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The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) has estimated that 51% of all UK festivals with at least 5,000 capacity have now been cancelled this year.

The milestone has been reached following the delay of Step 4 of the UK Government’s lockdown roadmap, the delayed publication of the Events Research Programme (ERP) pilot results, no Government commitment to provide insurance and a lack of guidance for festival organisers.

The most recent cancellations this week have included high-profile independent festivals such as Kendal Calling and Truck Festival, followed by Splendour and Beyond The Woods.

A recent AIF survey revealed that just over half of the association’s membership who have not already cancelled are still actively planning to go ahead with their events later this year, while 22% are unsure ifthey will go ahead. The remainder had already cancelled or have cancelled since the Step 4 delay was announced.

AIF said 78% of those still planning will either not go ahead or are unsure about going ahead without Government-backed Covid cancellation insurance in place. It said the organisers 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 £4m. Promoters have spent, on average, 25% of their overall costs. The survey covered festivals taking place from 23 July – 26 Sept with capacities ranging from 5,000-70,000. It added that most of a festival’s costs fall in the month before the event.

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 19 July as a terminus date, they will back this now.”

He added, “There are still a number of festivals that could take place after the intended final lifting of lockdown on 19 July 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.

“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.”