Belgium PM: Indoor events could return in autumn
Large indoor events should be able to take place in Belgium this September, provided residents are “motivated” to get vaccinated, according to prime minister Alexander De Croo.
Belgium’s vaccination campaign has been relatively successful so far, with almost 70% of the total population having received one jab and more than 50% receiving two doses, according to Our World in Data.
“It remains a bit uncertain, but if you look at how fast our vaccination rollout is going, then by the beginning of September, those who should be fully vaccinated will be and so far, there is no reason to believe that the protection would not be good, so in autumn, those kinds of concerts and events where you are standing close to other people should be possible,” De Croo told Studio Brussels.
The statement follows the announcement that Pukkelpop – the last remaining major international music festival in Belgium following the cancellation last month of Tomorrowland – will not take place again this year.
“Multi-day festivals are more difficult, especially if you have a young audience [who] have not yet been fully vaccinated”
The cancellation was a result of new government regulations that would have required the festival to almost triple its on-site testing capacity with less than a month to go until gates open.
“Multi-day festivals are more difficult, especially if you have a young audience. Many 16-year-olds, for example, have not yet been fully vaccinated,” De Croo said.
The full reopening of Belgium’s live music sector will be facilitated by the Covid Safe Ticket (CTS), which was announced last week.
The domestic health pass, which will certify the Covid-19 status of attendees to major entertainment and sports events, will apply to outdoor events from 13 August and indoor events from 1 September.
The CTS eliminates the need for social distancing, promoters must implement a crowd management plan, as well as ensuring adequate ventilation (in the case of indoor shows) which is measured by a CO2 meter, according to the Belgian government.
Virtual Tomorrowland gets “world’s fastest flyer”
Tomorrowland will advertise its upcoming virtual event, Tomorrowland Around the World, with the “world’s fastest flyer” – an ad on the side of a Formula 1 car – at this weekend’s Austrian grand prix.
Marking the first time a music festival has appeared on an F1 car, the Tomorrowland Around the World logo will appear on the McLaren MCL35M driven by Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo as part of a partnership with McLaren sponsor British American Tobacco (BAT), which will hand over its spot on the car for the race on 4 July.
While Tomorrowland, the world’s biggest dance music festival, has been forced to cancel its flagship physical event in Boom, Belgium, there will be a Tomorrowland festival this year in the form of the second edition of Tomorrowland: Around the World, a virtual festival with Armin van Buuren, Nicky Romero, Charlotte de Witte and other international DJs taking place place on 16 and 17 July. Over 1m people bought tickets for last year’s Around the World event.
The partnership with BAT will use the “global audiences of the grand prix to drive visibility to the digital festival” for both new and existing Tomorrowland fans, says BAT.
John Beasley, group head of brand building for BAT, comments: “McLaren is more than a partner in motorsport; we share a love of music and innovation, and this provides a never-before-seen opportunity to make a statement for our music-loving fans of motor racing and provid[e] much-needed support for the live music industry.
“We always want to help our partners and give back to the fans, and while Tomorrowland may not happen in person in 2021, together we have created the world’s fastest flyer for the greatest digital music festival.”
Tickets for Tomorrowland Around the World, which takes place in a virtual world on the “magical island” of Pāpiliōnem, are priced from €20.
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.
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.
Belgium OKs 75,000-cap. open-air festivals
In what will be welcome news to Belgium’s remaining late-summer festivals, the country’s federal government has announced that large-scale events of up to 75,000 people may take place from 13 August.
In a press conference on Friday (4 June) afternoon, Belgian health minister Frank Vandenbroucke confirmed that mass events held in the open air, such as festivals like Pukkelpop (66,000-cap.), would be permitted from that date, providing attendees can present a ‘Covid safety ticket’ (proof of full vaccination) or a negative Covid-19 before entry.
The federal announcement follows the publication of the Flemish reopening roadmap – the so-called ‘Freedom Plan’, which advised that large events should be able to go ahead from the end of July – last month.
Speaking during the federal government’s press conference, Vandenbroucke suggested festival organisers could also offer their own on-site rapid antigen facilities, reports the Brussels Times.
In addition to Pukkelpop, large events which are now cleared to go ahead include another mega-festival, dance music event Tomorrowland (70,000-cap.), and the Formula 1 Belgian grand prix in Spa-Francorchamps. Both festivals have yet to announce a 2021 line-up.
“We look forward to organising a festival at the end of August”
In a statement, a spokesperson for Tomorrowland, which is scheduled for 27–29 August and 3–5 September, says: “We are very happy to receive this news, but we will wait for the conditions and rules before we will communicate about the organisation of the festival. We are very positive, and we look forward to organising a festival at the end of August.”
Pukkelpop (19–22 August) is aiming for “full capacity, 66,000 people a day,” organiser Chokri Mahassine tells radio station Studio Brussel, adding that the festival will be “without social distancing and without masks.” “You will be able to walk around and hug each other,” he says.
In a statement, Mahassine says the lifting of restrictions comes after months of lobbying by the industry. “These past few months our sector has made a deliberate choice to engage in constructive cooperation behind the scenes, and we would like to continue in the same vein, with expertise and equal input on all sides,” he comments.
“The safety of our visitors, artists, crew and local residents remains our top priority. Everything else will follow from there. Now it’s full speed ahead to a wonderful new edition of Pukkelpop.”
13 August ushers in the second-to-last stage of Belgium’s easing of lockdown, with the final restrictions planned to be lifted from 1 September.
As IQ reported last week, festival season is also on in Austria, with full-capacity events allowed to resume from 1 July.
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Flemish gov optimistic about Pukkelpop, Tomorrowland
The Flemish government says large events such as Pukkelpop and Tomorrowland should be able to go ahead in late summer, under certain conditions.
The reassurance for Belgian festival organisers comes after the government unveiled its summer ‘Freedom Plan’ yesterday (9 May), which ventures that all adults would have had the chance to be vaccinated by mid-August.
Flemish minister of health Frank Vandenbroucke says the implementation of the Green Pass – the European corona passport which shows vaccination status and test results – will be key to restarting large events.
Other conditions include on-site Covid-19 testing and limiting access to events to Europeans: “We will not invite the whole world. Within Europe, too, we have to be careful who we admit,” says Vandenbroucke.
The Flemish minister of health says the implementation of the Green Pass will be key to restarting large events
According to the Freedom Plan, large events can restart in July under certain conditions. Events can take place with 5,000 outdoors or 3,000 indoors provided attendees adhere to social distancing and mask-wearing.
In August, the maximum number of people allowed at outdoor events is increased to 10,000, and 4,500 indoors.
Pukkelpop (cap. 60,000) and Tomorrowland (70,000) are set to take place in late August and early September respectively and are the last major Belgian festivals still planning to go ahead after Rock Werchter and Graspop cancelled their 2021 events.
The cancellations came despite the Flemish government’s €60 million pot to help the region’s organisers kickstart preparations for this summer’s festival season.
Flemish government earmarks €60m for festivals
The Flemish government has designated a total of €60 million to help the region’s organisers kickstart preparations for this summer’s festival season.
Flemish minister of economy, Hilde Crevits, has allocated €50m in repayable advances for the broader events sector to “to get the engine going and offer insurance against the risk of organising an event in uncertain times”, she says.
For the new round of funding, the maximum amount an organiser can apply for has been raised from €800,000 to €1.8m and larger organisations will be eligible to apply this time.
All events that secure funding must comply with the measures applicable at the time they take place and, according to Tidj, in most cases, the advance is non-refundable if the event is cancelled.
The remaining €10m from the €60m pot – allocated by Flemish minister of tourism, Zuhal Demir – will subsidise Covid measures for small music festivals, such as the construction of rapid test villages, additional entrances and exits, or the rental of a larger site.
“Flanders has the best festivals in all of Europe…it is in everyone’s interest that the festival summer can take place”
“Smaller events with a total cost of at least €250,000 can count on the support of up to €75,000, while larger players with budgets of at least €7.5 m can count on support of up to €500,000,” says Demir.
The application process for corona-proofing grants is already open on Event Flanders. Organisers can combine both types of support.
Demir is working with Event Flanders, which sets out the event policy for Tourism Flanders, along with virologists and festival organisers, to work out the conditions under which festivals can take place safely. The plan should be ready by the end of this month.
“Flanders has the best festivals in all of Europe,” says Demir. “From large mass manifestations to the more intimate niche events, it is in everyone’s interest that the festival summer of 2021 can take place in the best possible way, for organisers, for visitors and for the rest of Flanders.”
Flanders is one of three Belgian regions which encompasses major cities including Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent and Bruges, and is home to the country’s biggest festivals including Tomorrowland (pictured), Pukkelpop and Rock Werchter.
Last month, Flemish prime minister, Jan Jambon, also responsible for culture, announced that there will be clarity for festivals by mid-March at the latest.
Live music to start 2021 with a (virtual) bang
Tomorrowland, Big Hit and Lost Horizon have each announced virtual New Year’s Eve events to close a year of hugely successful livestreamed events.
Belgium EDM giant Tomorrowland has announced New Year’s Eve celebration ‘31.12.2020’, which will see more than 25 DJs perform across 27 time zones to usher in the new year.
The festival will start at 8 pm local time in all zones and will close at 3 am after performances from Armin van Buuren, CamelPhat, Charlotte de Witte, David Guetta, Diplo, Major Lazer, Martin Garrix, Snoop Dogg aka DJ Snoopadelic and more.
The festival will be hosted on Tomorrowland’s website and performances will be streamed from four stages in Naoz, a brand new digital entertainment venue in which “some of the festival’s most iconic themes” will feature.
Tomorrowland held its first-ever digital festival, Tomorrowland Around the World, in July and saw 1 million fans pay to attend – 150% more festivalgoers than usual.
The group’s management Big Hit yesterday announced that artists from its roster would come together under one banner for the first time for a hybrid New Year’s Eve event.
Big Hit announced that artists from its roster would come together under one banner for the first time for NYE
The concert, presented by Weverse, will be livestreamed and limited seating will be available, in accordance with the government Covid-19 restrictions. If restrictions change, preventing the in-person aspect, the event will go fully digital.
Nu’est, Enhypen, Txt and Gfriend have already been confirmed for the event, with more line up announcements expected tomorrow (12 November).
BTS performed on New Year’s Eve last year, headlining Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest in New York’s Times Square alongside Post Malone, Sam Hunt and Alanis Morissette and more.
Lost Horizon, the VR music venue created by the team behind Glastonbury’s Shangri-La, will also be hosting a special New Year’s Eve event to end a season of virtual events in December.
The season will take place in VR event platform Sansar and will play host to DJs, underground acts and visual artists, before culminating with ‘Chasing Midnight’, a 24-hour global celebration on New Year’s Eve, taking in 12 time zones and 12 countdowns.
Lost Horizon launched its premiere festival in July, a four-stage event in Sansar featuring artists including Carl Cox, Fatboy Slim, Pete Tong, which reached 4.36m viewers, according to organisers.
Over 1m fans pay to attend virtual Tomorrowland
More than one million paying customers attended Tomorrowland Around the World this weekend, over two-and-a-half times more fans than the in-person Belgian dance festival typically draws.
Viewers from the world over attended the pay-per-view virtual festival, which saw over 60 acts, including Katy Perry, Amelie Lens, David Guetta, Martin Garrix and Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike, perform across eight custom-designed stages on the island of Pāpiliōnem.
Weekend tickets for the event cost €20, with day tickets priced at €12.50.
Those who bought a weekend ticket can also revisit the island and rewatch all performances until Wednesday 29 July.
For those that missed out on the festival, separate €12.50 tickets are available to buy on the Tomorrowland website to gain access to the Relive platform, allowing fans to watch all the recorded sets until Wednesday 12 August, 5 p.m. CET.
A collaboration between the Tomorrowland team, creative agency Dogstudio, gaming giant Epic Games, augmented and virtual reality specialist stYpe and visualisation platform Depence, Tomorrowland Around the World – a project that would typically be two years in the making – was pulled together in just three months.
“For now, we leave this beautiful place we call Papilionem and treasure what we have experienced together”
Artists were filmed performing live in four specially designed studios in Belgium, Los Angeles, Sao Paolo and Sydney using 4K high-definition cameras. According to the Tomorrowland team, 300 terabytes – a measure of computer storage capacity equating to over 1,000 gigabytes, or a trillion bytes – of raw footage was recorded, which took multiple render engines around four weeks to process.
The virtual environment that was ultimately created for Tomorrowland Around the World was rendered at an ultra high quality, with ten times more polygons (the building blocks of 3D graphics) than the average video game.
“Our message has been sent into the furthest corners of the world,” reads a post from the Tomorrowland team. “It will travel around the globe until the time comes when we can unite once again.
“For now, we leave this beautiful place we call Pāpiliōnem and treasure what we have experienced together.”
The physical edition of Tomorrowland 2020 was called off in April, when the Belgian government joined others in Europe in extending its band on large-scale events throughout summer.
The event, which welcomes around 400,000 festivalgoers across two weekends to its site in Boom, Belgium, each year, was set to feature performances from Eric Prydz, David Guetta, Marshmello, Amelie Lens, Afrojack, Helena Hauff and Maceo Plex, among others.
Virtual worlds created for dance music festivals
Belgian mega festival Tomorrowland and London’s Junction 2 festival are among events to create 3D, virtual worlds for their fans to navigate, keeping the festival spirit alive despite the restrictions of lockdown.
The 70,000-cap. flagship edition of electronic music festival franchise Tomorrowland was set to take place across two weekends in July in Boom, Belgium, featuring acts including Eric Prydz, David Guetta, Marshmello, Amelie Lens, Afrojack, Helena Hauff and Maceo Plex.
With the real-life edition called off, organisers have set up Tomorrowland Around the World, a two-day, virtual event taking place from 25 to 26 July. Festivalgoers will be able to navigate through the eight-stage festival site on a PC, laptop, smartphone or tablet.
In addition to exclusive music content, attendees will have access to a range of interactive activities such as webinars, games and workshops related to lifestyle, food, fashion and the Tomorrowland Foundation.
“Tomorrowland Around The World is the result of a gigantic team effort of hundreds of people who are working around the clock to create a never-before-seen interactive entertainment experience,” comments Tomorrowland co-founder Michiel Beers. “We hope that hundreds of thousands of people will unite in a responsible way and that small Tomorrowland gatherings at people’s homes will be organised.
“Especially during the weekend where normally Tomorrowland Belgium would take place, we really have the power to unite the world.”
“We hope that hundreds of thousands of people will unite in a responsible way and that small Tomorrowland gatherings at people’s homes will be organised”
The line-up for Tomorrowland Around the World will be announced on 15 June, with tickets becoming available from 18 June. Day tickets cost €12.50 and full weekend access is priced at €20.
Junction 2, promoted by London’s LWE and part of U-Live, is another electronic music event forging ahead in a virtual realm.
In lieu of 30,000 music fans descending on the west London festival site from 5 to 6 June to see acts including Jon Hopkins, Four Tet, Amelie Lens, Nina Kraviz, Honey Dijon and Maceo Plex, organisers have announced the virtual J2v event, which will take place from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. BST on 6 June.
Fans will be able to access an online, 3D festival world, with three stages and space to “roam” and interact with fellow attendees via a private chatroom. The J2v website will act as the central hub, although festivalgoers can join via social media and listen via webcast or radio.
Those performing at J2v include Adam Beyer, Daniel Avery and Shanti Celeste.
Jv2 will also raise funds for charities Care Workers Charity, Refuge, The Outside Project, Trussell Trust foodbanks and Stand Up To Racism via merch sales, mail-order bar service and fan donations.
Photo: Julian Dael/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)