Independent festivals welcome lifeline of government coronavirus funding

Good news for festivals – but the fight isn't over yet

Independent festivals in the UK have welcomed the news that they’re set to receive a cut of emergency government funding to weather the storm of coronavirus.

Earlier this month, the UK government revealed plans for an unprecedented cash injection of £1.57 billion to help the arts, culture and heritage industries survive the impact of closures brought on by coronavirus – providing music venues, independent cinemas, museums, galleries, theatres and heritage sites with emergency grants and loans.

However, the Association Of Independent Festivals claimed that they have been unable to get reassurance that festivals would be allowed this money, fearing that they may have been “left outside the tent”.

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Now, the AIF have welcomed the news that a £500 million fund will be distributed to cultural organisations and festivals across England during the COVID-19 crisis, with grants ranging between £50,000 and £3 million. However, they are still cautious about how the money will be shared.

“While the effectiveness of this emergency fund in helping our sector through the pandemic will be determined by exactly how it is allocated, we are cautiously optimistic about this update, which makes the eligibility of festivals explicit,” said AIF CEO Paul Reed.

“We understand that thanks to contributions from our members illustrating their current predicament, DCMS officials were able to make significant representations for festival inclusion, and we’re very thankful for that support.”

He added: “Festivals across the UK are undoubtedly ‘crown jewels’, both culturally and economically, in the local areas they serve and the nation as a whole. Supporting the sector until next year will also kick-start other parts of the supply chain. Survival, and a healthy festival market in 2021, will result in artists being booked, sites and stages being built and money being spent by the public.”

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”.

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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.”

Meanwhile, music industry figures are warning that artists, musicians and crew remain in crisis, amid fears that they will not be protected by the government’s £1.57 billion bailout – with workers in the industry “facing their biggest crisis since the 1920s”.

“As many as 38% of artists have fallen through the gaps between income support schemes and have received nothing for almost four months,” General Manager of the Featured Artists Coalition David Martin told NME.

“Those that have had support will soon see that lifeline come to an end.  With no date in sight for a full return to live music, most will not be able to work for many more months.  It is imperative that those that have been left out or cannot return to work are supported and that the arts fund extends to supporting the people that make our sector not just the places.

“What are our venues, festivals, arenas and theatres without artists and performers? Silent.”

Last night also saw a government-approved socially distanced pilot gig at the Clapham Grand featuring Frank Turner. However, organisers have said that the event “did not succeed” in creating a viable blueprint for the return of live music.

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