Culture Minister to discuss return of UK festivals with select committee this week

The DCMS committee will question Caroline Dinenage on how the government will support events aiming to return this summer

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Select Committee are set to question Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage this week (March 24) on the return of UK festivals this summer.

‘The future of UK music festivals’ inquiry began back in January and was first announced back in November following a devastating year for the music festival sector in the UK as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The inquiry is taking place as uncertainty continues to prevail over the fate of the UK’s festival season in 2021 due to the ongoing impact of the pandemic, and an opening hearing back in January saw talks from the organisers of Parklife and Boomtown.

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A press release for this week’s meeting said: “The DCMS Committee will question Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage on the Government’s plans to support the reopening of the festivals sector this summer.

“The closing session of the inquiry into the future of UK music festivals will focus on what the Government’s roadmap for lifting lockdown means for festivals and the decision-making behind plans for pilot events.

“MPs will also raise issues heard in the evidence to the inquiry so far such as the need for Government underwritten Covid-19 cancellation insurance, support for freelancers and the festivals supply chain, as well as drug safety and environmental concerns.

The inquiry was launched to examine what is needed to ensure the survival of UK music festivals after most festivals were cancelled in 2020 due to covid-19 restrictions.”

The session can be livestreamed here from 10am GMT on Wednesday, March 24.

Kaleidoscope Festival
Kaleidoscope Festival (Picture: Lloyd Winters / Press)

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With many festivals cautiously going ahead after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s roadmap to normality stating that full capacity live events and mass gatherings should be able to resume from June 21 in England – provided that vaccination targets are met and new COVID variants don’t take hold – much speculation now surrounds what a summer of live music might look like.

As it stands, Reading & Leeds is planning to go ahead over the August bank holiday, while Latitude Festival announced this week that it plans to hold its July event at full capacity with 40,000 attendees.

Festival bosses from the UK and Europe also recently spoke to NME about the likelihood of artists from overseas being able to perform at events this summer, and how COVID-19 could impact on line-ups.

Reading & Leeds 2021 is set to feature a host of acts from overseas including Queens Of The Stone AgePost Malone and DaBaby, while that same weekend will see the recently rescheduled All Points East in London seemingly playing it safe with an entirely UK-centric bill including Jamie xxKanoLittle SimzArlo Parks and Slowthai.

Paul Reed, CEO of the UK’s Association Of Independent Festival, told NME that their main focus now was on putting on something safe and giving music fans something to look forward to, regardless of who was playing.

“Festival organisers have been talking for several months about alternative line-ups and what they might look like for the obvious reasons of travel restrictions,” he said. “I think the general sense out there is that it won’t really matter to audiences this year in terms who headlines and who’s playing.”

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