The Association Of Independent Festivals have called upon the government for “urgent clarity” as to whether festivals will benefit from their £1.57billion arts bailout.
Last night, the UK government revealed plans for an unprecedented cash injection to help the arts, culture and heritage industries “weather the impact of coronavirus” – providing music venues, independent cinemas, museums, galleries, theatres and heritage sites with emergency grants and loans.
However, the AIF have told NME thay they have been unable to get reassurance that festivals will be allowed this money, fearing that they may have been “left outside the tent”. Having contributed around £1.75 billion in Gross Value Added to the UK economy annually and supporting 85,000 jobs across the country, around 92% of festival businesses are at risk of collapse and have called for government support to “make it to next year without being wiped out”.
The AIF claims that the UK’s festivals have missed out on an entire year’s worth of income in 2020 and have lost an average of £375,000 per event. Without access to the £1.57billion bailout and government intervention, redundancies of 59 percent are expected.
“The AIF has had close contact with DCMS throughout the lockdown period, helping them to understand the needs of UK festivals during this difficult time,” said AIF CEO Paul Reed. “We have urged Government to offer a robust financial package to the sector to ensure its survival.
“The announcement of emergency support for the arts is clearly welcome but it is worrying that there has still been no specific mention of the UK’s festival industry – a sector that contributes so much to the economy and people’s lives, and one that finds itself in a uniquely precarious position during this pandemic.”
He added: “The time for lip service is over. UK festivals have, to date, largely fallen through the cracks when it comes to financial aid and business support. Boris Johnson has told Parliament that he is doing all he can to support our ‘very, very valuable sector’ but we are yet to see evidence of that. We need the Prime Minister to back this up with meaningful action and confirm that festival organisers will be eligible to access this emergency support package.”
NME has contacted the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport for a response.
Last week, more than 1,500 artists and industry figures came together to call on the government to stop “catastrophic damage” to live music as part of the #LetTheMusicPlay campaign. Glastonbury boss Emily Eavis was among them, warning that “if the Government doesn’t step up and support the British arts, we could lose vital aspects of our culture forever.”
Speaking to NME earlier this year, General Secretary of The Association of Festival Organisers Steve Heap also had a worrying forecast for the year ahead.
“If the government wants the events industry to survive, they’re going to seriously have to consider how they’re going to fund it into next season,” he said. “But then there’s the possibility that one could still be expected to social distance next year and the festival season would still be in trouble.”