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Tomorrowland 2021 officially cancelled

In a major blow to the Belgian festival season, there will be no Tomorrowland in 2021, organisers have confirmed.

Despite a last-minute plea from the prime minister of Flanders, the mayors of the towns of Boom and Rumst, where the 70,000-capacity festival has taken place since 2005, are unmoved in their decision not to grant Tomorrowland a permit to go ahead, citing concerns about the safety of local residents.

Although the Belgian government has cleared 75,000-capacity festivals from 13 August 2021, Tomorrowland – which was scheduled for 27–29 August and 3–5 September – confirmed earlier this week that mayors Jeroen Baert (Boom) and Jurgen Callaerts (Rumst) had decreed the event, the world’s largest dance music festival, would not be allowed to go ahead this summer.

A delegation of Flemish and Belgian government ministers headed by Flanders’ minister-president, Jan Jambon, met with Baert and Callaerts on Monday but the pair reiterated their previous decision. “It was a constructive conversation, but our position on the matter does not change,” they say in a joint statement.

According to local media, the ministers had attempted to convince the mayors to issue the permit by saying there would be fewer non-Belgians at Tomorrowland than usual, as well as offering help from the federal and Flemish governments to manage the flow of people and provide rapid Covid-19 testing of guests. But Baert and Callaerts stuck to their guns.

“We cannot reconsider our decision regarding the requested permit”

“After our announcement, we were contacted by Flemish minister of the interior and society Bart Somers, Flemish [minister-president and] minister of culture Jan Jambon and federal minister of the interior Annelies Verlinden to clarify our decision,” reads a press release issued by Baert. “Of course we were happy to discuss this in an open dialogue and it was a very constructive conversation with the three excellencies. We understand, of course, all the economic interests at stake and especially the eagerness with which everyone wants a festival summer back, but the responsibility to ensure public peace, safety and health rests with us as mayors. In view of the current circumstances known to us, we cannot reconsider our decision and our position regarding the requested permit.”

In light of the mayors’ decision, the festival has been forced to throw in the towel, leaving Pukkelpop (19–22 August) as the last remaining major music festival in Flanders in 2021.

“It is with a heavy heart our organisation must announce that the 16th edition of Tomorrowland Belgium cannot take place in 2021,” reads a statement from the Tomorrowland team, which warned earlier this week that a cancellation would have a huge impact on the festival’s thousands of employees, freelancers and suppliers.

“The entire team fought till the end and did everything in their powers to write a new chapter in the history of Tomorrowland. Our dream was to welcome the People of Tomorrow, who we’ve been missing for too long, to celebrate life to the fullest. But unfortunately, the local government has not given the permit to organise Tomorrowland.”

“The main stage was finished … 140 people were working full time to make the festival”

While Somers said this morning (24 June) that Tomorrowland would not have to pay back in full the €1.8 million aid it received from the Flemish government earlier this year, the cancellation still leaves the festival in financial trouble, according to a spokesperson.

“[It] is a lot of money and we are very happy with the support, but it is a drop in the ocean,” Debby Wilmsen tells the Brussels Times, adding that the festival has already cancelled orders worth €50m.

“We were starting up already,” she explains. “The main stage was finished, we had to pay the advances for ordering materials, the delivery of the wristbands had been ordered, 140 people were working full time to make the festival, artists were booked… Organising a festival like Tomorrowland costs a lot of money, and a lot of things have to be paid in advance.”

The second edition of Tomorrowland: Around the World, a virtual festival with Armin van Buuren, Nicky Romero, Charlotte de Witte and other international DJs, will take place on 16 and 17 July. Over 1m people bought tickets for last year’s Around the World event.


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Tomorrowland 2021 in doubt as mayor pulls the plug

The 2021 edition of Tomorrowland hangs in the balance after local authorities decreed the dance music festival would not be allowed to go ahead, despite the Belgian government having cleared 75,000-capacity festivals from 13 August.

In an update to fans on Friday, the festival explained that the mayor of Boom – the town near Antwerp where Tomorrowland has taken place since 2005 – is of the opinion that events of more than 400 people are illegal until ministers publish details of the decree permitting large open-air events, first announced earlier this month. As a result, the local authority has “decided that the 16th edition of Tomorrowland cannot take place in 2021”, reads the Tomorrowland announcement.

The shock announcement hit the festival team “very hard, like a sledgehammer”, they say in a Dutch-language statement, and would have a devastating impact on the thousands of employees, freelancers and suppliers of the 70,000-capacity festival.

“We are very surprised and puzzled by these contradictory messages from our governments,” continues the statement. “In the next few days we will explore all possible options and try to obtain some clarity for our visitors and suppliers.”

Jeroen Baert, the mayor of Boom, says in a press release that “although the epidemiological situation is improving, the organisation of large events would still entail too high risks”, noting that neighbouring countries still have “stricter conditions” on festivals.

At a regional level, politicians in Flanders are pushing hard for the ban to be overturned, with Flemish deputy prime minister Bart Somers saying he intends to meet with the mayors of Boom and nearby Rumst to find a way forward for the festival – though the decision ultimately rests with local councillors.

“If Pukkelpop can go ahead, I am convinced that we can also organise Tomorrowland”

“Of course it falls under the powers and local autonomy of our cities and municipalities to decide for themselves whether certain events can take place on their territory, but the Flemish government has campaigned for festivals to be possible again this summer,” says Somers.

“This sector has suffered greatly from the coronavirus crisis and we have supported them with financial resources to help them get through it, but from 13 August it should be possible to organise larger festivals again. If Pukkelpop can go ahead, I am convinced that we can also organise Tomorrowland.”

Tomorrowland is scheduled across two weekends on 27–29 August and 3–5 September. Pukkelpop (66,000-cap.), which takes place from 19 to 22 August, is still very much still on, with organisers releasing the following statement: “In regard of the news about Tomorrowland, we would like to reassure our festivalgoers. The safety protocols and legal structures will become clear in the coming weeks. A special task force under government guidance is overseeing preparations for August.

“Pukkelpop and the city of Hasselt have been close partners for years, so it goes without saying that we are in continuous dialogue to make the festival a safe environment.”

Along with Serbia’s Exit Festival and a handful of UK events, the Flemish festivals are some of the only major music festivals to be going ahead in Europe this summer. Tomorrowland has been sold out since 2020, while Pukkelpop has sold 70% of its four-day passes, with only Belgians currently able to buy tickets. The international sale starts on 1 July.


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