Meduza, Tom Grennan, Kenya Grace, Elderbrook, Joel Corry and Alok.

That same weekend will also see Goodlive’s Superbloom take place at the Olympic Park in Munich, which has unveiled its expanded lineup. Joining Calvin Harris on the bill are Burna Boy, Shirin David, Jorja Smith, Milky Chance, Loyle Carner, Loreen and Chappell Roan.

Previously confirmed acts included Sam Smith, The Chainsmokers, CRO, Louis Tomlinson, RIN, Provinz, Tokio Hotel, Nothing But Thieves, Kenya Grace and David Puentez. For the first time, there will also be readings by renowned authors, including Ilona Hartmann and Phia Quantius, with two crime podcasts also represented.

“Ticket sales are going well: we are certainly further ahead than this time last year”

Meanwhile, Pukkelpop, which will be held in Hasselt between 15-18 August, sold out all combination tickets in less than 48 hours, according to organisers.

The event will star the likes of Fred Again.., Stormzy, Sam Smith, Queens of the Stone Age, The Offspring, Charlotte de Witte, Goldband, Raye, Inhaler, Sugababes, The Vaccines, Skrillex, Jorja Smith, The Smile and Denzel Curry.

Also in Belgium, the resurgent Gent Jazz Festival is expanding from ten to 13 days and has confirmed André 3000 among this year’s performers. The 5,500-cap series runs from 5-20 July and will also feature names such as Diana Krall, Laufey, Jamie Cullum, Air, Alexis Ffrench, DJ Shadow, Nile Rodgers & Chic and Rodrigo y Gabriela.

Ghent-based promoter and booking agency Greenhouse Talent took over the international jazz festival last year after previous organiser – the non-profit Jazz en Muziek – went backrupt at the end of 2022.

“For us, the expansion is an essential intervention to guarantee our survival,” organiser Pascal Van De Velde tells De Standaard. “It is difficult for a festival in our niche and with our capacity to break even, and we did not want to save on costs. So we found the solution in extra days: this allows us to spread the basic costs of the festival.

“Ticket sales are going well: we are certainly further ahead than this time last year.”

AIF reports that 21 UK festivals have now announced a postponement, cancellation or complete closure in 2024

Elsewhere, Smash’s Fuji Rock, which will grace Japan’s Naeba Ski Resort in Tokyo from 26-28 July, has added Peggy Gou and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds as headliners alongside Kraftwerk. Other new additions include Remi Wolf, Hiromi’s Sonic Wonder, Denki Groove, Kid Fresno, Man With a Mission, Sampha, Teddy Swims, Macaroni Empitsu, The Spellbound and Kim Gordon.

And AEG’s BST Hyde Park in London has revealed Morgan Wallen as its final 2024 headliner. The country music superstar will perform on 4 July, completing a lineup which also includes SZA (29 June), Kings of Leon (30 June), Andrea Bocelli (5 July), Robbie Williams (6 July), Shania Twain (7 July), Stevie Nicks (12 July), Kylie Minogue (13 July) and Stray Kids (14 July).

However, trade body the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) reports that 21 UK festivals have now announced a postponement, cancellation or complete closure in 2024.

Cotswolds-based Nibley Festival has announced that this year’s event will be its last, shortly after Bradford’s Bingley Festival announced that its 2024 edition will not go ahead.

Promoters of both festivals have cited rapidly rising production costs as the reason why running their event is no longer viable. Portsmouth rock and metal festival Takedown also recently postponed to 2025, citing “challenging trading conditions” among other factors.

AIF warns that, without intervention, the UK could see over 100 festivals disappear in 2024 due to rising costs and has reiterated the need for temporary support from the UK government to lower VAT from 20% to 5% on ticket sales for the next three years.

“It’s with grave concern that we again sound the alarm to government upon passing this critical milestone,” says AIF CEO John Rostron. “UK festivals are disappearing at a worrying rate, and we as a nation are witnessing the erosion of one of our most successful and unique cultural industry sectors.

“We have done the research: a reduction of VAT to 5% on festival tickets over the next three years is a conservative, targeted and temporary measure that would save almost all of the festival businesses that are likely to fall by the wayside this year and many more over the years to come. We need this intervention now.”

 


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LIVE rues budget’s ‘missed opportunity’ on VAT cut

UK live music trade body LIVE has described Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s latest budget as “another missed opportunity” after calls for a reduced VAT rate on ticket sales went unheeded once again.

Hunt did announce, however, that orchestra tax relief (OTR) would become permanent at a rate of 45%.

The current temporary 50% rate of OTR was due to taper down from April 2025 and drop eventually to its original rate of 25%. A theatre tax relief rate of 40% (and 45% for touring productions) will also remain.

“LIVE welcomes the Chancellor’s announcement that the tax reliefs for orchestras and theatres will be made permanent,” says LIVE CEO Jon Collins. “However, today’s Budget represents yet another missed opportunity to accelerate the growth of the live music sector and the wider economy while also providing urgently needed support for grassroots music through the reintroduction of a lower VAT rate.

“20% VAT on tickets in the UK is vastly out of step with our competitors in Europe and North America and has become a material factor limiting the number of gigs, tours and festivals our world class industry can put on.

“Fewer shows mean reduced economic activity in towns and cities across the country – an estimated £1m is spent in local businesses for every 10,000 people who attend a gig – and heaps further pressure onto grassroots music venues that are closing down at an alarming rate. We need urgent action to ensure the whole sector can prosper in the long term.”

Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) chief John Rostron also laments a lack of support for the sector, despite a spate of recent cancellations.

“We’re disappointed that our calls for support for the UK music festival sector have not been met”

“We’re disappointed that our calls for support for the UK music festival sector have not been met,” says Rostron. “Festivals need a temporary reduction in VAT on ticket sales from 20% to 5% in order to recover from the impact of Covid and Brexit, which has created a credit crunch that is seeing successful festivals having to postpone or cancel this year months before their events are due to take place.

“Yet another festival fell yesterday – the 15th event to fall already in 2024. Theatre has made the case for tax relief, which is being extended indefinitely. We urge the Chancellor and the Treasury to now turn to festivals and offer a fraction of that support to ensure more events do not make 2024 their last.”

UK Music interim CEO Tom Kiehl also welcomes the move to make OTR permanent.

“I welcome that the Chancellor has listened to industry calls to put in place extensions to the orchestras tax relief on a permanent basis,” he says.

“The government should use this opportunity to clarify our further calls as to whether touring choirs and other singing groups are also eligible for this important relief.

“We welcome the indirect benefit to music of the introduction other creative sector tax reliefs and seek further government consideration for the introduction of a tax credit to encourage new UK music production.”

Introduced in 2016, OTR is aimed at supporting live orchestral performances. The headline rate was rate uplifted to 50% in 2021 in the wake of Covid and was extended in 2023 for a further two years until April 2025.

The Musicians’ Union and the Association of British Orchestras were among the groups that had called to make the relief permanent.

 


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AIF to operate AFO as Steve Heap retires

The UK’s Association of Festival Organisers (AFO) will hand over operation to the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) following the retirement of general secretary Steve Heap.

Heap, who will step down at the beginning of April, has been AFO’s general secretary since its formation in 1987. The organisation currently represents 102 festival and event organisers, with events ranging from 500 to 25,000-plus capacity, while AIF represents 101 UK music festivals, ranging from 500 to 80,000-cap.

Together, the trade bodies will have a collective voice representing 202 festival promoters and events organisers across the UK.

“Since founding AFO in 1987, I have devoted a considerable amount of time, effort and love to the grassroots festival industry,” says Heap. “Members and I have worked together to build a stronger, well-recognised and sustainable future. Retiring from this desk now, after 38 years, is a big tug and I will leave all the ‘thank yous’ to my personal letters later.

“For now and the future, I am delighted to be giving the reins to John Rostron and the team at AIF, where I know AFO members will find support, knowledge, campaigning and unity in this world of festivals. AFO members are creative, conscientious, and resilient, and I believe will embrace this change of management with enthusiasm, leading on to a real recovery and strong, successful season in 2024.”

The AFO and AIF have come together many times in the past to fight for the combined interests of their members, with achievements including negotiating a new reduced festival tariff with PRS for Music; negotiating a reduction on VAT for tickets sales to 5% during Covid; lobbying government for financial support, and leading to the contribution of over a billion pounds from the Cultural Recovery Fund to a variety of arts organisations.

“The UK’s festival sector is depleting at a staggering rate in 2024 and, without government intervention, there is no guarantee that pressures will ease”

“Steve is a legend in the festival world and he’ll be greatly missed as he begins his retirement from AFO,” adds AIF CEO John Rostron. “I’m enormously pleased that his departing gesture is to entrust AFO to myself and the team at AIF. We’ll continue to support AFO members in the way they’ve become accustomed but also bring new opportunities and strength by having so many independent festivals together in one place.

“I’m pleased that I’ll still get time with Steve as he offers his wisdom and support to me and the members as he steps back to enjoy more time in the fields, and less time at a desk.”

Meanwhile, Devon’s Spring Classic festival has become the latest UK festival to cancel this year, with organisers citing spiralling costs.

“Spring Classic festival is the 14th UK festival to cancel, postpone or announce their closure entirely in 2024,” notes Rostron. “Again, reasons of soaring costs for a third consecutive year since the pandemic have meant this popular, well run event can no longer go ahead, despite plenty of personal investment from its organisers.

“The UK’s festival sector is depleting at a staggering rate in 2024 and, without government intervention, there is no guarantee that pressures will ease for promoters in years to come. We again urge people to visit fivepercentforfestivals.com, contact their MP and call for a three year VAT reduction on festival tickets to 5% in order to give festivals the economic respite they need to recover.”

 


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Two more UK festivals cancelled

Two more UK festivals have announced they will no longer take place in 2024.

Connect Music Festival and 110 Above Festival join a growing list of UK festivals to have announced some form of cancellation already this year, including NASS Festival, Leopollooza, Long Division, Bluedot, Barn On The Farm and Splendour, as well as Nozstock The Hidden Valley, which says its 2024 edition will be its last.

Meanwhile, organisers of a third event – Norfolk’s Wild Fields – are battling to reconfigure the planned three-day camping event into a two-day city-based gathering. A collaboration between ATC Group and the team behind Norwich-based multi-venue festival Wild Paths, the 10,000-cap Wild Fields was set for Raynham Estate in North Norfolk from 15-18 August.

The festival was aiming to offer “a truly diverse range of festival performers,” having signed up to Keychange’s 50/50 pledge. Artists booked included Ezra Collective, SBTRKT, Los Bitchos and Nightmares on Wax.

However, festival director Ben Street tells IQ that the team are trying to salvage the festival and are awaiting licensing approval to move to a city park. A statement from Wild Fields reads, “As a team we’ve platformed some of the most exciting, progressive line-ups and sought to challenge convention, outdated attitudes and trends in the industry. Making these choices has never been easy but we’ve been tenacious and stuck to our values.”

DF Concerts says its Connect Music Festival, held at Edinburgh’s Royal Highland Showgrounds, will “take a break” in 2024.

“We’ve decided to take a break with Connect Music Festival in 2024 to take the time to build the next edition of the festival, to make sure it flourishes, evolves, and continues to offer wonderful experiences for all the fans,” says a statement shared on social media.

“Week by week, day by day, one by one these brilliant, vital independent music festivals are disappearing”

The 110 Above Festival, meanwhile, was scheduled for Gopsall Hall Farm, Leicestershire from 10-13 August, with acts such as Circa Waves, The Mysterines, Jack Garratt and Twin Atlantic.

“Having considered carefully and explored various options we have taken the tough decision to give 2024 a miss,” explain organisers. “The current economic climate means it would be reckless to plough on with such uncertainty and volatile costs – particularly for a fully independent festival like ours.

“We already had a feel for this in 2023 where conditions were challenging and the festival made a sizeable loss. This could have been much worse if it wasn’t for the amazing support from team members, contractors and supporters. What’s next? The break will give us a chance to re-group, and re-energise. We really want to keep 110 alive as it’s a passion that we see bring joy to so many.”

In response, UK trade body the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) is repeating calls for a three-year reduction in VAT on festival tickets from 20% to 5%.

“Week by week, day by day, one by one these brilliant, vital independent music festivals are disappearing,” says AIF CEO John Rostron. “With it, we lose the pipeline of talent development for artists and a space for audiences to find new music across the UK. Future headliners were made here.

“The costs of putting on these festivals has risen so much, way beyond the price of the ticket, and so independent festival promoters – already losing money – are having to call time.

“This is a long tail impact of Covid and of Brexit. If the UK wants to be a world leader in music, then the UK government needs to do as other countries across the world have done, and support the festival sector for a few years to make its recovery. Lower VAT on tickets to 5% for three years, and we’ll prevent more festivals having to say enough is enough and goodbye.”

A similar situation is unfolding in Australia, where at least six festivals have been called off since the beginning of this year, in what some executives are calling a crisis.

 


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Standon Calling postponed to 2025

Organisers of the UK’s Standon Calling have cancelled this year’s festival, citing the “very challenging climate”.

The 18th edition of the award-winning Hertfordshire event was due to take place from 25-28 July, but has now been postponed to 24-27 July 2025.

In a message to ticket-holders, director Alex Trenchard says rising costs have made it “practically impossible” to deliver a “fully-formed” event this summer without putting the future of the independent festival at risk.

“Over the last few months of hard work planning our return this summer, it has become clear that the costs of running the event, already considerably higher over the last two years, have significantly increased again, making it practically impossible for us to deliver the fully-formed Standon Calling,” says Trenchard.

“The painful truth is that ploughing on in this very challenging climate could risk the future of the festival. We believe that the only sensible decision is to take a fallow year for the very first time in our history (other than during the height of Covid-19) and use this time to make the 18th Standon Calling one for the ages.”

A number of acts and caterers have complained they are still owed thousands of pounds from last year’s festival

The announcement comes just days after a number of acts and caterers complained they are still owed thousands of pounds from last year’s festival. Trenchard apologised for the “delay to a small number of payments” and said the team was “in the process of fulfilling these and contacting any remaining performers and suppliers”.

The 10,000-cap festival’s 2023 lineup included the likes of Years & Years, Self Esteem, Bloc Party, The Human League, Rick Astley, Melanie C and KT Tunstall.

Trenchard is appealing for people who have already booked tickets for 2024 to rollover their bookings to next year.

“As a way of saying thank you to everyone who chooses to rollover their full booking (which includes at least one Adult Weekend Ticket), we’ll add an additional Adult Weekend Ticket to the order so you can bring an extra friend on us,” he says. “You can also request a refund if you’d prefer.

Numerous other UK festivals have announced some form of cancellation already this year, including NASS Festival, Leopollooza, Long Division, Bluedot, Barn On The Farm and Nozstock The Hidden Valley, which will make its 2024 edition its last.

“”Festivals are being squeezed by the rise in supply chain costs, and the effects of closures and debt incurred during Covid”

“Sadly, the situation is not unique to us,” notes Trenchard. “So many festival teams work hard all year round to deliver unforgettable weekends of memories in the face of unprecedented financial challenges. Over the last few weeks, several other independent festivals have been postponed for similar reasons.”

In response to the postponement, Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) CEO John Rostron reiterated the need for government assistant. The trade body launched a new campaign last week, calling for a VAT reduction on festival tickets.

“Standon Calling is now the ninth UK festival to announce its closure or postponement in 2024, further demonstrating the crisis that our sector is facing and the need for urgent government intervention,” says Rostron. “Festivals are being squeezed by the rise in supply chain costs, and the effects of closures and debt incurred during Covid, meaning they are in a unique, perilous position that threatens the future of almost all but the very biggest operators in the UK.

“We launched the 5% For Festivals campaign at our Festival Congress this month, urging the Government to reduce VAT on festival ticket sales from 20% to 5% – an evidence-based, simple, sensible remedy that would ease the financial burden on promoters enough for them to return to health. We need this action now, and encourage the public to visit fivepercentforfestivals.com, write to their MPs and support events so their favourite festivals don’t make 2024 their last.”

 


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MVT lobbies for £1 ticket levy after Moles closure

The Music Venue Trust (MVT) is lobbying the government for a compulsory £1 levy on tickets sold for UK live music events above 5,000 capacity after grassroots venue Moles in Bath was forced to shut down with immediate effect.

Moles opened in 1978 and has hosted early gigs by acts such as Ed Sheeran, The Killers, Fatboy Slim, Oasis, Blur, Radiohead, The Smiths and Idles. But all future events have been cancelled at the storied 220-cap venue after its owners filed for insolvency, citing rising costs and the cost-of-living crisis.

“Making the decision to close Moles was horrendous, but the cost-of-living crisis has crippled us,” says co-owner Tom Maddicott. “Massively increased costs of stock, utilities and rent compounded by our customers also feeling the impact of the crisis has made it impossible to continue.

“It’s obviously an incredibly difficult decision to have to take, for our team, the staff, the local community, and the artists that over the years have created such an incredible history of music. But the reality is that live music at grassroots level is no longer economically viable and we will not be the only grassroots music venue forced to close.”

“Venues like these all over the country are going out of business, whilst helping nurture the artists that will go on to generate millions for the broader music industry”

According to the MVT, more than 120 grassroots venues (15%) have closed and a further 84 are currently in crisis, while at least seven new arenas are currently planned in cities across the UK.

“Today is a very sad day for our sector,” says Mark Davyd, CEO and founder of the MVT. “Grassroots Music Venues like Moles – one of the best loved and most efficiently run venues in the country for almost 45 years – have done everything they can to keep afloat, investing every penny they can into trying to fulfil their commitment to live music.

“Venues like these all over the country are going out of business, whilst helping nurture the artists that will go on to generate millions for the broader music industry. Put bluntly, they have been badly let down by those who profit from their efforts.”

The MVT has long campaigned for the wider live music industry to financially back the grassroots music sector, proposing that every ticket sold at an arena and stadium should make a £1 contribution into its Pipeline Investment Fund. But despite support from the likes of Enter Shikari, promoter Cuffe & Taylor, venues Piece Hall and Swansea Arena, and ticketing companies Ticketmaster, Skiddle and Good Show, Davyd says the business-at-large has been far too slow to react.

“There needs to be a major shake-up of the live industry with the big players supporting the grassroots where it all begins to secure that pipeline of talent”

“Unless it gets serious about its responsibilities to encourage, nurture and develop the grassroots live sector the music industry as a whole will face a catastrophic failure of artist development,” adds Davyd. “In France all major live music events are required to pay 3.5% of each ticket sale into a fund to support grassroots artists and venues.

“We have today written to the government and to opposition parties to insist that, in the event that the music industry will not act voluntarily, a compulsory levy on every ticket sold for every live music event above 5,000 capacity that takes place in the UK must be introduced by legislation to prevent the devastation of the sector.”

Maddicott adds to the calls for broader support, comparing the situation with other industries.

“There needs to be a major shake-up of the live industry with the big players supporting the grassroots where it all begins to secure that pipeline of talent,” he says. “Football gets it with the Premier League investing millions in the grassroots game each year to bring through new players. The music industry needs to do the same before the entire grassroots sector collapses.”

“It is inevitable that there will be more closures if urgent action is not taken”

Elsewhere in the UK, organisers of independent festival Nozstock The Hidden Valley have announced its 2024 edition, set for 18-21 July, will be its last.

“After the losses incurred over Covid, straight into a cost-of-living crisis, the financial risk is becoming too great,” says a statement from the festival, which has been running for 26 years.

Association of Independent Festivals CEO John Rostron says it is “inevitable” that more events will fold without swift intervention.

“It’s incredibly sad to see Nozstock The Hidden Valley forced to close its gates for good as a direct result of the financial strain faced by many following significant Covid losses and an ongoing cost-of-living crisis,” says Rostron. “After almost three decades of great events, Nozstock has become a key fixture on the UK’s independent festival calendar, and this should serve as yet another alarm bell warning of the perilous situation that many in this cultural sector are facing.

“Already, neither NASS Festival and Leopallooza will return in 2024; Bluedot is on a hiatus after a difficult 2023 edition, and the award-winning Field Maneuvers has announced its 2024 festival will be its last in its current form.

“The impact of Covid and high supply chain costs means the squeeze on festivals is increasing. It is inevitable that there will be more closures if urgent action is not taken. We again call on the government to review VAT on music festival ticket sales and lower the rate to 5% for an extended period to help support the recovery of the festival sector.”

 


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Superstruct-backed NASS Festival axed for 2024

The UK’s only professional action sport and music festival will not go ahead in 2024 due to rising costs and the cost-of-living crisis.

Operated by Vision Nine, NASS most recently took place in Shepton Mallett, near Bristol, in July, when it featured artists including Chase & Status, Wu-Tang Clan, Little Simz and Anne-Marie.

Live entertainment powerhouse Superstruct Entertainment acquired a stake in the 30,000-cap event last year.

“We’re gutted to announce that NASS will not be taking place in 2024,” says a statement from the festival team. “This decision has not been made lightly. Unfortunately, we have found ourselves impacted by both the cost-of-living crisis and the significant increase in operational costs to run a show like NASS. Regrettably, despite our best efforts, it’s just not economically feasible to continue.”

Vision Nine also produces Superstruct-owned surf and music festival Boardmasters.

“As a key gateway festival for many young people, its cancellation will have repercussions for the entire sector”

Established in 2008, NASS (National Adventure Sports Show) is a member of the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) and has welcomed acts such as Giggs, Rudimental, Stormzy, Public Enemy and Loyle Carner down the years.

AIF CEO John Rostron says its cancellation highlights both the continued financial pressure faced by festival operators, as well as “the urgent help many of them need to survive”.

“NASS is a particularly painful loss for the UK’s cultural landscape,” adds Rostron. “As a key gateway festival for many young people, its cancellation will have repercussions for the entire sector.

“This is further evidence of the compounding impact of both Covid and the cost-of-living crisis, which means many young people have missed out or not returned to the live event experience. This coupled with high supply chain costs means the squeeze on festivals is increasing, leaving many with no choice but to close.

“We again call on government to review VAT on music festival ticket sales and lower the rate to 5% for an extended period to help support the recovery of the festival sector.”

 


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AIF launches APPG for independent festivals

The UK’s Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) has set up an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for independent festivals.

The APPG says it will look at the unique value independent festivals bring, as well as the pressures that they face. It will include conversations with the suppliers who work with the festival sector, plus the landowners who support festivals across the UK.

During its first year, the APPG will reflect on the challenges faced by the sector in 2023, and look into prevalent topics including environmental impacts and solutions, women’s safety, crime and drug use, and touring visas for musicians.

“It’s been a very busy summer this year and I’ve met with a number of MPs as I’ve visited festivals across the UK,” says John Rostron, CEO, AIF.

“Whether they are attending and supporting festivals in their constituency, speaking at events, or enjoying festivals for fun, we’ve had some great conversations about the importance and vibrancy of the independent festival sector, as well as the challenges that festivals are currently facing. The Festivals APPG will enable us to carry these conversations into Westminster and enable dialogue between MPs and festivals all year round.”

“The APPG will enable us to carry conversations into Westminster and enable dialogue between MPs and festivals”

The initial APPG members include chair Giles Watling MP (Conservative) and vice chairs Kevin Brennan MP (Labour), Alex Davies Jones MP (Labour), Pete Wishart MP (SNP), Rt Hon Damian Green MP (Conservative), Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP (Conservative), and Mark Fletcher MP (Conservative).

Watling adds: “I am delighted and honoured to be elected as chairman of the APPG for Festivals. Globally, Britain leads the way in celebrating humanity through festivals, as people come together to enjoy their passions. This APPG will be open to any and all forms of festival, from rock and pop to classical to literary. There are wellness festivals, food festivals, and so many more – it will be a privilege to represent all of them and highlight their importance to Britain’s cultural offer.”

Secretariat services will be provided by political consultancy Pepper Shackleton Wellard (PSW), which will organise the APPG events, and co-ordinate with supporters and officers.

AIF is also in conversation with the British Arts Festivals Association (BAFA), the leading network and development agency for UK arts festivals and AFO (Association of Festival Organisers) to support the APPG.

 


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