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UK festivals could be cancelled this summer unless Boris Johnson’s government offers Covid-19 insurance

Festivals 2021
(Image credit: Dominika Zarzycka/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Despite the current optimism about the return of live music to UK festival sites and clubs this summer, further cancellations have followed in the wake of Glastonbury and Download putting their 2021 plans on ice, with the 66,000-capacity Boomtown Fair the latest event to concede defeat and cancel. 

And the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) is warning that the situation could deteriorate further if the UK government doesn’t step in to offer promoters insurance against the possibility of a new wave of Coronavirus causing havoc and disruption once more. 

Though Boomtown Fair, due to take place in Winchester from August 11-15, the same weekend as Bloodstock festival, sold out completely in February, organisers today (April 20) said  they cannot stage the festival without the safety net which pandemic-specific insurance would provide. 

“With less than four months to go until the event, and after almost half a year of collective campaigning to the government, sadly Covid-specific cancellation insurance for events simply does not exist at this point in time,” they wrote. “This means anyone putting on an event this year, will be doing so without the safety net of insurance to cover them should Covid prevent them from going ahead in any capacity.”

“For an independent event as large and complex as Boomtown, this is a huge gamble of up to an eight figure sum and the financial risk is simply too high.”

When last staged, in 2019, Boomtown Fair featured appearances from Prophets Of Rage, Killing Joke, Therapy?, Napalm Death, At The Gates, Cancer Bats, Godflesh and more.

Paul Reed, the CEO of the Association of Independent Festivals, believes that yet more cancellations will follow if the UK government does not act to offer safeguards to promoters.

“The cancellation of Boomtown Fair is devastating but not surprising, and further festival cancellations will follow,” Reed told NME.com.

“AIF has been warning and providing evidence to the Government for over six months on the urgent need for intervention on insurance. It is an enormous risk for any independent festival to commit to upfront, non-refundable costs and very difficult to plan with confidence in the absence of insurance. The average cost of staging an independent festival is over £6m.”

“If this Government doesn’t intervene in some way on insurance and back its own roadmap, I’m afraid that, despite the rhetoric, it won’t be a great British summer for events.”