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UK festivals issue ‘red alert’ as cancellations pile up

More than a quarter of UK festivals over 5,000 capacity have now been cancelled due to a lack of Government-backed insurance, new research has discovered.

The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) has issued a “red alert” warning to the Government, projecting that up to 76 per cent of the remaining festivals, which are scheduled to take place in July and August, could quickly cancel if immediate action is not taken.

According to research from AIF, which has been tracking the 2021 festival season, 26 per cent of all UK festivals over 5,000 capacity have already announced that they will not be able to go ahead this year.

This leaves an estimated 131 festivals still scheduled to go ahead at some point in 2021 as things currently stand.

Of those, the vast majority are scheduled for July and August, with one per cent in May, one per cent in June, 38 per cent in July, 38 per cent in August, 16 per cent in September and six per cent in October.

The AIF said that those that are holding their position in July and August will need to commit to substantial, non-refundable costs by the end of May. More than 70 per cent of the organisation’s members have said that if their festivals do not take place in 2021, they will require financial support to return in 2022.

The news follows several recent cancellations including Boomtown Fair and 2000Trees, which both cited lack of insurance as reasons behind calling their 2021 plans off.

AIF chief executive Paul Reed said: “For months now, we have been warning Government that the UK’s 2021 festival season would be quickly eroded if they failed to back their own roadmap out of lockdown and act on Covid related cancellation insurance. That danger is now coming to pass, with over a quarter of festivals having cancelled already this year.

“It is hugely positive that there was a festival pilot as part of the Events Research Programme (ERP) last weekend, and this could be an important milestone in the safe return of festivals.”

Reed continued: “But, without a safety net, independent promoters cannot begin to confidently invest in their events. They currently have no protection should a Covid related issue result in the cancellation of their festival.

“If Government-backed insurance is off the table, festival organisers deserve to know what Government proposes as an alternative to prevent the widespread collapse of the festival season.”

Some 5,000 fans gathered in Liverpool’s Sefton Park last weekend for a test sold-out gig by indie band Blossoms, which was organised by Festival Republic, in tandem with Events Research Programme officials. There were no requirements for social distancing or masks and ‘rule of six’ regulations also did not apply.

Image: Sam Warrenger / TheFestivals.UK / CC BY 4.0 / Edited for size

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