UK Government Examines Future Of Music Festivals

The UK's most famous festival: Glastonbury.
Jim Dyson/Getty Images
– The UK’s most famous festival: Glastonbury.
A view of the festival site from Pennard Hill at dawn during day four of Glastonbury Festival 2009 at Worthy Farm in Pilton, Somerset.
The UK government is asking live professionals to submit evidence that’ll help it determine “what support is needed for UK music festivals to return in 2021.” 
COVID-19 restrictions have meant the majority of festivals this year have been cancelled with revenues down by 90%.
The evidence the UK government asks for includes data on “the economic and cultural contribution of the UK’s festival industry,” and “the impact of cancellations on local economies and those who derive income from festivals during 2020?”
The UK’s music associations and professionals have been warning the government since the first employment bans, followed by the first lockdown in March, about the devastating economic impact its Corona strategy would have on the sector.
Soul II Soul performing at Nozstock Festival 2019.
Charlie Rimmer
– Soul II Soul performing at Nozstock Festival 2019.
The boutique festival in Herefordshire, England, is one of 65 AIF member festivals.

In May, the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) had warned that the economic shutdown could collapse up two 92% of AIF member festivals.

When it had become clear that this year would see a summer without festivals, the AIF stated: “The festival sector at large could be facing potential refunds of up to £800 million in total this summer.”
A survey amongst its 65 members showed, that, on average, the festivals were sitting on non-recoupable costs of £375,000 ($495,000), with 98.5% not covered by insurance for cancellation related to Covid-19.   
The report highlighted that the music festival sector generates an estimated £1.75 billion GVA ($2.3 billion) for the UK annually, with at least 10% of this benefitting local businesses and economies. The sector also supports 85,000 jobs.
The AIF had come up with a list of recommendations to the UK government back then. 
The UK government also wants to know about “the risks to festivals taking place in 2021 and beyond,” and how these can be mitigated.
In a parliamentary hearing on Sept. 8, Melvin Benn, the Managing Director of Live Nation’s UK company Festival Republic talked about this at length. He explained, amongst other things, that self tests, which seemed to be around the corner, could be the way – with an app giving staff and visitors the all-clear sign at the gate.
The houses of the UK Parliament in London, England.
– The houses of the UK Parliament in London, England.
The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee wants to examine the future of UK music festivals.

In that same parliamentary hearing, Benn also answered another question, the UK government has now included in its call for evidence, namely how festivals could be supported to tackle the dangers of illegal drug use.

Benn responded, that he was confident a safe environment for people seeking personal abandonment could be created. He has been one of the earliest promoters in the UK to adopt measures to mitigate the effects of drugs at large-scale public events. Ironically, it was city council that placed hurdles in his way.
The UK government also wants to know, what measures were needed for audiences to attend festivals without having to maintain a distance, and how realistic these measures were.
Last month, the AIF published a 20-page Covid planning guide for UK festivals, which should be read in in conjunction with the Events Industry Forum’s (EIF) Purple Guide to Health, Safety and Welfare at Music and other events.
Apart from quick tests at the entrance, promoters are pinning their hopes on an effective vaccine, and since first results in finding such a vaccine have been reported this week, an answer to this question may have been found.
The UK government announced a £1.57 billion ($2 billion) rescue fund for cultural businesses at the beginning of July, £500 million of which were dedicated to cultural organizations including festivals across England with grants ranging between £50,000 and £3 million.
The government now wants to know, what the impact of this fund as well as VAT cuts that were granted alongside the money has been.
Evidence can be submitted until Dec. 9. It will inform government policy to support music festivals due to take place in 2021 in the face of immediate pressures, and consider the economic and cultural contribution that music festivals make to the UK.
As a notice from the UK government’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (DCMS) states, “festivals can take place if they are COVID-19 secure and comply with all relevant legislation; however, social distancing requirements will determine the financial and logistical viability of an event.
“There are also questions about how audiences will respond to a socially distanced festival experience. The uncertainty of the public health situation and legal requirements next summer presents further risk for festival organizers.”
DCMS Committee chair Julian Knight MP commeted: “The collapse of the vibrant music festival sector this year is a real cause for concern. The majority of festivals have been cancelled with the money they generate down by 90% and real risks surrounding their future viability.
“We have so many legendary festivals that have given the UK a worldwide reputation – it would be devastating if they were unable to come back with a bang, or if smaller festivals that underpin the talent pipeline disappear entirely.
“We want to hear from festival staff as they face huge pressures, fans who’ve missed out, as well as musicians on the contribution that festivals make to our culture and economy.
“It’s crucial that support to enable music festivals to go ahead in 2021 and beyond is put in place. We’ll be assessing what’s been done so far and what more needs to be done to safeguard the future of festivals.”
More Covid-related news from the UK: