Festivals call for urgent intervention following lockdown delay

14 Jun 2021
  • Report finds that over 90% of all remaining UK festivals over 5,000-capacity are scheduled to take place after 19th July – but they cannot continue to plan without Government backed insurance.
  • Further cancellations will require “a swift and comprehensive rescue package” to ensure festival businesses can survive to 2022.

The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) is calling for urgent intervention from Government for festivals following the announcement of a four-week delay to Step 4 of the lockdown roadmap today. Without Government action, most of the UK’s remaining 2021 festivals will be cancelled.

As things stand, more than a third of this year’s festivals have already been cancelled due to the pandemic and the uncertain environment created by the Government’s refusal to back an insurance scheme for the sector.

AIF analysis suggests that, with the four-week delay of Step 4 to July 19 in place, 93% of remaining UK festivals over 5,000-capacity could still potentially go ahead this summer – but not without insurance.

Most costs for a festival are incurred a month before the event, and the average cost of staging a festival is over £6 million.

A recent AIF member survey suggested that, in the event of cancellation, a third (33%) of respondents have no cash reserves to use to survive another lost year of income. Those that do have reserves, have an average of £59,909. However, individual costs within the financial year average £120,856. Average costs are therefore more than double average reserves. In addition, festival businesses have spent an average of £345,417 on surviving up to this point. If their festivals cannot take place, some respondents will face insolvency within weeks, and 34% of respondents state they would need to make redundancies of 75% or more, starting from mid-July.

In the event of mass cancellations, UK festivals will require a swift and comprehensive rescue package and targeted contingency fund that can be accessed from July 2021 to save businesses and ensure they can survive until the 2022 sales cycle.

AIF CEO Paul Reed said: “The AIF fully understands the rationale for delaying Step 4 of the lockdown roadmap. However, any measures that prevent festivals from operating fully have to be counterbalanced with effective support to ensure businesses can survive. 

“For those festival organisers that still have a chance of staging events after July 19, that support is Government-backed insurance, which will give them the confidence to continue planning and commit the significant costs that entails. Ultimately, it is a political choice if Government does not support the sector with insurance at this stage, pushing festival businesses towards another cliff edge.

“We also must not forget those festivals that have already been forced to cancel or will do so as a result of the delay – they will need a swift and comprehensive financial package to help them survive until the 2022 sales cycle.

“AIF and its industry partners remain ready and willing to work with the Government on the details of a support package that will save British businesses.”

About AIF

The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) is the UK’s leading national not for profit festival trade association representing the interests of over 90 UK music festivals, ranging from 500 to 75,999 capacity. Our members collectively entertain over one million fans every summer and AIF represents over 40% of all festivals in the UK that are 5,000+ capacity. AIF member festivals include some of the most successful and innovative festivals in the UK including the likes of Boomtown Fair, Shambala, Boardmasters, End Of The Road, Bluedot and many more. Find out more at www.aiforg.com.

The festival sector generates an estimated £1.76billion GVA for the UK annually (Carey & Chambers, ‘Valuing Live Entertainment’, June 2020) with at least 10% of this directly benefitting local businesses and economies according to data accumulated by AIF over ten years of annual audience surveys.

The festival sector also supports 85,000 jobs and according to UK Music’s ‘Music by Numbers’ 2020 report, over 5m people attended a festival in 2019 (in comparison to 2.7m in 2012).