The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) and Reading and Leeds Festivals boss Melvin Benn have called on the government to offer festival insurance against coronavirus, after the lack of financial protection caused a line of events to cancel their 2021 editions.
Boomtown and Barn On The Farm have both confirmed their cancellation in the last week, with both festivals stating that they faced a huge financial risk if COVID was to prevent them from going ahead in any capacity without insurance.
“For an independent event as large and complex as Boomtown, this is a huge gamble of up to an eight figure sum and the financial risk is simply too high,” Boomtown said earlier today (April 20).
Now, AIF CEO Paul Reed has warned that more cancellations will follow suit if the government fails to act.
“The cancellation of Boomtown Fair is devastating but not surprising, and further festival cancellations will follow.
“AIF has been warning and providing evidence to the Government for over six months on the urgent need for intervention on insurance. It is an enormous risk for any independent festival to commit to upfront, non-refundable costs and very difficult to plan with confidence in the absence of insurance. The average cost of staging an independent festival is over £6m.”
This has been a really hard decision, but without the safety net of insurance, it was sadly inevitable. Huge love to all in our beautiful industry struggling to see how we can bring people together safely this summer without risking the future of their events. #savethesummer https://t.co/uBaPjI8AKg
— Anna Wade (@AnnaWad3) April 20, 2021
He added: “A recent AIF member survey revealed that 92.5% of respondents do not plan on staging their events without some form of Government-backed insurance or indemnity scheme, with the measure being described as vital not optional. Considering the lengthy planning cycle of festivals, it is difficult to think anything other than we are being timed out for the summer.
“Governments across the rest of Europe have already acted to support festivals, sharing the risk with organisers so that they may reopen safely. If this Government doesn’t intervene in some way on insurance and back its own roadmap, I’m afraid that, despite the rhetoric, it won’t be a great British summer for events – it will be an extremely selective one despite the clear demand and huge amount of customer confidence that the roadmap has injected.”
While bigger festivals such as Reading & Leeds are still set to go ahead this summer, Reading boss Melvin Benn says that a lack of insurance remains the biggest worry for larger events too.
“The worry about insurance is not confined to the smaller festivals, I have that worry too. We’re all working really tightly together on all of this – the big festivals and small festivals are being very collaborative,” Benn told NME.
“We’re all in this together. Insurance continues to be the single biggest worry for us all.”
While the UK is yet to lay out insurance, the Dutch government has vowed to back up their festivals as part of a €300m scheme which was confirmed in February.
Responding to the calls, a government spokesperson told NME: “More than £34 million from our unprecedented Culture Recovery Fund has supported festivals including Boomtown, Shambala, Glastonbury and Deer Shed Festival.
“We are aware of the wider concerns about securing indemnity for live events and are exploring what further support we may provide. Last week, we announced a new event through our Events Research Programme. This event will test how we can reopen festivals, with an outdoor music at Sefton Park in Liverpool on May 2.
“Our roadmap provides a clear plan for reopening all sectors in a phased, safe way and we are supporting businesses and organisations to prepare for this.”
Elsewhere, larger events such as Reading & Leeds Festival, Parklife Festival, Isle of Wight Festival and Green Man Festival have all announced plans to go ahead.
Live Nation sold 170,000 tickets in the three days following the government’s roadmap announcement, with Reading selling out entirely for 2021.