Despite having sold out in February, Boomtown Fair has become the latest event to be called off this year due to concerns around Covid-19 mitigation requirements and a lack of available cancelation insurance.
The 66,000-capacity independent festival, which recently benefitted from a £991,000 Cultural Recovery Fund grant, was due to return to the Matterley Estate, near Winchester, on 11-15 August.
It joins a growing number of major UK festivals that have been cancelled this year, including Shambala (cap. 15,000), Bluedot (21,000), Download (85,000), BST Hyde Park (65,000), Junction 2 (12,000) and Glastonbury (147,000).
Boomtown organisers said the event had been cancelled owing to the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and critically the lack of a Government-backed, Covid-specific, insurance scheme to provide a vital safety net to events this summer.
In a statement, Boomtown’s organisers explained: “After almost half a year of collective campaigning to the Government, sadly Covid-specific cancellation insurance for events still does not exist at this point in time. 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 upto an eight-figure sum and the financial risk is simply too high.”
They went on to cite the volume of unknowns still surrounding the events industry with regards to how they will be allowed to operate this summer: “We have been doing everything within our power to try to find a solution to the conundrum of putting on a safe and well-run event to the sheer scale, complexity and intricate nature of Boomtown this summer.
“Unfortunately, without any clear indication of what size events will be able to take place, and the conditions in which we will be able to operate, we have come to the conclusion that time has simply run out for us to be able to proceed in a way that would live up to our high safety and production standards for the event we had planned.”
Organisers confirmed all 2021 tickets will remain valid for the 2022 event and will automatically roll over. In 2020 nearly 80% of Boomtown ticket holders rolled their tickets over.
Speaking at the online Live Events Crisis Summit on 14 April, Association of Independent Festivals CEO Paul Reed said the lack of a Government-backed insurance scheme for festivals is leading to a growing number of event cancellations: “The season is ebbing away and with it the vast economic contribution the sector makes.”
Responding to news of the cancellation of Boomtown, Reed said 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.
“A recent AIF member survey revealed that 92.5% of respondents do not plan on staging their events without some form of Government-backed insurance or indemnity scheme, with the measure being described as vital not optional. Considering the lengthy planning cycle of festivals, it is difficult to think anything other than we are being timed out for the summer.
“Governments across the rest of Europe have already acted to support festivals, sharing the risk with organisers so that they may reopen safely. 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 – it will be an extremely selective one despite the clear demand and huge amount of customer confidence that the roadmap has injected.”