Boomtown founder and co-director Lak Mitchell and director of communications and strategy Anna Wade tell Access why insurance was so vital to staging the event this year and why the results of the Events Research Programme did not come soon enough.
Why did the nearly £1m Cultural Recovery Fund Government grant that was awarded to Boomtown not help secure its future this year?
AW When I spoke at the DCMS Select Committee hearing in January, the industry called for a number of different steps for the Government to take to be able to help save the summer events season. We asked for a no-earlier-than date and an extension of the Cultural Recovery Fund, which obviously we have got, but we also asked for Government-backed insurance – we really stipulated that that was the key that unlocked the door to us being able to proceed.
With regards to the CRF it is an invaluable lifeline to us and we are incredibly grateful for it, it safeguards the company and the business and it helps us replenish some of the losses that we faced last year but it isn’t directly related to being able to put the event on this year due to the risk in putting on a show as complex and, quite frankly, expensive as Boomtown.
Over the next couple of months, we were going to be needing to put down huge deposits on all of our contractors and suppliers, we have around 500 different independent companies and freelancers, so we have to make those commitments which vastly exceeds the amount that we were given by the CRF.
“I do think that because of the fact that the Government has just insured the Event Research Programme pilots up to £300,000 there is clearly an understanding that events need cancellation insurance.”
So as much as the CRF helps as a lifeline for the company to be able to get through the next three months, it doesn’t solve the problem of the lack of insurance because the insurance is the absolute safety net that would carry us through so that we could potentially make those risky decisions knowing that we could recoup the money.
LM The Cultural Recovery Fund grant is being invested in the team and to keep Boomtown afloat until we can come back. We have big company overhead, such as storage costs of our kit. The money vanishes pretty instantly, as you can imagine.
It must have been a difficult decision to make, why make it now and not await until after the results of the Events Research Programme are announced?
LM We have held out to the absolute bitter end, we are the sort of company that does really hold out, but we have so many large groups involved in building the sets and every single strand of that was just at breaking point. The scale just meant it wasn’t possible
AW Our initial timeline was to make a decision after the Events Research Programme results were published or when we moved to Stage 3 on 17 May but it just became very apparent very quickly, once we got all of the team back in, that it was not going to be possible. We basically instructed everybody not to spend any money but then that meant that nobody could actually do anything.
There wasn’t even an outdoor live music event involved in the Events Research Programme until this week, so the findings weren’t really going to be providing the correct data and detail on what we needed to be able to proceed. To go through the next two months with so much and uncertainty didn’t work for us at all. Activating the teams and realising just how much stress we were putting everybody under is why we are making the decision now because we would have just been stuck in purgatory.
LM There has been a combination of things going on, the fact we are all working remotely doesn’t help because normally the group is rolled in together and we really understand the picture. Then there is the fact that everything is being pushed right back, planning would normally be going on for six months. The sheer scale of Boomtown and the complexities, coupled with the unknowns around the measures needed on the operational side of things, and then there was the additional worries around security – the event sold out and we have 40,000 people on the waiting list.
Were there times that you believed there was a reasonable chance of Government providing insurance support?
AW There have been certain people within the Treasury and wider government that have been supportive and the DCMS Select Committee was incredibly supportive and recommended immediate action from the Government.
I do think that because of the fact that the Government has just insured the Event Research Programme pilots up to £300,000 there is clearly an understanding that events need cancellation insurance.
I hope there is still some leeway there, some leverage that can come from it, which is one of the reasons why we’re trying to speak so openly about it today because although it’s too late for us we hope it’s not going to be too late for everybody else in the industry.