UK Festival Association Estimates: More Than Half The Country’s Festivals Canceled 2021
Carla Speight/Getty Images – The crowd enjoying Kendal Calling 2019 at Lowther Deer Park in Kendal, England.
The beloved festival is one of the latest casualties of the ongoing event restrictions in the UK.
The delay in the UK’s reopening timeline, coupled with a lack of a government-backed insurance scheme, has now caused more than half of the country’s festivals with a capacity of more than 5,000 people to cancel their 2021 editions, the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) estimates.
What didn’t help these events either is the fact that the UK government has so far failed to produce the initial results of its Events Research Programme (ERP) launched in April.
The data should have been ready prior to prime minister Boris Johnson’s announcement on June 14, which delayed the final Step 4 in country’s reopening timeline from June 21 to July 19.
MP Mark Harper, chair of the government’s COVID recovery group, pointed this out in a recent parliamentary session, where he said:
“Normally when the government doesn’t publish something, it’s because it’s bad news and it’s trying to hide it away.
“I’ve got a very strong suspicion that this set of data is fantastically positive. It must be ready for publication, because it must have been prepared for last week, when Step 4 was due to be announced, so it must be ready to go.
“My fear is it demonstrated the opposite of the decision the prime minister announced last week, it would have demonstrated that we could have safely opened on June 21. That’s the real reason why it hasn’t been published. So, why doesn’t he publish it toady and put our mind at rest?”
Keith Mayhew/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images – Foals performing at Truck Festival 2019 in Oxford.
Truck is one of the latest UK festivals forced to cancel over the lack of planning certainty provided by the UK government.
Local news reports from Liverpool confirmed that the pilot events held in the region had “no impact” on virus spread, echoing findings made across Europe in similar pilot events throughout the past year.
The live entertainment sector is desperately waiting for governments to embrace the scientific data, which proves that social gatherings to experience live music do not pose a significant risk to people’s health.
Yet, the decision makers in the UK, as well as other countries in Europe, made it impossible for promoters to stage large-scale festivals this summer for a second year running. Kendal Calling and Truck Festival in the UK, as well as Highfield and M’era Luna in Germany for example, are the most recent casualties of this policy.
Over half of AIF 65 members who have not already cancelled are still actively planning to go ahead with their events later this year, the association has found, while 22% are unsure. The remainder had already cancelled or have cancelled since the Step 4 delay was announced.
“However, 78% of those still planning will either not go ahead or are unsure about going ahead without government-backed Covid cancellation insurance in place,” the association points out, adding, “at this stage they are holding out as long as they possibly can for a Government announcement on the issue.”
Since they all require some planning time, and since most of a festival’s costs fall in the month before the event, according to AIF, “the sector is at a real tipping point.”
AIF CEO Paul Reed said: “This is a milestone that nobody wanted to reach but, unfortunately, it has seemed inevitable for some time now thanks to the Government’s inaction and refusal to give organizers any kind of safety net that would allow them to continue to invest in their businesses and the supply chain with confidence.
“Make no mistake – these cancellations were entirely avoidable, and Government must now change its position of reviewing insurance at Step 4, as it will be far too late for most UK festivals. At this point, every day counts. If Government has any confidence in July 19 as a terminus date, they will back this now.
“There are still a number of festivals that could take place after the intended final lifting of lockdown on July 19 but, as we have seen with the likes of Kendal Calling and Truck Festival cancelling this week, that number is rapidly declining. This is an existential issue; the 2021 season is collapsing without decisive Government action and there is a real risk of these festivals not returning.
“We also echo urgent calls from the live industry for full transparency and for Government to publish the Events Research Programme report to inform planning and guidance for the safe reopening of festivals this summer.”
These “urgent calls” include legal action taken by the UK’s live entertainment industry body LIVE as well as representatives of the theater sector.