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UK festivals report sell outs as industry urges caution

Festival organisers are reporting sold out events after the government revealed its roadmap out of lockdown in England this week, despite a lack of cancellation support.

Reading and Leeds Festival was the first to confirm its events would go ahead this year after Monday’s announcement, which indicates that restrictions on social contact in England could be lifted entirely by June 21.

Since reopening ticket sales, the likes of Boomtown Fair and Field Day have announced sell-out events, with many fans having held onto their passes after the 2020 events were cancelled.

However, the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) said the 2021 festival season “is by no means guaranteed at this point” and that “major festivals such as Reading and Leeds are not a barometer for the whole market,” the BBC reports.

The rush has led to a renewed call for a government-backed insurance scheme, which would provide a cushion for organisers if festivals are forced to cancel at the last minute.

AIF added: “There is still the chance of widespread cancellations if data around Covid cases does not meet the Government’s requirements and lockdown easing is delayed. It is still an enormous risk for any independent festival to commit costs and proceed up to June 14 without insurance.

“We therefore once again call on the Government to urgently intervene with a Government-backed insurance scheme and extend the VAT reduction to five per cent beyond the end of March.”

There has been a 600-per-cent increase in traffic to Ticketmaster this week, according to Andrew Parsons, managing director of the site’s UK arm. He said, according to the Guardian: “We’ve had around two million fans on our site with half a million visits to the Ticketmaster Festival Finder guide. It’s a week unlike any we’ve experienced in a typical February. The pent up demand to get back to live events is undeniable. Fans are ready to make up for lost time and it’s just brilliant to see.”

Other festivals that have confirmed their intention to go ahead in 2021 include Parklife, Creamfields, and 2,000 Trees.

However, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has not given the green light for large-scale music events to take place in 2021. The UK government will run a number of pilot events in April, with the findings from different sectors to be used to determine whether it will be safe to lift restrictions.

Following Reading and Leeds festivals’ announcement, Greg Parmley, chief executive of Live, a trade body for the live music industry, underscored the “large amount of uncertainty” that remains ahead of the industry.

He said: “With the Government only committing to provide a week’s notice on the lifting of all restrictions, this will mean for many it will just be too late and we will see further cancellations.

“A government-backed insurance scheme is still vital to reduce the risk the industry faces,” he says. “These events take months to plan with large upfront costs and access to insurance will help provide greater confidence to organisers.”

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