UK FESTIVALS UNDER THREAT?

The crisis may take so long to bring under control that access to countryside areas could be severely restricted over the festival season...

This year’s outdoor festivals could be axed if the escalating foot and mouth crisis is not brought under control soon.

The disease, which affects pigs, sheep, cattle and deer, last hit the UK in 1967 and took more than six months to bring under control. If that happens again this year, it means that movement around the countryside and even in and out of Britain could still be severely restricted over the festival season.

Rupert Uloth, assistant editor of Country Life magazine, is an expert on the foot and mouth disease explosion and warned NME.COM: “It is very bad. The festivals will be affected if they are in rural areas. I think you should all be worried.”

Michael Eavis, organiser of Glastonbury Festival, told NME.COM that this year’s event – fortunately cancelled due to security concerns – would have definitely been cancelled and he would have “lost a million” if he had still been planning it. “We just couldn’t have run it. It would have been a nightmare and we’d have had to cancel it regardless.”

The festival most immediately under threat is this year’s Homelands at the Matterley Bowl, Winchester in Hampshire, featuring Pulp, The Orb and Orbital, which is due to take place on May 26.

However, Melvin Benn, of organisers Mean Fiddler, the company also behind Reading/Leeds Carling Weekend and Glasgow Green which are scheduled for the August Bank Holiday weekend, told NME.COM: “The Matterley Bowl is classed as the countryside, but the festival is three months away and the idea there will be no movement in any part of the countryside by then is unthinkable.”

Bob Angus of Metropolis Promotions, which organises the V festivals, to be held on August 18&19 and featuring Red Hot Chili Peppers and Faithless, told NME.COM that most of the industry was keeping its fingers tightly crossed that the danger would pass.

Irish live music promoters Aiken Promotions, The Point Theatre, MCD and Ticketmaster issued a statement saying that talks are going on with the relevant government authorities and advice is being taken over preventative procedures, but reiterated that events are not as yet being cancelled.

“All scheduled events are proceeding as planned and the Live Entertainment Industry Association’s venues have all implemented stringent disinfectant procedures, in accordance with the preventative procedures set down by the Department of Agriculture. This will entail the placement of disinfectant mats at all venue entry/exit points and spraying of cars and buses in car parks controlled by the Association’s venues.

“The Live Entertainment Industry Association will continue to act responsibly and maintain close consultation with the relevant authorities. Should this situation change in any way, a further statement by the Association will be issued.”

To read the full investigation into this year’s festivals under threat, see this week’s NME, in the shops in London today (March 6) and on sale throughout the rest of the UK tomorrow.