UK fests cancel as industry calls for new fund
As more UK festivals cancel, the live industry has written to prime minister Boris Johnson asking for a ring-fenced portion of the Culture Recovery Fund (CRF) to create a new contingency fund for live events.
The email landed in Johnson’s inbox just hours before the 70,000-capacity Boomtown festival became the latest casualty to cancel due an ongoing lack of insurance for events.
The letter, which is signed by all members of LIVE (Live music Industry, Venues and Entertainment), UK Music, as well as Festival Republic’s Melvin Benn, Live Nation UK & Ireland chairman Denis Desmond, and Kilimanjaro’s Stuart Galbraith, references being “at an impasse” with DCMS and Treasury officials, and emphasises “a complete market failure in the insurance market with regards to the provision of Covid-related cancellation cover”.
“There is simply no better or more efficient way to use CRF funds to drive money through the live music ecosystem”
“…we would like to formally propose that a material portion of the remaining fund is used to create a contingency scheme in order to stimulate economic activity in the summer and beyond. This could work by covering a proportion of an organiser’s costs if they were forced to cancel for Public Health grounds.”
It goes on to say “there is simply no better or more efficient way to use CRF funds to drive money through the live music ecosystem – from artists and venues to technical staff and freelance crew – than to enable people to get people back to work.”
Similar compensation schemes have been announced in Germany (€2.5bn), Austria (€300m), the Netherlands (€300m), Belgium (€60m), Norway (€34m), Denmark (DKK 500m) and Estonia (€6m). But while the UK Government is underwriting the cancellation costs of all forthcoming Events Research Programme pilot shows – to a maximum of £300,000 per event – officials are reticent to agree to a scheme more broadly.
“After almost half a year of campaigning, sadly Covid specific cancellation insurance for events simply does not exist”
Independent festival Boomtown had planned to go ahead this year with a scaled-down event but organisers have said that time has run out to find a solution to ‘the mind-boggling conundrum of putting on a safe and well-run event to the sheer scale, complexity and intricate nature’.
“With less than four months to go until the event, and after almost half a year of collective campaigning to the government, sadly Covid specific cancellation insurance for events simply does not exist at this point in time,” reads a statement on the festival’s website.
“This means anyone putting on an event this year, will be doing so without the safety net of insurance to cover them should Covid prevent them from going ahead in any capacity. For an independent event as large and complex as Boomtown, this means a huge gamble into an 8-figure sum to lose if we were to venture much further forward, and then not be able to go ahead due to Covid.”
“It’s unlikely that we’ll be able to weather the storm of no events happening in 2021”
Anna Wade, communications and strategy director at the Winchester-based festival, has been vocal about the need for government-backed insurance and gave evidence at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Select Committee’s inquiry into safeguarding the future of the sector in January.
During the hearing, she said: “It’s unlikely that we’ll be able to weather the storm of no events happening in 2021. Most festival organisers only hold one event and that is the one opportunity in the year. Without that, we don’t have a company essentially.”
Though the festival was awarded £991,000 in the latest round of the CRF, the organisers say “the reality is it represents only a fraction of the costs (under 10%) involved in creating an event to the sheer scale and ambition of Boomtown”.
“The lack of appropriate government backed cancellation insurance, has rendered this year too great a risk”
Boomtown Chapter One: The Gathering will now take place from 10–14 August 2022.
“The cancellation of Boomtown Fair is devastating but not surprising, and further festival cancellations will follow,” says Paul Reed, CEO, Association of Independent Festivals (AIF). “AIF has been warning and providing evidence to the government for over six months on the urgent need for intervention on insurance. It is an enormous risk for any independent festival to commit to upfront, non-refundable costs and very difficult to plan with confidence in the absence of insurance. The average cost of staging an independent festival is over £6m.”
Barn on the Farm, which would have taken place in Gloucestershire between 1–4 July 2021, has also cancelled today as “the potential risk [of going ahead] is too large”.
In a statement on the festival’s website, the organisers write: “Although the government roadmap is running on track, with us falling only 10 days after the end date for restrictions lifting we feel there remains too much uncertainty for us to safely continue this year. This, coupled with the lack of appropriate government backed cancellation insurance, has rendered this year unfortunately too great a risk for us to continue planning in the festival’s current format.”
“The cancellation of Boomtown Fair is devastating but not surprising, and further festival cancellations will follow”
Last week, Shambala, which was slated to celebrate its 20 anniversary from 27–30 August in a secret Northamptonshire location, was called off.
“As a totally independent festival, even with the amazing support you lot have shown us over the last year and the CRF grant we received, without government-backed insurance a last-minute cancellation would risk the very future of Shambala. That’s not a gamble we are willing to take,” reads a statement on the festival’s website.
Whilst we very much hope that the various targets in the roadmap are met and restrictions are lifted in mid-June, there’s still a very real possibility that social distancing measures will still be in place. With this in mind, we’ve been engaged in a somewhat nightmarish game of Tetris over the past few months trying to envisage how Shambala could work. The short answer is, it couldn’t. It just wouldn’t be Shambala.”
“Without government-backed insurance a last-minute cancellation would risk the very future of Shambala”
The festival has decided to “wipe the slate clean” and refund all ticket holds, instead of offering rollovers. However, current ticket holders will have tickets reserved for them to purchase next year before they go on general release.
“For various reasons, and for us to be in the best position to bounce back and be nimble in 2022, we need to manage it this way.”
In lieu of the flagship event, Shambala has introduced ‘Camp Kindling’, a number of creative camping weekends.
Camp Kindling will take place on 23–26 July, 30 July–2 August and 6–9 August 2021. More information will be published on Shambala’s website in due course.
“Considering the lengthy planning cycle of festivals, it is difficult to think anything other than we are being timed out for the summer”
Other UK festivals including Glastonbury, Download, Belladrum, Cornbury Music Festival, Bluedot, Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, Cambridge Folk Festival and Margate’s Hi-Tide have already called it quits, citing a lack of security for large events.
A recent AIF member survey revealed that 92.5% of respondents do not plan on staging their events without some form of government-backed insurance or indemnity scheme, with the measure being described as vital not optional.
“Considering the lengthy planning cycle of festivals, it is difficult to think anything other than we are being timed out for the summer,” says Reed, AIF.
“Governments across the rest of Europe have already acted to support festivals, sharing the risk with organisers so that they may reopen safely. If this government doesn’t intervene in some way on insurance and back its own roadmap, I’m afraid that, despite the rhetoric, it won’t be a great British summer for events – it will be an extremely selective one despite the clear demand and huge amount of customer confidence that the roadmap has injected.”
Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.
Working guidance for UK festivals updated
Working guidance for UK festival organisers has been updated to provide ‘support and strategic direction’ in the planning of events until the results of the government’s Events Research Programme (ERP) and reviews on social distancing and Covid-Status Certification later this summer.
The new interim briefing builds upon planning considerations published last year on the Purple Guide website, which covered eight key themes and Covid-19 safety measures including medical and welfare arrangements, crowd considerations and specific mitigation measures.
As well as providing direction until the conclusions of the ERP, the briefing note has been developed to:
- Consider the primary scenarios and operational issues that may arise when planning and delivering an event during Covid restrictions and beyond.
- Provide an understanding of the risks in operational areas to support a proportionate and measured approach in planning.
- Outline practical, operational steps that may be considered to deliver safe events in accordance with relevant legislation of the day.
- Support event organisers and multi-agency partners to fully understand the risk of independent activities to wider public health.
The document has again been produced in conjunction with leading practitioners from the festival industry including the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF); the Association of Festival Organisers (AFO); the Events Industry Forum (EIF), and Attitude Is Everything.
“[This guidance] is an important step in ensuring that festivals can return safely”
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and Public Health England (PHE) also provided input on the development of the guidance, which has been co-authored by Emma Parkinson (Coventry University) and Jennifer Mackley (Mackley Projects and Events Ltd).
“This interim guidance briefing provides strategic direction to festival organisers and includes practical mitigation measures to help them continue to plan for this summer and beyond,” says Paul Reed, CEO of AIF.
“I’d like to thank Emma Parkinson and Jennifer Mackley in particular for their work, and colleagues from across the festival sector and within DCMS and PHE for their contributions to this important step in ensuring that festivals can return safely”.
Steve Heap, general secretary of AFO, added: “Having lost almost all of the industry’s 2020 events, festival organisers are very keen to stage whatever is safely possible over the remainder of this year’s season. To do that, clear guidance is needed. The publication of this document, free to all on the Purple Guide website, provides that guidance, written by experienced festival managers with the leadership of AIF.”
Jim Winship, secretary of the EIF, added: “Festivals form an important part of the outdoor event economy and also contribute significantly to social wellbeing. They also take many forms and this guidance should help to enable at least some festivals to go ahead this summer.”
The guidance is live on The Purple Guide site here.
Additionally, the group is hosting a webinar with various contributors outlining the briefing note and taking questions. Details will be announced shortly on the AIF website here.
Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.
UK industry reacts to reopening roadmap
Indoor performances are expected to return to music venues across England towards the end of May, provided the country’s Covid-19 response is going as planned, prime minister Boris Johnson announced today (22 February).
Johnson has set out a “cautious” four-step roadmap for the reopening of society, with at least five weeks between each step. The first step commences on 8 March when children will return to schools, while outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households will be allowed from no earlier than 29 March.
Step two, which will commence no earlier than 12 April, will see non-essential retail and outdoor hospitality open without curfew.
Step three, expected to launch no earlier than 17 May, will see music venues, sports stadiums cinemas, pubs, restaurants and other hospitality businesses welcome people indoors subject to social distancing and capacity limits, depending on the size of the venue.
Indoor performances will be restricted to the lower of 1,000 people or 50% capacity, outdoor performances limited to the lower of either 4,000 people or 50% capacity, and seated outdoor performances, to either 10,000 people or 25% of capacity.
The final step, which will start no earlier than 21 June, will see the government lift all restrictions, allowing nightclubs to reopen and large events to take place “above the limits of step three”.
The final step, estimated to start around 21 June, will see the government lift all restrictions
Larger events in step four will be influenced by the results of a new research programme which is detailed in new supplementary guidance that states: ‘Over the spring the government will run a scientific Events Research Programme. This will include a series of pilots using enhanced testing approaches and other measures to run events with larger crowd sizes and reduced social distancing to evaluate the outcomes.
‘The pilots will start in April. The government will bring the findings from across different sectors and different settings to determine a consistent approach to lifting restrictions on these events. Depending on the outcome of this work, the government hopes to be able to lift restrictions on these events and sectors as part of Step 4.’
However, the PM has stipulated that to move from one stage to the next, four conditions will need to be met: first, that the vaccine deployment programme continues successfully. Second, that evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths.
Third, that infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations, which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS. And fourth, that the government’s assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of Covid that cause concern.
While the UK live industry has welcomed some clarity from the prime minister, it has also expressed disappointment at being the last to reopen and is calling for extended financial support to sustain the sector throughout the next four months.
“We need the government to commit urgently to an extension of the 5% VAT rate on ticket sales and employment support”
A statement issued by recently-launched umbrella trade organisation LIVE says, “The Chancellor now has a choice to make as it is clear live music will be closed, or uneconomical, for the months ahead, with a return to normality not possible at least 21 June, four long months away. Support for businesses and individuals must continue and, in particular, when the Government looks at unwinding the general support packages, they must replace them with sector-specific support for the industries that will take longer than anyone else to reopen.”
Greg Parmley, CEO, LIVE, says: “While it is good to get some clarity following almost a year of confusion, as predicted our £4.5 billion industry is at the back of the queue to reopen. Any return to normality for live music could be months behind the rest of the economy. The chancellor must acknowledge our extended closure in the budget and provide the economic support needed to ensure the jobs and livelihoods of the hundreds of thousands of people that work in our industry exist as we come through this pandemic.
“We need the government to commit urgently to an extension of the 5% VAT rate on ticket sales and employment support that reaches all those unable to work due to the restrictions. To reopen, the sector needs a government-backed insurance scheme to allow shows to go ahead when it’s safe to do so, and with venues shuttered across the UK, an extension of business rates relief would be both fair and necessary.”
“Today’s statement must be accompanied with comprehensive financial support”
David Martin, CEO, Featured Artists Coalition, says: “While the prime minister’s statement offers some green shoots of hope for live music, there is some way to go before we return to pre-pandemic levels of activity. A cautious approach is right to protect lives and reopening too early would be counter-intuitive for the industry’s long-term outlook. However, the government must adhere to its own advice, allowing data to guide decision making, so that we can return immediately when it is safe to do so.
“Ahead of full reopening, government has to learn from previous mistakes and listen to the industry. Last year’s slow response on income support and other financial assistance led to the closure of businesses and the loss of livelihoods. Today’s statement must be accompanied with comprehensive financial support for individuals plus insurance and businesses support measures, including an extension to the reduced VAT rate on event tickets. This will allow the music industry to bounce back effectively and contribute its full potential to the UK’s economic recovery.”
“It is logical that the government will choose to address [our] specific status with sector-specific financial support”
Mark Dayvd, CEO, Music Venue Trust, says: “It is good to hear the government provide conditions under which initially socially distanced events, and then fuller capacity events, can take place. Based on this information, it is now possible to imagine how we Revive Live in grassroots music venues and develop that work into the full return of our domestic music scene.
“We note that this roadmap once again singles out live performance events as a specific risk which require that the sector is treated in a special way. Since March 2020, we have made the case to the government that if this is the case, based on their interpretation of the data, then it is logical that the government will choose to address that specific status with sector-specific financial support to mitigate the damage being done to businesses and people’s lives, careers and families right across the live music industry.
“In light of today’s announcements, the budget next week must clearly lay out exactly how the government is going to provide that sector-specific support. We warmly welcome the government’s acknowledgement of the value of nightlife, committing to not reinstating a curfew and including nightclubs within the reopening timetable.”
“The real risk that suppliers to events face is collapse”
David Keighley, chair, PSA, says: “Whilst we fully understand the risk-averse approach to reopening, government needs to be aware that live events excel in a risk-assessed approach, with the safety of attendees and workers always prioritised. The real risk that suppliers to events face is collapse, to avoid this will require effective financial support that reaches the whole events ecosystem, real support until our sector is allowed to return to viable levels of activity. This is the only way to ensure this valuable economic contributor is in a position to play its essential part in our country’s recovery.”
Paul Reed, CEO, AIF, says: “We welcome the prime minister’s roadmap out of lockdown, presented to the house of commons this afternoon, and are optimistic that many of our member festivals may be able to go ahead in some capacity later on this year. There are still, however, some urgent points of clarity that need to be made around the exact requirements that festival organisers will need to meet, in particular around testing and covid certification.
“We look forward to engaging closely with government on the Events Research Programme and again stress that we are rapidly approaching the decision cut off point for the vast majority of festivals at the end of March. If a complete picture is not given by this time, it will be too late for many to stage events later in the year.
“We also appreciate that this is a best-case scenario and that the government reserves the right to delay the easing of lockdown restrictions if the data dictates. Festival organisers only want to return when it is safe to do so but, if the easing of restrictions does lose momentum and events are suddenly cancelled as a result, it is vital that our sector receives swift and targeted government support to compensate. In addition, government intervention on insurance and VAT remain critical.”
The NHS has so far vaccinated more than 17.5 million people across the UK and the PM hopes to have every adult vaccinated by the end of July.
Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.
Glastonbury Festival 2021 is cancelled
The 2021 edition of Glastonbury Festival is cancelled, according to a statement from organisers Michael and Emily Eavis.
“With great regret, we must announce that this year’s Glastonbury Festival will not take place, and that this will be another enforced fallow year for us,” reads the statement on the Worthy Farm event’s website.
“In spite of our efforts to move heaven and earth, it has become clear that we simply will not be able to make the festival happen this year. We are so sorry to let you all down.
“It has become clear that we simply will not be able to make the festival happen this year. We are so sorry to let you all down”
“As with last year, we would like to offer all those who secured a ticket in October 2019 the opportunity to roll their £50 deposit over to next year, and guarantee the chance to buy a ticket for Glastonbury 2022. We are very appreciative of the faith and trust placed in us by those of you with deposits, and we are very confident we can deliver something really special for us all in 2022!
“We thank you for your incredible continued support and let’s look forward to better times ahead.”
Phil Bowdery, chair, Concert Promoter’s Association and LIVE co-founder: “It is devastating that Glastonbury, one of the crown jewels of the UK’s live music and festival scene, has been forced to cancel for another year.
“We need time to prepare and we desperately need a government-backed insurance scheme to unlock our future”
“With some light at the end of the tunnel, with the vaccine roll-out underway, we need time to prepare and we desperately need a government-backed insurance scheme to unlock our future. Now more than ever we need this to be put in place or our globally successful festival industry could be damaged for years to come.”
DCMS Committee chair and MP, Julian Knight, says: “The news that the UK has lost the Glastonbury Festival for a second year running is devastating. We have repeatedly called for ministers to act to protect our world-renowned festivals like this one with a government-backed insurance scheme. Our plea fell on deaf ears and now the chickens have come home to roost.
“The jewel in the crown will be absent but surely the government cannot ignore the message any longer – it must act now to save this vibrant and vital festivals sector.”
“The government cannot ignore the message any longer – it must act now to save this vibrant and vital festivals sector”
Dave Webster, Musicians Union, says: “We are bitterly disappointed to hear that Glastonbury has announced its had to cancel this year’s festival. Another devastating blow to the music industry caused by this insidious virus. Ongoing uncertainty around insurance is leaving other festivals and events in a precarious position for 2021.”
In December last year, Emily Eavis joined many across the UK’s live industry in appealing for a government-backed event cancellation fund – similar to schemes that have launched in Germany and Austria – to enable operators to plan for this summer’s festival season without the financial risk posed by a potential Covid outbreak.
In an interview with The Sunday Times, Eavis said the festival had struggled to get cancellation insurance from commercial underwriters to help cover losses if the 2021 edition were to be postponed or cancelled.
Prior to that, her father Michael, with whom she organises the festival, warned back in June that they would “seriously go bankrupt” if they were not able to hold the festival again.
Last year’s 50th-anniversary event was meant to be headlined by Sir Paul McCartney, Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar, but it was cancelled during the initial national lockdown in March 2020.
With great regret, we must announce that this year’s Glastonbury Festival will not take place, and that this will be another enforced fallow year for us. Tickets for this year will roll over to next year. Full statement below and on our website. Michael & Emily pic.twitter.com/SlNdwA2tHd
— Glastonbury Festival (@glastonbury) January 21, 2021
At the beginning of January, key stakeholders in the UK’s festival industry gave evidence at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Select Committee’s inquiry into safeguarding the future of the sector.
Witnesses including Parklife’s Sacha Lord, AIF’s Paul Reed and UK Music chief Jamie Njoku-Goodwin relayed the key demands of the sector, which include an indicative date for a full return to live; a government-backed coronavirus cancellation scheme; a three-year extension of the VAT reduction and an extension for business rates relief.
Following the inquiry, the DCMS Committee wrote to the chancellor of the exchequer to ask for a government-backed insurance scheme for concerts and festivals, or risk “a summer without festivals”.
Glastonbury is the second major European festival to cancel its 2021 edition after Switzerland’s Baloise Session this morning called off this year’s in-person event scheduled for the autumn. Beatrice Stirnimann, CEO of the Baloise Session, said “it’s impossible to plan with any certainty”.
This story is being regularly updated.
UK festival industry warns of ‘wipeout’ at DCMS inquiry
Key stakeholders in the UK’s festival industry today gave evidence at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Select Committee’s inquiry into safeguarding the future of the sector, which has been ‘decimated’ due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The inquiry heard from Sacha Lord, co-founder, Parklife and The Warehouse Project and nighttime economy advisor for Greater Manchester; Anna Wade, communications and strategy director, Boomtown Fair; Steve Heap, general secretary, Association of Festival Organisers (AOF); Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, chief executive, UK Music and Paul Reed, chief executive, Association of Independent Festivals (AIF).
The witnesses gave evidence on a number of challenges facing the sector and conveyed the urgent need for further government support to avoid a ‘total wipeout’ of the festival ecosystem.
Among the participants’ key demands was an indicative date for a full return to live; a government-backed coronavirus cancellation scheme; a three-year extension of the VAT reduction and an extension for business rates relief.
“If organisers don’t have certainty, confidence and some sense of financial security, there’ll be major cancellations within weeks”
Indicative date for full return to live
Participants unanimously agreed that one of the most pressing requirements from the government is an indicative date for festivals to return to full scale and without social distancing, which would allow organisers to either proceed with their events or cancel.
AIF’s Reed said: “Right now is when organisers have to make key decisions. If they don’t have certainty, confidence and some sense of financial security for summer events, then there’ll be major cancellations within weeks.”
UK Music’s Njoku-Goodwin said: “We have a vaccine on the way. It’s being rolled out and there’s a timetable for that. The public target for ministers has been two million vaccines every week and if we know our testing capacity and the testing situation is going to be at a certain point by a certain time, we should be able to have some sort of roadmap for live. If you’ve got that sort of data and information, there should be a way to calculate or make some sort of political determination or judgement for an indicative date for a return.”
Boomtown’s Wade said: “There’s a challenging road in front of us but not impossible. We need the government to understand our timeline because we can’t roll something out quickly – it’s a very very complex operation to put on festivals. Normality might resume but that doesn’t necessarily give us a green light.”
“Insurance is the first key in the door that will unlock everything else”
Government-backed insurance scheme
Citing insurance schemes rolled out in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, UK Music’s Njoku-Goodwin expressed concerns that the UK would be at a competitive disadvantage if the government doesn’t prevail with our own scheme: “I think the real danger here is that if we see a lot of countries – particularly in Europe or close to home – protecting their festival seasons, you could have a sort of a talent transfer. We don’t want to have a situation where musicians, crews, technicians and people who should be working in and supporting the UK festival scene are looking to the continent thinking ‘actually if there’s going to be live music happening there in 2021, that’s where we are going to be’.”
AIF’s Reed reiterated the need for a government-backed insurance scheme, adding that none of AIF’s member festivals will be able to go ahead in 2021 without it: “Without government intervention, festivals will simply cancel early and on mass. It’s still too early to tell in a binary sense whether the season is on or off, but for the larger festivals, [the decision of whether or not to cancel] will come by the end of this month and for some of the smaller ones it’s March but they are all reaching a point at which they will need to commit that upfront capital and make a determination on the event for this year.”
Addressing the government’s claims that an insurance plan should be the final hurdle for event organisers, Boomtown’s Wade said: “Insurance is the first key in the door that will unlock everything else. Then we can commit to things and start getting a bit more confidence back in the industry.”
“If festivals don’t take place in 2021, the vast majority of the ecosystem could disappear”
Consequences of a cancelled 2021 festival season
Boomtown’s Wade said: “It’s unlikely that we’ll be able to weather the storm of no events happening in 2021. Most festival organisers only hold one event and that is the one opportunity in the year. Without that, we don’t have a company essentially.”
AIF’s Reed said the loss for the taxpayer will be ‘significant’ in the 2021 festival season is cancelled: “If you look at the overall contribution of festivals to the UK economy, you’re looking at £1.7 bn GVA and 85,000 jobs. The live music industry in general, I believe, generates about £1.6 bn in VAT receipts and a significant portion of that will be generated by festivals.”
Sacha Lord, co-founder, Parklife and The Warehouse Project reinforced that point, adding: “The UK has got one of the biggest festival markets, globally, and we’re proud that music is one of our biggest exports. If festivals don’t take place in 2021, I think the vast majority of the ecosystem could disappear.”
“If events like [Boomtown Fair] can’t run, there’s going to be this big knock-on effect”
The wider economic impact of a disappearing festival sector
Lord said: “Let’s not forget everything that happens on the outside of the perimeter. When Parklife takes place on that one weekend it brings £16 million into the local economy. Every single year we have the Parklife Foundation, which raises on average about 100–120,000 pounds for local community causes. So there’s a bigger picture here and we need to look at the whole ecology. The supply chain will be wiped out if we have another year like 2020.”
Boomtown’s Wade said: “If events like ours can’t run, there’s going to be this big knock-on effect because we then can’t invest in local services people and skills. Festivals are like mini-cities so the supply chains, infrastructure and the services that we use are vast and countless.”
“Testing and pilots are two of the pillars. The other pillar would be industry mitigations”
Testing and safety precautions
AIF’s Reed said: “It’s difficult at this stage to see testing as the only solution to facilitate festivals. I think testing and pilots are two of the pillars, alongside vaccine development and rollout and of course treatment. But the other pillar would be industry mitigations, which is why we have a festivals working group which is cross-industry and that is working with the DCMS and Public Health England, to look at specific guidance and planning assumptions. [Those aspects] will contribute to a proposition for how festivals can safely return and instil that confidence in customers.”
UK Music’s Njoku-Goodwin said: “We don’t want to come back before it’s safe. It’s why we’re engaging in testing to make sure that we can find ways to make sure that no infections are brought into events spaces. And it’s one of the reasons we’re asking for an indicative date from the government because having government be clear on a date when we believe it’s safe to be able to hold events without social distancing and at scale will help with the public confidence.”
Steve Heap, general secretary, AOF, said: “The customer confidence, I think, is one of the biggest hurdles we have to overcome. Our ticket sales are virtually at zero. There are one or two festivals are managing okay to sell, but the customers are no longer prepared to release the funds for the tickets because they’re just not sure the event will go ahead until we get to such a point that we can say they will.”
To coincide with today’s hearing, UK Music today published a new report, titled Let The Music Play: Save Our Summer 2021 report, which outlines a strategy to restart the live music industry when it is safe.
Working guidance published for UK festivals
A coalition of industry bodies has developed and published new guidance to help the festival sector mitigate risk and plan Covid-secure events, ahead of next summer.
The guidance, which will be continually updated, has been developed by the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF); the Association of Festival Organisers (AFO); the Events Industry Forum (EIF), and Attitude Is Everything.
The working group also includes the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and Public Health England (PHE) who provided input on the development of the guidance.
AIF CEO Paul Reed says: “Risk mitigation is what festival promoters do for a living, so the intent of this guidance is to outline Covid-19 specific planning considerations that will allow for bespoke risk assessment approaches in liaison with relevant authorities and agencies.”
General secretary of the AFO, Steve Heap, says: “Next summer may seem far away but, in terms of festival planning, it is right around the corner. UK festivals are a world-leading industry and, with tools such as this in place, we are ready to re-emerge and stage Covid safe and successful festivals in 2021. On behalf of AFO members, my thanks to colleagues at AIF for their work in developing this much-needed guidance.”
“With tools such as this in place, UK festivals are ready to re-emerge and stage Covid safe and successful festivals in 2021”
The new guidance, available for free on The Purple Guide website, outlines planning considerations – rather than prescriptions – with the purpose of supporting those in the festival sector, relevant authorities, and agencies in taking a bespoke risk assessment approach, where events are able to follow government guidelines and regulations.
It covers eight key themes and Covid-19 safety measures, including medical and welfare arrangements; crowd considerations; response plans; security; site adjustments; and specific mitigation measures.
As the guidance is updated regularly, members of the working group will run monthly webinars to update the festival sector and others. Agencies at a national level are being invited to provide input on an ongoing basis.
The guidance builds further on the EIF’s recently published guidance for other outdoor events, such as air shows, carnivals, firework displays, literature fairs, outdoor theatres and performing arts, which does not encompass large-scale popular music festivals.
The Music Festivals – Covid-19 Supplementary Guidance can be read in full here.