The cancellation of Glastonbury Festival (147,000) will have a short-term impact on the confidence of promoters and consumers, but smaller festivals are far better placed to go ahead this summer, according to We Are The Fair CEO Nick Morgan.
As head of event production agency We Are The Fair, Nick Morgan (pictured) is set to work on no less than 132 festivals this year, with his clients including El Dorado Festival (cap. 9,000) in Herefordshire and London’s GALA Festival (9,000).
He tells Access that the cancellation of Glastonbury will unnerve the market and result in a depression in ticket sales and rise in refund requests but he remains relatively bullish about the festival season’s prospects.
“Glastonbury is not indicative of the festival sector as a whole because it sits in silo,” he says. “It involves more than 20,000 crew who would have to go on site within the next 16 weeks. Just managing that in the current landscape, with the amount of advance work that has to be done, I can’t see how you could possibly do it. Then there is the enormity of 150,000 fans on site, it is a logistical nightmare.”
Considering its scale and the fact Glastonbury is also a relatively early summer show, Morgan says he was not surprised to hear of its cancellation yesterday, 21January, but he is keen to distance the events he is working on from it.
“Glastonbury can’t be used as a benchmark for other shows that are much more agile, and for which the lead times are much more expedited,” he says.
With more than two decades working at a senior level in the events industry behind him, Morgan’s current responsibilities include being Association of Independent Festivals vice chair and a council member of the National Outdoor Events Association.
He says that while shows in May could be challenged, social distancing measures will be eased somewhat by June and from then on the festival season will begin to take shape: “The smaller capacity events, where there is more opportunity to instigate and adapt control measures, have a much better chance of taking place. I do think the festival season is viable. We’re quite bullish.”
“The smaller capacity events, where there is more opportunity to instigate and adapt control measures, have a much better chance of taking place. I do think the festival season is viable. We’re quite bullish.”
One positive knock-on effect to cascade from Glastonbury not happening is the increased availability of event infrastructure and equipment. Morgan says event inventory availability was one of his biggest concerns: “Lots of suppliers we know have sold off their inventory to other operators in sectors such as construction just to shore up their balance sheets.
“Glastonbury has a national impact on the availability of inventory such as trackway and fencing. While a lot of people don’t trade on that weekend because of the competition, it’s also because there is no inventory left or it is in very short supply. This year there was going to be even less available, that was a real concern of ours, as we’ve got shows that would take kit directly from Glastonbury. Those fears have now been allayed.”
Morgan doesn’t expect any real indication of how the festival season is likely to shape up until March due to the time required for the vaccination rollout and resulting efficacy testing period. However, he insists it is important event operators roll up their sleeves now and get the groundwork for their events in place.
“If you sit back and do nothing until March that’s a very dangerous position to be in because you have then not only got to do all of the planning and procurement, you will start to see other issues with shows beyond the Covid impact – people forgetting the basics of health and safety and site planning. That is a concern of mine, which I’ve been flagging for several months but with little impact,” he says.
As We Are The Fair presses ahead, taking preliminary steps toward its events, Morgan is finding local authorities and Safety Advisory Group (SAG) personnel are supportive.
“We are advancing shows, that has to happen, there’s some legislative timelines that are immovable – whether it be licensing or engaging SAG.
“On the whole SAGs are very receptive. The councils are under pressure too, revenue for them is challenging. We alone pay more than £1 million for green spaces a year, which I would think is much needed.
“There are hesitancies around supply chain because you’re then getting into fairly large deposits to secure the equipment, so I think that will be last minute. There are challenges but we are working through them.”