AIF issues Red Alert warning over 2021 season

04 May 2021

Over a quarter of UK festivals over 5,000 capacity have been cancelled due to Government inaction on insurance.  

The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) is issuing a Red Alert warning to Government, projecting that up to 76% of the remaining festivals (i.e. those that are scheduled to take place in July and August) could quickly cancel if immediate action is not taken. 

According to research from AIF, which has been tracking the 2021 festival season, 26% of all UK festivals over 5,000 capacity have already announced that they will not be able to go ahead this year.

This leaves an estimated 131 festivals over 5,000 capacity still scheduled to go ahead at some point in 2021 as things currently stand.

Of those, the vast majority are scheduled for July and August: 1% in May, 1% in June, 38% in July, 38% in August, 16% in September and 6% in October.

22% of festivals tracked by AIF are now taking place in September/October – a shift from 10% according to analysis earlier in the year, illustrating how many organisers have changed plans to avoid complications should the roadmap not go according to plan. 

AIF is once again calling for urgent intervention from Government to save the remainder of the 2021 festival season and protect the long-term survival of many of the businesses behind these events.

Most of the festivals that are holding their position in July and August will need to commit to substantial, non-refundable costs by the end of May – And 72% of AIF members have said that if they do not take place in 2021, they will require financial support to return in 2022.

Expecting remaining festivals to simply delay their 2021 events is becoming ever more unrealistic as the September/October period becomes more congested, resulting in pressure on the festival supply chain. 

The AIF previously warned Government that many festival organisers needed such assurances by the end of March if they were to go ahead at all in 2021. The effects of failing to heed that call have already been seen in the cancellations the festival sector has witnessed to date, including high profile independent events such as Boomtown Fair, Deershed, Bluedot and Beat Herder. All have mentioned insurance in their announcements, and live music umbrella group LIVE has written to the Prime Minister and Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden suggesting that spare funds in the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund could be used to create a contingency fund offering partial protection to organisers. Industry is yet to get a response from Government on this.

AIF CEO Paul Reed said: “For months now, we have been warning Government that the UK’s 2021 festival season would be quickly eroded if they failed to back their own roadmap out of lockdown and act on Covid related cancellation insurance. That danger is now coming to pass, with over a quarter of festivals having cancelled already this year. 

“It’s now red alert for the UK’s festival season. By the end of this month, 76% of the remaining festivals planned for 2021 could very quickly disappear from the calendar. 

“It is hugely positive that there was a festival pilot as part of the Events Research Programme last weekend, and this could be an important milestone in the safe return of festivals. But, without a safety net, independent promoters cannot begin to confidently invest in their events. They currently have no protection should a Covid related issue result in the cancellation of their festival. If Government-backed insurance is off the table, festival organisers deserve to know what Government proposes as an alternative to prevent the widespread collapse of the festival season.”