More than half of UK festivals have been cancelled this year

The AIF survey reveals its members have spent an average of £451,500 in festival planning for 2021

It’s thought that up to 51 per cent of UK festivals with a minimum 50,000 capacity have now been cancelled due to ongoing uncertainty with the coronavirus crisis.

The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) provided the estimate following the results of its recent survey, which revealed that just over half of the association’s membership who hadn’t already cancelled were still actively planning to go ahead with their events later this year – 22 per cent remain unsure.

The survey was released this month after the government delayed the final stage of unlocking of COVID-19 restrictions, which was intended to have allowed for large-scale events to resume with safety measures in place.

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The government was supposed to publish the early results from its Events Research Programme (ERP) pilot events in full ahead of final unlocking, with a view to give festival organisers enough time to prepare for their events.

But the results have not been released, leading to high profile figures including Andrew Lloyd Webber threatening legal action if the data isn’t shared soon.

The UK government has been accused “pushing live music off a cliff-edge” and endangering the future of the industry by failing to publish the results, though it was confirmed yesterday (June 24) that test event data will be published “shortly”. 

Elsewhere in the AIF’s survey, 78 per cent of respondents who are still planning to hold an event said they will either not ahead or are unsure about proceeding without government-backed COVID-19 cancellation insurance in place. At this stage, however, many said they are holding out as long as they possibly can for a government announcement on the issue.

AIF members have spent an average of £451,500 in festival planning for 2021 to date, with costs ranging from £5,000 to £4million. Organisers have spent, on average, 25 per cent of their overall costs. The survey covered festivals taking place from July 23-September 26 with capacities ranging from 5,000-70,000.

AIF CEO Paul Reed said: “This is a milestone that nobody wanted to reach but, unfortunately, it has seemed inevitable for some time now thanks to the Government’s inaction and refusal to give organisers any kind of safety net that would allow them to continue to invest in their businesses and the supply chain with confidence. Make no mistake – these cancellations were entirely avoidable, and government must now change its position of reviewing insurance at step 4, as it will be far too late for most UK festivals. At this point, every day counts. If Government has any confidence in July 19 as a terminus date, they will back this now.

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“There are still a number of festivals that could take place after the intended final lifting of lockdown on July 19 but, as we have seen with the likes of Kendal Calling and Truck Festival cancelling this week, that number is rapidly declining. This is an existential issue; the 2021 season is collapsing without decisive Government action and there is a real risk of these festivals not returning.

He added: “We also echo urgent calls from the live industry for full transparency and for Government to publish the Events Research Programme report to inform planning and guidance for the safe reopening of festivals this summer.”

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