More than half of all large UK festivals have now been cancelled this year, new figures show.

Data released by the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) estimates that 51 per cent of all UK festivals of 5,000 capacity and over have now been called off as the sector continues to be impacted by COVID-19 restrictions. High-profile independent festivals including Kendal Calling and Truck Festival are among the latest to have been cancelled in recent days.

The AIF said the milestone has been reached following the delay of Step 4 of the UK Government’s lockdown roadmap and the absence of insurance for festival businesses.

AIF chief executive Paul Reed said Government must announce plans for an insurance scheme now if the sector is to be able to operate in the coming months.

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 organisers 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 19th July 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 19th July 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.”

Green Man organisers said today (Monday) that they are waiting on further advice from the Government and hoping for a COVID insurance package in order to host their 2021 festival as planned on the weekend of August 19-22.

A recent AIF survey revealed that just over half of the association’s membership who have not already cancelled are still actively planning to go ahead with their events later this year while 22 per cent are unsure. The remainder had already cancelled or have cancelled since the Step 4 delay was announced. 

Last week, the Government bowed to pressure from the AIF and other bodies representing entertainment and hospitality by releasing the data from phase 1 of the Events Research Programme.

The first phase of the pilot programme, which featured nine events, detected just 28 cases of COVID-19 among the 58,000 people who attended.

Image: Moses / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic / Edited for size