Newly published festival guidance around Covid-19 has been rolled out to assist industry parties in assessing risk levels and planning festivals based on a “flexible, pragmatic and realistic approach to the current pandemic.”

The planning framework, which is a live document that will be updated on a monthly basis, has been developed by a coalition of industry bodies including the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), the Association of Festival Organisers (AFO), the Events Industry Forum (EIF) and Attitude Is Everything.

The working group also includes the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and Public Health England (PHE) who provided input on the development of the guidance, which is available for free on The Purple Guide website.

AIF chief executive Paul Reed said: “Risk mitigation is what festival promoters do for a living, so the intent of this guidance is to outline Covid-19 specific planning considerations that will allow for bespoke risk assessment approaches in liaison with relevant authorities and agencies. I’d like to thank the AIF Ops Group for leading on this important piece of work and also DCMS, PHE officials and the wider festival industry for their invaluable contributions.”

The guidance outlines planning considerations, rather than prescriptions, with the purpose of supporting festival organisers as well as relevant authorities and agencies in taking a bespoke risk assessment approach, where events are able to follow government guidance and regulations.

It covers eight key themes and Covid-19 safety measures, including medical and welfare arrangements; crowd considerations; response plans; security; site adjustments; and specific mitigation measures.

As the guidance is updated regularly, members of the working group will run monthly webinars to update the festival sector and others. Agencies at a national level are being invited to provide input on an ongoing basis.

General secretary of the AFO, Steve Heap, added: “Next summer may seem far away but, in terms of festival planning, it is right around the corner. UK festivals are a world leading industry and, with tools such as this in place, we are ready to re-emerge and stage Covid safe and successful festivals in 2021. On behalf of AFO members, my thanks to colleagues at AIF for their work in developing this much needed guidance.”

The guidance states that festival organisers will have to remain agile in their thinking regarding issues such as social distancing when planning for and delivering their festivals. In particular, it adds, festival organisers will need to consider whether their festivals are indeed operationally feasible and economically viable under the existing or predicted social distancing guidelines at all.

If they consider that they are viable, then festival organisers will also have to consider whether they are willing to proceed at their own risk when operating with a potential raft of new and additional COVID-19 safety measures potentially being required.

The guidance builds further on the EIF’s recently published guidance for other outdoor events, which does not encompass large-scale popular music festivals. The focus of this EIF guidance is primarily on more diverse events such as air shows, carnivals, firework displays, literature fairs, outdoor theatres and performing arts.

In addition, the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) recently published their own supplementary guidance to the Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds (Green Guide). Elements of their guidance for sports grounds may be useful for the music festival sector to consider.

As it stands in the UK, outdoor events that are organised by businesses, charitable organisations, and public bodies can go ahead subject to certain conditions, including restrictions on persons/qualifying groups of persons mixing or mingling at such events, undertaking the required risk assessment and taking all reasonable steps to mitigate the risk of transmission of coronavirus, in light of the risk assessment and any government guidance. Local authorities may also make directions in relation to events under certain conditions.

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