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UK festivals at risk of cancellation as government talks hit ‘brick wall’ says AIF

UK Festivals
(Image credit: Ollie Millington/Redferns via Getty Images)

The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) have said they have hit a “brick wall” in talks with the government over UK festival insurance which could lead to many more large scale events this summer being cancelled. 

Over a quarter of UK festivals with a capacity of over 5,000 have now been cancelled, including the likes of Boomtown and 2000 Trees. This has led the AIF to issue a “red alert” which predicts that up to 76 per cent of the remaining festivals in July and August could be cancelled if action by the government is not taken. Without such insurance, organisers could face possible bankruptcy if for any reason their events cannot go ahead.

AIF CEO Paul Reed commented on the silence from the government saying: “We’re issuing a red alert because many festivals will be reaching the point where they decide whether to go ahead, and we’ve had crisis meetings with many other festivals who have already had to sadly cancel. There will be more to follow.”

According to the roadmap set out by the government, all social distancing measures will be removed by June 21 at the earliest, allowing large scale events to go-ahead for the first time since the pandemic began in March 2020. 

However, many organisers are reluctant to sink major costs into planning without an insurance policy in place. 2000 Trees cancelled their 2021 event last month, citing the government’s inaction on insurance as a major reason behind it saying: “although they’ve provided a similar scheme for film & TV, the government have completely let the live music industry down by refusing to back a simple insurance policy.”

This last weekend has seen some success from Reading and Leeds promoters Festival Republic with their trial mini-festival headlined by Blossoms in Liverpool. With everyone in attendance taking a COVID test before entering, it demonstrated a lot of promise for this year’s festival season. However, talking on the issue of a lack of insurance policy, managing director Melvin Benn told the BBC: “The truth is, unless the government provide it, there’s real a vulnerability for the rest of the summer.”

When asked if the Reading and Leeds festivals could happen without government insurance, Benn shrugged and refused to comment.

European countries Austria, Denmark and Sweden have already launched such schemes. The Dutch in particular have created a €300m event cancellation fund to cover music, business and sporting events until the end of the year.