Major Swiss festivals cancel 2021 editions
A number of Swiss festivals have called off 2021 editions, citing uncertainty about whether major events will be permitted to take place this summer.
The 45th instalment of the annual rock festival Paléo Festival Nyon, scheduled to take place between 19–25 July, has been cancelled as “the situation is still too uncertain to consider organising the festival in its usual form”.
However, the organisers revealed that they are working on a ‘Covid-compatible event’ with a reduced capacity and size, and an extended duration. Health conditions permitting, it will take place from 8 July to 8 August 2021.
Greenfield Festival 2021, due to take place in Interlaken, Bern, between 3–5 June with headliners Volbeat, Korn and Billy Talent, has also been called off.
“Just when we saw a light at the end of the tunnel, it moves even further away than it already was,” reads a statement from the organisers.
“We don’t know which rules might have to be followed, which capacity is allowed, which measures we would have to integrate”
“The situation around Covid-19 is simply not getting better fast enough internationally and in Switzerland in particular. Since we don’t know whether major events will be allowed at all, we simply lack planning certainty. We don’t know which rules might have to be followed, which capacity is allowed and which measures we would have to integrate.”
Rock the Ring (cap. 15,000) has also been cancelled for a second consecutive year due to “the lack of planning security for large events,” says the organiser. The event was planned for 17–19 June in Hinwil, with a line-up that included Foreigner, Three Doors Down and Airbourne.
On 4 February, a statement was published on their respective social media pages saying the organisers are “working on various scenarios and protection concepts” for each festival but that ultimately, it’s uncertain whether the events will be able to take place.
At the time of writing Blue Balls Festival is set to go ahead from 23–31 July in Lucerne; hip-hop festival Openair Frauenfeld is holding onto its 7–10 July date and pop event Zürich Openair is on for 25–28 August.
Swiss concert series Baloise Session became the first major European festival to cancel its in-person 2021 edition
Swiss concert series Baloise Session became the first major European festival to cancel its in-person 2021 edition in January, as organisers say it’s “impossible to plan with any certainty” due to the limitations of the pandemic.
While it was announced in February that Montreux Jazz Festival will take place at least partially in the digital realm in 2021, livestreaming all performances from its 55th edition as part of a plan to protect the festival against future disruption.
The lack of certainty around Switzerland’s summer season prompted the Swiss Music Promoters Association (SMPA), along with 26 of the country’s festivals, to call for clarity on the conditions under which Swiss festivals can be held regularly and at full capacity without social distancing.
Last month’s appeal relayed three key requirements for the restart of Swiss festivals: a transparent strategy and uniform conditions for holding events safely, a continual review of measures to ensure they are proportionate to the risks posed, and an event cancellation fund that covers 100% of losses.
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European markets seek clarity on festival season
Major European festival markets are urgently seeking clarity on the viability of this year’s summer season in a race against the clock.
In Switzerland, promoters’ association SMPA has released a statement, co-signed by 26 of the country’s festivals, calling for clarity on the conditions under which Swiss festivals can be held regularly and at full capacity without social distancing.
The appeal also relays three key requirements for the restart of Swiss festivals: a transparent strategy and uniform conditions for holding events safely, a continual review of measures to ensure they are proportionate to the risks posed, and an event cancellation fund that covers 100% of losses.
“2021 is not 2020, the statement reads. “There are better treatment options, testing options are constantly evolving, and vaccinations are ongoing. In combination with the expected lower case numbers in the summer months, this creates a different starting position for the summer of 2021. The task now is to find a strategy for summer 2021.”
“2021 is not 2020. There are better treatment options, testing options are constantly evolving, and vaccinations are ongoing”
The statement has been co-signed by festivals including OpenAir St Gallen (cap. 30,000), which is part of the majority CTS Eventim-owned wepromote, SummerDays (12,000), and Seaside Festival (10,000) – all of which were cancelled last year after the Swiss government outlawed live events until the end of summer 2020.
In Denmark, festival organisers have been given a glimmer of hope after the government announced the spring arrival of a vaccine passport, but are still seeking the security needed in order to plan for the summer.
Acting minister of finance, Morten Bødskov, announced in a press conference on Wednesday (3 February) that digital Coronavirus passports will be ready for use in three to four months but will initially apply only to travel.
According to Bødskov, whether the digital passport can be used to go to a concert or a festival is a political discussion that will be decided by the infection situation.
The Danish live industry is cautiously optimistic about the news and have called for a roadmap for reopening to allow organisers to plan for the summer.
“[The vaccine passport] can be crucial in ensuring that we can quickly reopen venues and hold festivals this summer”
“The corona passport is an important tool that can be crucial in reopening the live industry,” says Esben Marcher, head of Dansk Live. “It is positive that a digital corona passport is now being established. It can be crucial in ensuring that we can quickly reopen venues and hold festivals when the summer comes.”
“Time is, of course, a significant challenge right now, and in organiser optics, three to four months is a very long time. The infection is currently fairly under control and the vaccine plan is being rolled out. Therefore, it should now be time to reconsider the plan for reopening. It will allow the country’s many organisers to plan for the future. ”
Danish festivals organisers say the ongoing uncertainty about whether the festival summer is to go ahead is keeping them in a stalemate situation.
“There are quite a few deals we do not close so as not to commit too much financially. Otherwise, we can have problems if the health authorities believe that we can not hold the festival,” Nicklas Lundorf, Langelandsfestival told Berlingske.
Lundorf revealed that the organisers are still planning to hold the festival until told otherwise.
“When are we going to throw ourselves in at the last minute and close the agreements that are crucial?”
“It’s something we go and discuss internally. When do we have a cut-off date? When are we going to throw ourselves in at the last minute and close the agreements that are crucial in order to get the festival off the ground?” he says.
Vaccine passports have been gaining traction across Europe, with Poland becoming the latest concert market to confirm it will issue its citizens with a vaccine passport when they have been immunised against Covid-19.
Elsewhere in Europe, Portugal is examining whether ‘safe bubbles’ of vaccinated festivalgoers could be the key to keeping fans and artists safe this summer, French festival operators ‘have 11 days to save festivals’, and the UK festival sector is waiting with bated breath for the prime minister to reveal a roadmap on the 22 February.
The lessons that can be learned from 2020’s lost festival summer will be discussed at ILMC during Festival Forum: Reboot & Reset, while leading festivals operators will be discussing the evolving passions, priorities and unique features of their events in Festival Futures: Core Priorities.
Swiss festival season gone as gov extends event ban
Following two weeks of deliberation, the Swiss government last night (29 April) declared that no events over 1,000 people will take place in the country until the end of August.
The government states it will reassess the situation “before the summer holidays”. The fate of events with fewer than 1,000 attendees will be decided on 27 May.
The decision follows criticism from festival organisers and the Swiss Music Promoters’ Association (SMPA) over the lack of clarity offered by the government to organisers of large-scale events. In the absence of an official declaration, the SMPA recently advised all members to postpone any large events due to take place before mid-July.
Switzerland now joins fellow European countries Germany, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Ireland to effectively ban the whole summer festival season. Large events are not permitted until mid-August in Hungary, the end of June in Austria, mid-July in France and the end of July in Luxembourg and Finland.
Although Swiss festival giants Paléo Festival Nyon and Montreux Jazz Festival had already called time on 2020, a number of significant events including OpenAir St Gallen, SummerDays and Seaside Festivals, Openair Frauenfeld and Zürich Openair were awaiting word from the authorities before cancelling.
“This summer, for the first time in the history of the festival since 1977, there will be no OpenAir St.Gallen,” reads a statement from organisers of the 30,000-capacity festival, which is part of the majority CTS Eventim-owned wepromote, along with SummerDays and Seaside festivals.
Openair St Gallen 2020 was set to feature Twenty One Pilots, the Lumineers, Alan Walker and Of Monsters and Men. “We promise you that we will now put all our passion for the OpenAir St.Gallen even more into the 2021 edition.”
“This summer, for the first time in the history of the festival since 1977, there will be no OpenAir St.Gallen”
The OpenAir St Gallen team urges fans to hold on to their tickets for 2021, saying that “by doing so, you are helping to secure the foundation of our festival, the work of our colleagues and our various teams who have been working on the festival for months and to get us through this very difficult time.”
SummerDays (12,000-cap.) is another to announce its cancellation in the wake of the government’s announcement. The festival falls inside the event ban limits by only a few days, scheduled for 28 to 29 August.
Organisers say they “fully support the actions of the government” and “had to expect this would happen”.
“Let’s make SummerDays 2021 a big highlight together and celebrate like never before.”
Seaside Festival (10,000-cap.), which had previously postponed to the end of August, also announced its support for the government, “albeit with a heavy heart”. Seaside Festival will return from 3 to 4 September 2021.
Other Swiss events to cancel following the government’s announcement include hip-hop festival Openair Frauenfeld (50,000), which had booked Kendrick Lamar, ASAP Rocky and DaBaby for 2020; pop festival Zürich Openair (20,000-cap.), which was to feature Martin Garrix, Lewis Capaldi and Rita Ora, among others; the 30,000-capacity Greenfield Festival (Disturbed, Bring Me The Horizon); and 33,000-capacity OpenAir Gampel (Macklemore, Limp Bizkit, Sum 41).