Dutch no-show rates soar since reopening
Dutch trade body VNPF says the country’s music scene is recovering well since Covid measures were lifted last month – but no-shows at gigs remain a problem.
The government removed all remaining restrictions – most notably pre-admission testing for indoor events – on 23 March following tireless lobbying from the Netherlands’ live sector.
And despite ticket sales for cultural institutions such as museums and theatres struggling to return to pre-pandemic levels, the appetite for live music events has proved more resilient.
“It is going quite well at the music venues,” VNPF director Berend Schans tells NRC. “All programmes that would normally run well before the pandemic are now running well.”
Schans points out that shows by emerging acts are proving a harder sell than established artists, while customer demand has shown to be age-dependent.
“A relatively unknown band that plays post-punk with ’80s references, where more people my age would go, has a harder time than a hip new band that my daughter goes to,” he says.
The no-show rate at concerts has ballooned from 10% to up to 40% in the Netherlands since touring resumed
As has been reported in other territories, Schans adds that major issues have emerged around audience no-shows by ticket-buyers at concerts. The average 10% pre-Covid no-show rate has ballooned to up to 40% since touring resumed, he says, leading to knock-on effects for venues.
“The pop venues have to earn their money with the average €12 that people spend during a concert,” he says. “And they also need that money to buy new programmes.”
Meanwhile, the Netherlands’ taskforce for the cultural and creative sector has written to the government to call for “bridging measures” following the expiration of emergency aid, reiterating that visitor numbers were still below 2019 levels for large parts of the industry.
Jeroen Bartelse, director of TivoliVredenburg, tells the publication that theatres and classical music have averaged 60% of normal numbers since reopening, while Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw reports 65% occupancy, down from 85% in the same period in 2019.
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NZ: Rollback of restrictions “too late” for festivals
Festival organisers and promoters in New Zealand say that the government’s rollback of restrictions is “meaningless” at this point in the events calendar.
Prime minister Jacinda Arden earlier today (23 March) announced the removal of vaccine pass requirements, most vaccine mandates, QR code scanning and outdoor gathering limits.
In addition, the limit for indoor gatherings will be doubled, from 100 to 200 people.
The mandate removal and end of the vaccine pass will go into effect from 5 April, while the other changes go into effect from midnight on Friday (25 March).
Splore festival’s John Minty told Stuff he is “bemused” by the timing of the government’s announcement, saying it had come “out of the blue” after months of uncertainty around when festivals could resume.
“It’s sort of like it’s coming out of the blue in a way”
“It hadn’t been indicated that if certain things happen, we would have less restrictions,” Minty continues. “So it’s sort of like it’s coming out of the blue in a way.”
The festival was originally scheduled to happen between 25–27 February at Tāpapakanga Regional Park but was canned after the government announced a move to the ‘red’ traffic light setting.
Minty said Splore organisers would now assess whether they could pull together the festival for late April.
The government’s announcement comes too late for Live Nation-owned Rhythm and Vines, after the traditional New Year’s event was postponed until Easter, and then cancelled for the first time in its 19-year-history.
“It’s a little too late for our events this summer… the heart has been ripped out of the events season,” says Rhythm and Vines co-founder Hamish Pinkham.
“It’s a little too late for our events this summer… the heart has been ripped out of the events season”
The Gisborne festival will celebrate its 20th anniversary at the end of the year instead.
Elsewhere, Auckland-based promoter Brent Eccles is pleased to hear that Covid-19 rules are set to be relaxed but felt the changes were “meaningless” at this point in the events calendar – a month into autumn.
“We don’t have any outdoor shows in winter, obviously, so that they’ve gone to one hundred per cent capacity outdoors for us right now is a bit meaningless,” said Eccles.
“It’s good for summer, because we have got the Foo Fighters, Ed Sheeran, and Six60 coming. So that’s good that there are no restrictions there.”
The government’s announcement comes too late for a slate of other festivals including The Other Way (Auckland), Outfields music festival (Auckland), Northern Bass (Northland) and Electric Avenue (Christchurch) – all of which have either been cancelled or postponed.
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Dutch live sector to reopen by end of February
The Dutch government has announced a three-step plan for reopening which will see nearly all restrictions dropped by the end of February.
On 18 February, when step 2 is initiated, the current curfew of 10 pm for venues and events will be pushed back to 1 am.
It will continue to be mandatory to show the coronavirus entry pass verifying proof of vaccination, recovery or a recent negative Covid test (3G) to enter music venues and other cultural places.
At venues accomodating less than 500 people, assigned seating, social distancing and the requirement to wear a face mask will no longer apply. At venues with more than 500 people, these rules will be in force.
In addition, the recommended period of self-isolation after a positive test result will be shortened to five days.
On 25 February, large nightclubs, festivals and events can open up without limitations
On 25 February, when the third and final step is initiated, opening times will return to normal and large nightclubs, festivals and events can open up without limitations.
Nearly all restrictions regarding 3G, social distancing, assigned seating, masks and capacity limits will be scrapped.
However, at indoor locations accommodating more than 500 people where there is no assigned seating (eg nightclubs and festivals) all attendees must show a negative test result (1G). This does not apply at events where there is a continuous flow of visitors, such as trade fairs and conferences.
On 15 March the government will evaluate the remaining rules including the face mask requirement for public transport, the pre-admission testing requirement (1G) and the advice on working from home.
Since 26 January, booked events have been permitted to resume with a maximum of 1,250 visitors indoors and a maximum of one-third of the capacity in outdoor spaces, using the 3G model.
Venues and events have been subject to a 22:00 curfew. Nightclubs have remained closed and festivals and unplaced events have been prohibited.
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Major European markets fear for festival season
Major European live music markets such as Germany and England have shared fears over the impending festival season.
German live music association LiveKomm has today warned of “the end of club and festival culture as we know it”.
The association has penned an urgent appeal to policymakers, calling for clarity around the reopening of the cultural sector.
“The political mode must be more transparent, otherwise the industry cannot prepare for opening scenarios,” reads the letter.
“Optimistic voices assume that the rules will be relaxed soon, this must not happen without the clubs being taken into account and must also be communicated as such. Everything is currently up in the air, staff, planning and operation, festivals and clubs are completely blank.”
LiveKomm is also urging that the federal government take preventive measures before the autumn in case of another wave of Covid-19.
“Renewed lockdowns and closures must be prevented. After two years politicians can be asked to take preventive measures and plans that start before the wave to protect the cultural industry,” it reads.
“Anything else would be a total failure. This includes, among other things, test capacities, and the lack of PCR test capacities cannot be justified for this winter. Any planning omissions in the coming period will destroy livelihoods in autumn.”
“We may be emerging from the shadow of the pandemic, but this year will not be a case of ‘back to business as usual’”
LiveKomm’s plea follows a similar appeal from Germany’s Event Management Forum (EMF) to the government to follow the lead of other European nations and drop all Covid restrictions.
England, Denmark, Finland and Sweden are among the markets that have fully reopened – though many have warned that the lifting of restrictions isn’t a silver bullet for the live industry.
In England, the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) is warning of a ‘perfect storm’ heading for the UK’s festival season.
A live entertainment supply chain crisis, workforce shortages, and the effects of Brexit are chief among AIF’s concerns.
“We may be emerging from the shadow of the pandemic in the UK, but this year will not be a case of ‘back to business as usual’ without critical support for festival organisers,” AIF CEO Paul Reed said today during his opening speech at the 2022 Festival Congress.
“That’s why we’re calling on the government to aid our recovery and maintain the current reduced 12.5% rate on tickets beyond the end of March, as well as looking at some form of government-backed loan scheme for suppliers to alleviate some of these pressures and encourage investment in the festival supply chain,” he continues.
“We also urge government to reconsider removing the tax relief for certain biofuels, which further increases cost and is completely counter-productive to promoting better environmental practice across the sector.”
Denmark drops all Covid-19 restrictions for live music
Denmark’s live industry is on the road to recovery after the government yesterday (1 September) dropped all remaining Covid-19 restrictions.
The requirements that have now lapsed include Corona pass requirements for indoor cultural and sporting events with more than 500 standing spectators, and for outdoor cultural and sporting events with more than 2,000 seated spectators. Social distancing has also been scrapped.
Corona passes will be required to gain entry to nightclubs until 10 September, after which point the government will no longer categorise Covid-19 as a “socially critical disease” or legally impose any Covid-19 restrictions.
“It is gratifying that restrictions are a thing of the past for the country’s concert organisers,” says Esben Marcher of Dansk Live – Denmark’s live music association.
“Now that corona is no longer considered a socially critical disease, we are facing a time of great reconstruction work. The organisers must find a foothold after almost two years of complete or partial closure and this is where our focus will be in the coming time.”
“The organisers must find a foothold after almost two years of complete or partial closure”
Minister for culture, Ane Halsboe Jørgensen, adds: “I am simply so happy that the cultural and sports life today can more or less say goodbye to the corona. For a long time, great demands have been made on culture to keep track of the pandemic.
“It has been necessary, but I am very pleased that we can now seriously begin a new chapter with a hopefully really good autumn for our cultural life.”
Denmark is the EU’s third-most vaccinated country, according to Our World in Data, with 71% of the population having received two shots.
The country was one of Europe’s first to impose a partial lockdown in March 2020 and one of the earliest to begin reopening, launching its Corona pass on 21 April this year.
Since that date, Dnanish restaurants, bars, cinemas, gyms, sports stadiums and hairdressing salons have been open for anyone who can prove that they are fully vaccinated, have a negative test result less than 72 hours old or contracted Covid within the past two to 12 weeks.
Live Nation set to get Canada ‘back on touring map’
Canada is welcoming US artists to perform on the country’s stages for the first time in 18 months.
Vaccinated Americans and permanent residents are now able to cross the Canadian border for the first time since closing on 18 March 2020.
“This step opens possibilities to get Canada back on the touring map for sure. Some artists already have shows planned with more conversations picking up,” says Arthur Fogel, chairman of global touring for Live Nation.
Live Nation Canada’s first concert with major US acts will be on 2 September with Maroon 5 and Blackbear at the Budweiser Stage in Toronto. This will make the artists the first major US acts to play in the country since reopening.
This week, Live Nation Canada announced plans to require all artists and fans to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative Covid test to attend shows at the company’s stable of owned and operated Canadian venues.
The mandate is set to come into effect from no later than 4 October at Live Nation Canada’s outdoor venues and festivals, including Budweiser Stage (Toronto), History (Toronto), The Danforth Music Hall (Toronto), Commodore Ballroom (Vancouver), Midway (Edmonton), and The Velvet Underground (Toronto).
“Some artists already have shows planned [in Canada] with more conversations picking up”
The live entertainment behemoth is also sharing best practices for artists to request these policies at third-party venues where Live Nation promotes shows but does not control protocols.
“Live Nation and the live music industry are about uniting people, and vaccines are one of the greatest tools for making sure that everyone can continue to enjoy live music together,” said Wayne Zronik, president business operations, Live Nation Canada.
“We’re confident this is the right move for everyone coming out to shows, including artists, fans, crew, and our staff.”
Live Nation has announced similar entry requirements for markets including the UK and the US. IQ also understands that the promoter will take a market-by-market approach based on local governments’ requirements –many of which already utilise Covid-status certification for entrance to public spaces.
Norway plans full reopening for September
Norway has announced plans to relax all restrictions before the end of September, by which point its adult population should have received both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine.
“Norwegian society will have to live with the fact that we have this virus, as we live with other infectious diseases,” minister of health, Bent Høie, told VG.
“We cannot eliminate the risk completely, as we cannot with other diseases. This means that some will also become seriously ill and die of Covid-19 after we have finished the vaccination and society has reopened.”
Prime minister Erna Solberg added that Norway, unlike other markets, would not be introducing a corona pass to aid reopening.
“In other countries, corona pass is used as a lure for people to be vaccinated. We do not need Norway, because most people are positive about vaccination,” says the prime minister, who pointed out that, by the end of this week, everyone over the age of 18 will have been offered one vaccine dose.
The prime minister added that Norway, unlike other markets, would not be introducing a corona pass to aid reopening
The news of reopening comes weeks after Norway postponed the final step in the reopening of its economy for a second time, due to the continued spread of the Delta variant of Covid-19.
Until then, events without designated seating can take place with a maximum of 1,500 people (previously 1,000) indoors and 3,000 people (previously 2,000) outdoors. The audience must be divided into 500-capacity cohorts and the venue’s capacity cannot exceed 50%.
Events with designated seating can take place with a maximum of 3,000 (previously 2,500) indoors and 7,000 people (previously 5,000) outdoors. These events must also be divided into 500-capacity cohorts and the venue’s capacity cannot exceed 50%.
The reopening comes too late for many Norwegian festivals including Live Nation-owned festivals Bergenfest, Tons of Rock and Findings, Superstruct-backed Øya Festival, Festningen, Over Oslo, Picnic in the Park, Stavernfetsivalen, Seljord Festival and Country Festival, which have already been called off.
NI music venues to reopen with restrictions
Music venues and theatres in Northern Ireland (NI) are permitted to reopen as of 6 pm BST tonight, under the latest relaxations of Stormont’s Covid-19 rules.
Live music will be permitted for rehearsals and performances, with no restriction on background or ambient volume levels.
However, audience members must purchase tickets in advance, have allocated seating, and adhere to a one-metre social distancing rule.
Venues were expected to reopen on 26 July but minsters want more time to consider the health implications. Outdoor events were permitted to return on 5 July without capacity restrictions.
Belfast singer-songwriter Sir Van Morrison, who legally challenged the Northern Irish government over its ‘blanket ban’ on live music in licensed venues, described the announcement as “a kick in the teeth”.
Morrison last week cancelled a number of concerts at Belfast’s Ulster Hall (cap. 1,000), due to take place between 29 July and 1 August, blaming the “draconian” delays from Stormont. He now argues that cancelled concerts that were planned for this week could’ve gone ahead.
“We are delighted that we can finally reopen to welcome artists and fans back…nothing beats the experience of a live event”
Others in the Northern Ireland live music industry have welcomed Stormont’s latest rollback of restrictions. Julia Corkey, chief executive at Ulster Hall, says: “We are delighted that we can finally reopen to welcome artists and fans back to the iconic Waterfront Hall and Ulster Hall. As we all know, nothing beats the experience of a live event.”
Limelight Belfast wrote on Facebook: “Great news for live music venues and theatres.”
In preparation for the next stage of reopening, two major concert series in Belfast have set out entry conditions, which the organisers say are based on the findings of the range of ERP (Event Research Programme) pilot events.
The Belsonic concerts at Ormeau Park and CHSQ at Custom House Square, will both require ticket holders to show proof of having had either, both doses of the vaccine, proof of a negative Covid test 48 hours before arrival or proof of natural Covid antibodies.
Belsonic will take place between 4-25 September with Liam Gallagher, Dermot Kennedy and Gerry Cinnamon. CHSQ will take place between 10-29 August with artists including Tom Jones, Kodaline, Nile Rogers & Chic.
The rules for entrance to the music events are similar to those employed by the organisers of the Latitude festival in England, held at full capacity at the weekend as a government test event.
The British live music industry fully reopened without restrictions from 19 July. On the same day, Scotland reduced restrictions to the lowest level and plans to remove all restrictions on 9 August.
UK fury as government delays reopening date
The British government today (14 June) confirmed that live entertainment businesses will have to endure another month of closure, after deciding that the 21 June date on its roadmap to recovery should be delayed while it deals with the spread of the Delta (Indian) variant of Covid-19.
The devastating decision places numerous businesses in jeopardy, wiping an estimated 5,000 concerts, festivals and events from the calendar and costing the UK industry hundreds of millions of pounds in lost revenues.
“Following more than a year of confusion, lost revenue and cancellations, we are devastated the government has not set out any clear path for the restart of the live music industry,” reads a statement from trade body LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment). “The government has been quick to talk up the success of the vaccine rollout, but other countries are now ahead of us in opening up full capacity events with simple Covid certification processes, including the Netherlands, Belgium and the United States.
“The government must also provide urgent emergency financial support to those impacted by today’s decision. There are hundreds of millions of pounds from the much-vaunted Culture Recovery Fund unallocated, despite being 15 months on from the start of the crisis. This money needs to get into the industry without any more delay.”
“It is devastating for the live music sector that we continue to be hit with arbitrary restrictions which make live events unviable,” says Lucy Noble, chair of the National Arenas Association. “The Events Research Programme pilot events were supposed to be the key to getting back to full-capacity live performance, and we understand that there were only 15 cases out of 58,000 attendees – although government is refusing to either publish the full report or to allow the sector to open up with the carefully planned precautions which we have been planning and putting in place for months.”
“It is devastating for the live music sector that we continue to be hit with arbitrary restrictions which make live events unviable”
“LIVE remains astounded that the findings have never published in full, given their centrality to the reopening of live events,” continues the statement. “This data must be published immediately so that the sector is able to see on what basis the government is making decisions about the industry’s future, and so that we can play a collaborative role in future proofing live events for years to come.”
“Failure to take immediate action to support the sector could tip many hundreds of grassroots music venues into the abyss,” comments Music Venue Trust (MVT) CEO Mark Davyd.
“The issue is not simply about a delay in reopening or lifting restrictions. It may on the surface look like a short and manageable pause. But there is no provision in place to bridge the resultant funding gap should this occur. Without some certainty on exactly when grassroots music venues can start trading at full capacity again the majority of the sector, already barely surviving on life support, could flat line.”
Davyd’s plea for financial support has been echoed throughout the nation’s live music community.
“The briefing we are seeing of a delay to our reopening later this month is devastating to the live music industry,” “The government said the Events Research Programme would give us the evidence we needed to open safely. We have spent the last three months participating in, and paying for, full-capacity pilot events that gave us this evidence.
“To protect the future of our industry we are calling for full transparency from the government, for them to release the full report that proves how we can open safely and to work with us to give everyone the summer of music we all want.”
“The government said the Events Research Programme would give us the evidence we needed to open safely”
Meanwhile, a flash survey conducted on behalf of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) reveals the hammer blow that the rumoured delay will have on nightlife business such as clubs and venues, with one in four businesses stating they will not survive longer than one month without further government support, while 50% of the industry say they would not survive longer than two months without aid.
The NTIA research notes that 54% of businesses have spent more than £15,000 in preparation for reopening on 21 June already, while 17.8% have spent more than £40,000. And 58% of businesses estimate they will lose more than £10,000 per week in revenue whilst restricted from trading due to easing of lockdown on 21 June, and a third of businesses estimate they will lose 30% of their workforce due to any delay.
“Night-time economy businesses have waited patiently for their opportunity to open for over 15 months,” says NTIA CEO Michael Kill. “Many have not survived, some are on a financial cliff edge, hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost, a huge pool of talent has been swept away and others have been left to suffer extreme financial hardship.
“Distressed industries cannot continue to be held in limbo, as businesses are left to fall, any decision to delay without clarity on when they can open will leave us no other option but to challenge the government, standing alongside many other industries who have been locked down or restricted from opening for an extreme length of time, through no fault of their own, and at their own cost.”
And Kill notes, “Any delay will drive confidence in the sector to a new low, culminating in workforce leaving the sector, and customers who are starved of social engagement, attending illegal unregulated events in place of businesses that are well operated, licensed and regulated.”
“The government must understand the human impact of this decision”
“The government must understand the human impact of this decision, not only considering the public health challenges of the virus but also the people within our sector who are suffering terribly and the real health risks that this represents, given the overwhelming confidence in the vaccination roll-out, and the ability for the sector to deliver Covid-safe environments.”
Davyd says, “With no funding in place to mitigate any delay in reopening we will see mass evictions and foreclosures by landlords and creditors who ran out of patience a long time ago. The risk of business closures, widespread redundancies and the decimation of our sector is as real now as it was in April 2020.
“The government has the tools it needs to avert a disaster, whatever decisions it needs to make. It has allocated an additional £300 million to support the cultural sector; the prime minister or the culture secretary can swiftly announce that this money will be immediately released to tackle the challenges caused by any delay to reopening.”
Paul Reed, CEO of the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), says while “AIF understands the rationale for delaying step four of the lockdown roadmap”, “any measures that prevent festivals from operating fully have to be counterbalanced with effective support to ensure businesses can survive.
“For those festival organisers that still have a chance of staging events after July 19, that support is government-backed insurance, which will give them the confidence to continue planning and commit the significant costs that entails. We also must not forget those festivals that have already been forced to cancel or will do so as a result of the delay – they will need a swift and comprehensive financial package to help them survive until the 2022 sales cycle.”
“Any measures that prevent festivals operating have to be counterbalanced with effective support”
Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, chief executive of UK Music, is also renewing calls for a government-backed insurance fund. “This delay is also exactly why our industry has desperately needed a government-backed insurance scheme,” he says. “Confidence will be at rock bottom within the sector after today – and so festival and event organisers desperately need that safety net from the Government so they can plan with confidence and avoid financial ruin if the rules change again.
“The UK has one of the most vibrant live music scenes in the world, and the music industry is one of the sectors that should be driving our economic and cultural recovery from this pandemic. If the industry is not to be allowed to operate without restrictions for another month, then continued economic support and an insurance scheme is more vital than ever.”
“If there is to be a one-month delay,” concludes LIVE, “the government must spend that time ensuring there is a simple Covid certification scheme in place by the end of it to ensure that full- capacity events can go ahead, as they are now doing in other countries such the US, Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands. Businesses remain unable to plan or proceed in any meaningful way, leaving them hamstrung as part of an industry in limbo.
“With hundreds of millions of pounds of the Culture Recovery Fund left unallocated within government, this needs to be pushed out to the music and live entertainment industries urgently to tide the sector over until a concrete way forward is agreed.”
21 June: Delay would lead to 5,000 UK cancellations
Research published today (10 June) shows that even a four-week delay to the deadline for lifting the final restrictions on live events in the UK would cost the live music sector over £500 million and leave the summer festival season at risk of total collapse.
More than 5,000 shows by artists including Olly Murs, Tom Odell, Rag’n’Bone Man, Beverley Knight, McFly, Alexandra Burke and Rudimental would either need to cancel or postpone if the 21 June deadline was pushed back, incurring immediate costs across the live music supply chain and further damaging an industry already hanging in the balance, according to industry body LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment).
The rumoured move, as IQ reported earlier this week, comes despite the fact that, by the government’s own evidence, large-scale events can happen safely with the right precautions in place.
Through LIVE, a federation of 13 associations representing more than 3,000 live music companies, the live sector is calling for government to publish the data from the first round of Events Research Programme (ERP) pilots, so “they are able to follow their own science” and allow live businesses to reopen with Covid-safe precautions. The ERP findings which have been released by government to the media show that with screening, improved ventilation and other mitigating factors, mass events are reportedly as safe as a trip to the supermarket.
“We implore the government to follow their own scientific data that proves live events are safe with the right mitigations”
Lucy Noble, chair of the National Arenas Association, says: “The pilot shows at the Brits and Liverpool were touted as the key to getting back to full-capacity live performance, which is why it’s extremely frustrating that the government refuses to publish the full report and allow the sector to open up through the carefully planned precautions which are currently waiting in the wings.
“We implore the government to follow their own scientific data that proves live events are safe with the right mitigations. Now is the time for them to protect the live events sector for generations to come.”
Any delay to the 21 June reopening date would have significant and immediate repercussions for grassroots music venues, with 248 venues facing an immediate threat of eviction if the government does not fully compensate their financial losses from delayed reopening, says Mark Davyd, CEO of Music Venue Trust.
“In the event of any delay to reopening, government action to restore confidence to the sector will need to be swift, decisive and comprehensive,” says Davyd. “Any decision to delay places the sector in the most perilous and uncertain situation since April 2020. All that has been done by government, the public, artist and communities to save our venues risks being undone.”
“We cannot keep waiting indefinitely without knowing when step four will take place”
The UK’s much-anticipated summer festival season would also see significant casualties, with 65% of all Association of Independent Festivals members saying they will be forced to cancel if faced with a five-week delay – and 21% already gone.
Jim King, CEO of European festivals for AEG Presents, comments: “A delay into July without a clear road map to get back to step four [full lockdown lifting] puts an impossible strain on all festivals, including AEG’s All Points East festival, along with our suppliers across the industry.
“We cannot keep waiting indefinitely without knowing when step four will take place, and this uncertainty will undoubtedly result, by default, in more cancellations. We are desperate for the UK festival season to begin again, but an undated reopening makes long term planning and investment unfeasible.”