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.
Reopening success for reduced-cap. Van Gogh Alive
Zurich’s Maag Halle reopened the touring Van Gogh Alive exhibition earlier this month, with strong consumer demand spelling success for the exhibition, despite operating at 50% of usual capacity.
Under the second phase of Switzerland’s reopening (since 11 May), museums can restart business provided that ten square metres is maintained between each visitor.
Since reopening on 12 May, the Maag Halle has reduced the number of tickets sold per visiting slot by half, to 112, adding a few extra slots in the morning.
Disinfection stations, a one-way system, masks for staff and open doors to limit touchpoints are other measures in place at the Maag Halle to keep visitors safe. A waiting zone has also been established to hold people back if the museum is reaching capacity.
Although consumer confidence was a worry prior to reopening, Darko Soolfrank of promoter Maag Music and Arts AG tells IQ, tickets for all slots have been selling out, even during the week.
The museum is currently seeing footfall of 700 a day on average, around half of what daily intake was prior to the coronavirus outbreak due to capacity limits
The museum is currently seeing footfall of 700 a day on average, around half of what daily intake was prior to the coronavirus outbreak due to capacity limits.
Running with minimal staff, Soolfrank states the exhibition is doable from a commercial point of view and also acts as good motivation for the team.
The reliance on a completely domestic audience – half of the exhibition’s visitors were made up of tourists when it first opened in Zurich in February – has also created new opportunities for the museum to connect with its home market.
Van Gogh Alive is currently installed in museums in Mexico City and Taipei, with another in Pamplona, Spain, preparing to reopen at a third of its usual capacity from 8 June.
The viability of social distancing in venues has proved a hot topic within the events industry recently, with many stating it is impossible to restart business under strict capacity restrictions.
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).
Switzerland is prosperous, politically neutral and stands outside of the EU, a wealthy, land-locked island in the middle of Europe. But in its highly active live business, it is certainly not insulated from competition, external or otherwise.
Take the case of the Hallenstadion, Zürich’s 15,000-capacity former Vélodrome, and Switzerland’s most popular arena destination for major incoming touring acts. Until 2013, the venue was booked exclusively by Good News – then the unchallenged market leader. These days, it’s open to all, as everyone knows, but here’s the point: Hallenstadion director Felix Frei estimates that the arena now routinely takes bookings from ten or 15 promoters.
“We have a much broader base of promoters in music than before,” says Frei. “We have more concerts but, on average, less attendance. The reason seems to be a really, really strong music market here. Artists are playing five, six, seven times in Switzerland and we can feel that.”
“You travel through Switzerland in the summer and basically in every town you have a music event”
Out in the fresh Swiss air too, where it has been joked that every field has its own festival, the open-air market is bulging at the seams. Something like 300 events battle for the attention of fewer than 8.5m Swiss, plus musical tourists.
“I think it’s great for the audience,” says Dany Hassenstein, booker at Paléo in Nyon, which has sold out in advance for 16 years in a row. “You travel through Switzerland in the summer and basically in every town you have a music event. It’s great for people who love music.”
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