Government “must act now to save festivals,” ministers warn after Glastonbury cancellation

"The jewel in the crown will be absent but surely the Government cannot ignore the message any longer"

The government have been issued with a stark warning to “act now” to save the UK’s festival scene after today’s cancellation of Glastonbury.

After the coronavirus pandemic proved devastating for last year’s festival, it is feared that a similar run of cancellations could have a much more longterm impact on the circuit. At the start of January, The Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee heard from organisers of Parklife and Boomtown that many summer festivals could be cancelled as soon as the end of this month without urgent government clarity, assurances on what might be possible and help with insurance. Many festivals will not otherwise be able to afford to return and risk being wiped out forever.

“If the government don’t help with insurance then the smaller festivals are going to drop away,” Sacha Lord, co-founder of Parklife, said. “Social distancing does not work at any of these events. It’s a festival.”

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Now, ministers have marked Glasto’s cancellation as an urgent wake-up call for the government.

“The news that the UK has lost the Glastonbury Festival for a second year running is devastating,” said DCMS Committee Chair Julian Knight MP. “We have repeatedly called for Ministers to act to protect our world-renowned festivals like this one with a Government-backed insurance scheme. Our plea fell on deaf ears and now the chickens have come home to roost.

“The jewel in the crown will be absent but surely the Government cannot ignore the message any longer – it must act now to save this vibrant and vital festivals sector.”

Glastonbury
Glastonbury Festival (Picture: Getty)

UK Music Chief Executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin agreed that this marked a watershed moment for action.

“This cancellation is devastating for all of us on both on a personal and professional level,” he said. “It will have a serious impact on thousands of jobs right across the country and many jobs in the supply chains for Glastonbury.

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“There is now a huge cloud of uncertainty hanging over the whole summer festival and live music season with the entire industry left in limbo and thousands more jobs in jeopardy. It is absolutely critical that the Government look at more financial support for the music industry and those who work in it as a matter of urgency. Without more Government help, there is a real risk that some of our world-leading music scene will disappear forever.

He continued: “The music industry is desperate to get back on its feet when we can operate safely. When the time comes for the post-pandemic recovery, we can play our role in our country’s economic and cultural revival. But until that point, we need more financial support to keep us going.

“If that support is not forthcoming, we will risk losing some of our finest emerging talent with the fear that Covid could rip a giant and permanent hole in the UK’s music scene and our cultural fabric.”

Wolf Alice at Truck Festival
Wolf Alice at Truck Festival. Credit: Giles Smith

Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association, agreed that more needed to be done to help the festival and entertainment scene.

“Devastating announcement today from Glastonbury Festival, such an important date within the Festival calendar for many, and will be devastating for festival-goers and businesses looking at the summer season, and the opportunity to trade in 2021,” he said.

“The Government must recognise the impact of the negligible levels of support given to the festival and events sector, and work through a solution that will safeguard the sector, and allow the 2021 festival and events season to take place across the UK.”

While echoing comments from Reading & Leeds boss Melvin Benn and Isle Of Wight Festival’s John Giddings that there was still time to put measures into place to ensure that festivals could happen safely (provided that at least 60% of the population had been vaccinated, according to medical experts) Association of Independent Festivals’ Chief Executive Paul Reed told NME that the cut-off point for key decisions for many events was fast approaching.

“There’s a real danger that the public health situation will change dramatically in the spring and there could be a confidence in gatherings and festivals taking place, but the failure of insurance would heighten the risk too much for a festival to happen,” said Reed.

“Businesses will collapse and all the economic and human consequences will follow. What we have now is a vaccine and vaccine roll-out plan. We’re hoping that means the government can give us a clear idea of the road map for live music.”

UK Music shared a report, Let the Music Play: Save Our Summer 2021, earlier this month outlining their recommendations for how to restart the UK’s live music industry once it is safe to do so with government support.

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