Having seen the company’s 105,000-capacity Reading, Leeds (75,000) and Creamfields (70,000) sell out after the prime minister announced the reopening roadmap, Festival Republic MD Melvin Benn calls on the industry to work together to bring back festivals and help rejuvenate a generation of young people.
Rishi Sunak’s recent Budget was a plan to invest in and rebuild our country where he gave new forecasts for a swifter and more sustained recovery. The Office for Budget Responsibility predicts a return to our pre-covid economy by mid-2022. This next to the PM’s conditional roadmap to lift restrictions on 21 June 21, the progression of the vaccine rollout, its efficacy in preventing hospitalisation is reason for huge optimism. Spring is in the air and it feels like we’re getting back on track.
The sheer confidence of the PM’s announcement touched a spark with the British public. Ticketmaster saw a 600% rise in traffic to its website. Ticketmaster’s UK Managing Director Andrew Parsons said it was: “a week unlike anything we’ve experienced in a typical February” with two million potential buyers visiting the site.
Artists are eager to get back on the road and 95% of fans say they will likely attend a show when restrictions are lifted. 63% of fans are keeping their tickets for rescheduled festivals. 64% of fans plan on attending even more live music events once the sector reopens.
This optimism must urgently be transferred to our young. Exams and University, both rites of passage to adulthood, have been disrupted in a way unlike anything we have previously known. This summer sees the second year of interrupted youngsters being thrown into a disrupted adult world. I understand that Government has focused support on the working population. I can’t knock the furlough scheme. However, as we emerge, two years of disrupted young adults entering the work market must be one of society’s top priorities.
Reading and Leeds festivals are rites of passage also. This year, these festivals will give young adults the chance to remember what life can be like, to be away from parents and stress. To be autonomous for a weekend, safe and celebrating the start of their young adult lives. Festivals are places to connect with new people with similar ideals and form unique bonds. The place to meet people who might be different to you but who become lifelong friends through shared experiences. Discovering new artists and celebrating in ones you already love, but never have seen live.
We have a responsibility here. These young adults are our future. The 16-24-year-old cohort was showing signs of increased anxiety before 2020. After the last twelve months, a lack of certainty both in life and learning, will have piled on new pressures. Removing their ability to freely gather has deeply impacted our young. Those with school or college-aged kids will know this all too well.
Getting their festival season back in play has never been more important. Music festivals will be a much-needed tonic, one that will allow our young to rediscover the sense of hope that should naturally be theirs.
“Music festivals will be a much-needed tonic, one that will allow our young to rediscover the sense of hope that should naturally be theirs.”
I want them to be partners in Green Nation. Our charter is committed to end the use of single-use plastics, deliver a 50% reduction in scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, eliminate the use of fossil fuels and pursue a low-carbon economy by sourcing renewable energy. We need the future generation to help shape this important work, for all our futures.
Industry will of course work with Government, public health authorities and local authorities to ensure the correct mitigations are in place for the summer. The safety of festival goers, artists, their crew, my staff, onsite workers, that is always my priority.
The Budget shows the economic lengths the Government will go to in protecting jobs and livelihoods. The mental wellbeing of our young and the significance of the British festival season, has never had more importance. Whatever it takes, the mantra of the chancellor, must extend to giving hope to the young adults who will drive our economy forward and shape our future world.
Festivals are as imperative to British culture as a cup of tea or the Queen. The last year has already taken so much from our kids. It’s now up to all of us to get behind the current momentum. Everyone needs to play their part, rally together and get us over the line.