‘A Big Event Can Be Safe’: European Festivals Demand Clear Perspective And Financial Bailouts

A picture capturing how mesmerizing a live concert can be.
Sergii Kharchenko/NurPhoto via Getty Images
– A picture capturing how mesmerizing a live concert can be.
People watching Nothing But Thieves at Atlas Weekend festival in Kyiv, June 29, 2017.

Yourope, the European festival association, published a press release demanding two things from the continents respective decision makers: clear guidelines and reopening timeframes to allow for reliable planning and a financial bailout to secure the future of the culturally very relevant live events sector.

Yourope counts around 100 European festivals among its members, including major events like Atlas Weekend (Ukraine), Colors of Ostrava (Czech Republic), Exit Festival (Serbia), Melt Festival and Wacken Openair (Germany), Openair Frauenfeld (Switzerland), Sziget Festival (Hungary) and many more.
Combined, these events sell millions of tickets per year, which “reflects the immense importance of the industry as part of Europe’s cultural landscape,” according to the release.
European promoters are in desperate need of a reopening timeline to develop a strategy for the 2021 festival summer.
“We owe it to the millions of visitors who have trusted us enough not to return their tickets, to our many thousands of staff and contractors, to big-time and lesser-known artists, and to our suppliers to preserve the cultural diversity we have created as event organisers,” the Yourope statement continues.
Promoters therefore need to know under what circumstances their respective events may take place again under normal conditions. As the press release states, “2021 is not 2020. We have better treatment options and testing is becoming more and more advanced. The process of vaccination has already begun. 
“Combine this with the fact that cases are expected to decrease considerably in the summer months, we find ourselves in a different starting situation – one that poses the following questions:
MC Tomer Yosef, singer of Israeli music band
MICHAL CIZEK/AFP via Getty Images
– MC Tomer Yosef, singer of Israeli music band
The festival takes place in Ostrava city, North Moravia, Czech Republic.

Can festival organisers expect to be able to hold their events as normal and at full capacity, provided they ensure that additional protective measures are in place?

What measures will they need to take in terms of guests, staff and suppliers?
Will international artists be allowed to travel as needed?”
Promoters intend to use the month of February to “gain as much clarity as possible,” which is mainly dependent on “a transparent roadmap from the authorities.” Only then will they be able to “develop a strategy with clearly defined parameters to ensure that we can host events safely while also operating at full capacity under our normal and, as far as possible, standardized conditions.”
And they emphasize: “A big event can be as safe as our day-to-day lives!”
The financial support from government varies widely from country to country. While some, including Austria and the Netherlands, offer financial bailouts in case of forced cancellations, others haven’t yet paid out anything to the live events sector.
Some countries lack a main point of contact within government, with whom promoters can discuss the issues at hand “in a constructive and purposeful way.” 
As promoters have been pointing out since the beginning of the COVID crisis, they are the ones with a vast expertise in hosting large crowd in a safe manner. Its the kind of expertise decision makers should take into account when deciding the fate of an entire sector.
To secure the future of the continent’s tradition-rich festivals, “there must be access to a financial bailout if an organizer has to cancel or change the way their event takes place due to stricter anti-coronavirus measures being implemented that make carrying out the event as normal no longer economically viable,” Yourope sums it up.
A bailout, or government-backed insurance scheme, is the only thing that will allow promoters to plan their events, invite talent and put down deposits in order to announce lineups and sell tickets. 
“Our badly battered and bruised industry can no longer bear the weight of these scarcely predictable risks alongside their normal financial risks alone,” the statement reads.
And it concludes with a call for a “principle of proportionality:” if the main health goals are achieved, measures should in turn be relaxed sensibly and proportionately.”