UK Association Of Independent Festivals Predicts ‘Festival Wasteland’ In 2021
The UK’s Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) has warned that the current economic shutdown could collapse up two 92% of AIF member festivals.
AIF predicts that at least 90% of the UK’s festivals won’t take place this year. A recent survey conducted amongst its members showed that half of their workforce could face redundancy from September, without governmental support.
– Paul Reed
AIF CEO Paul Reed said that “zero percent of AIF members have been able to successfully access the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans Scheme.”
“The festival sector at large could be facing potential refunds of up to £800 million in total this summer,” an AIF statement reads. On average, the association’s member festivals are sitting on “sunk costs” of £375,000 that are not recoupable, with 98.5% not covered by insurance for cancellation related to Covid-19.
AIF has been lobbying the UK government’s department for culture, media and sports on a range of issues related to the current crisis, including measures that could save the independent festival sector.
Examples include “clarity on eligibility for grants and loans, and rolling premises license fees over to 2021 for events that do not take place this year.”
AIF is calling for a continuation of all employment (furloughing and self-employed) schemes in their original form and business support packages until the festival industry can get to the planning and sales stage of 2021 events.
It also calls for clear guidance about when festivals will be able to operate, as well as any social distancing measures that would be expected in order to maintain public safety.
AIF’s full recommendations can be found below.
UK prime minister Boris Johnson gave the latest update on the UK’s roadmap out of this crisis on May 10, but left the events sector “with uncertainty and concern over the details and the exact timeline of when we will be able to open our businesses,” according to NTIA.
Johnson didn’t mention live venues or clubs specifically, he only said that the hospitality sector would be allowed to reopen by July at the earliest, “provided they’re safe and enforce social distancing.”
He didn’t mention capacities or outdoor events, but emphasized that fines for failing to comply with social distancing orders would be increased.
AIF CEO Paul Reed said: “While the government has been receptive to AIF’s counsel, it has not taken meaningful action to protect our sector. Single event festival companies are seasonal businesses. They need urgent support now and ongoing support after lockdown ends and restrictions are eased.
“This is not a temporary shutdown of business – it is an entire year of income and trade wiped out. If support is not offered throughout the autumn, then the sector will face widespread job losses that will seriously inhibit its ability to deliver events in 2021.
“There is no safety net for independent festivals, many of which have fallen between the cracks of current government support measures such as loans and grants. For example, zero percent of AIF members have been able to successfully access the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans Scheme.
“UK festivals are not only an intrinsic, defining part of British culture but also an economic powerhouse that generates hundreds of millions for the economy – we urge Government to recognise them as such.”
“Next year’s festival season will hopefully offer much needed relief after a very difficult time for the country. But, for now, these independent businesses need to survive. Otherwise, every year from now could be a fallow year for independent festivals, for the emerging artists they provide a platform for, and the local economies across the UK that they generate income for.”
AIF informs that its 65 members have “a collective capacity of 820,000 and generate an estimated £386 million for the UK economy each year, with almost 10% of that spend going to businesses based around each festival’s site.
According to UK Music’s ‘Music by numbers’ report published in 2019, a total of 4.9 million people attended a UK festival in 2018 (compared to 2.7 million in 2012).
The UK live music sector’s contribution to the economy grew to £1.1 billion in 2018, a 10% rise year-on-year, and a total of 30,529 people were employed in the live music sector in 2018, a rise of 7% on 2017.
AIF’s recommendations to the UK government:
– For Government to acknowledge a distinction between retail and seasonal businesses in terms of ongoing business support.
– A continuation of all original employment (furloughing and self-employed schemes) and business support packages until the festival industry can get to the planning and sales stage of 2021 events.
– For Government to issue clear guidance and timelines regarding when large organised gatherings will be able to operate alongside high-level guidance on social distancing measures that would be expected in order to maintain public safety.
– That Government advises large, single-event premises license fees rolling over to 2021.
– VAT breaks on ticket sales for a minimum of 18 months so that festivals can see a result of this support (certain cultural events and exhibits are already exempt).
– If large, organised gatherings are going to be last in line as part of a phased re-opening of business, ongoing support must also be phased accordingly.