One in six (16.6%) UK festivals came to an end during or in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF).
AIF, which represents 105 UK music festivals, carried out a study in the first half of this year that found there were 600 music festivals held in the UK in 2019, but only 482 will take place in 2023.
It said the 19.7% decline includes festivals that disappeared during the pandemic and those which tried to return in 2022 but either failed in 2022 or took place but have not made it through to 2023.
In light of its findings, AIF has called on Government to support existing festival operators in order to help rebuild the sector. Pre-pandemic, the festival sector contributed £1.76bn to the economy and supported 85,000 jobs.
AIF CEO John Rostron said the impact of the pandemic is still being felt by everyone in the festival industry: “We’re understandably shocked by the large number of events that either went down during the pandemic, or tried to get through to 2022 and have subsequently failed.
“Closures have a huge effect on the supply chain of production staff, freelancers and artists, on audiences, and on local economies and communities.
“What the festival sector needs right now is a small but speedy intervention from the Government to ensure that those festival operators who made it through the pandemic – often thanks to Government support from Culture Recovery Fund, furlough and Bounce Back Loans – are able to see through both the unforeseeable challenges of 2023 (energy costs, inflation and the cost of living crisis) and the impact of Covid (supply chain costs and concerns about younger audiences). With support, existing operators, as well as new start-ups, will begin to rebuild the festival sector to the number of events that were prevalent in 2019.”
The study follows a wider AIF Festival Forecast, published at the start of June, which illustrates the collective impact of AIF members on the UK music ecosystem.
It said AIF member festivals will attract a collective audience of 3.3 million, and will spend £36m on music talent. It claims AIF members’ economic contribution to the music sector and supply chain is equivalent to almost 50% of all grassroots music venues combined, and that the membership will stage 11,853 performances collectively.
AIF also launched the First Festival campaign this month, as a response to many young people missing out on their first festival experience in recent years as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic and the ongoing cost of living crisis.
The First Festival Campaign means that anyone in the UK who was/is 18 years of age between September 1 2019 and August 31 2023 can register interest in attending one of AIF’s member festivals via the First Festival website.