Leading figures in the UK festival industry have repeatedly informed MPs today, 5 January, that without a Government-backed insurance scheme few, if any, festivals will be able to take place this summer.
The opening hearing of the DCMS Select Committee inquiry into the future of UK music festivals saw Association of Independent Festivals CEO Paul Reed warn that it is likely none of the organisation’s festival members will be able to stage events this year without insurance support.
UK Music CEO Jamie Njoku-Goodwin (pictured) warned MPs that should the UK Government not mirror schemes put in place by authorities in countries including Germany, Austria and Switzerland it could lead to the UK losing event industry talent to overseas rivals.
“There is a real danger that if we see a lot of countries, particularly in Europe close to home, protecting their festival seasons we will see a talent transfer,” he said. “We don’t want a situation where people that should be working and supporting the UK festival season, such as musicians, technicians and crews, are looking to the Continent and going there in 2021. That would put our festival market at a disadvantage.”
Asked if the festival season is likely to go ahead this year, Reed said the sector was “rapidly approaching a determining point” and that for many of the bigger festivals decisions would have to be made by the end of this month.
Njoku-Goodwin added that UK Music had been told there will be major festival cancellations within weeks if no insurance scheme is launched: “We have been working with government on guidance to bring back safe working and safe engagement at festivals, there’s a whole lot of work we are doing with government and officials to make sure that we can do things safely, but without insurance much of the summer festival season this year won’t happen.”
Parklife (cap, 80,000) co-founder Sacha Lord said that the festival sector will be in a perilous situation if it is unable to stage events this year: “I think the vast majority of festivals will disappear if they are unable to take place in 2021.”
Boomtown communications & strategy director Anna Wade said it was very unlikely the 66,000-capacity festival will take place this year without an insurance scheme: “We are owned and operated by the two guys who started the festival, and when you don’t have external investors to bankroll the festival it is a very trepidatious scenario.”
Lord said that as well as Government-backed event cancellation insurance cover, the industry is calling for other measures including an extension of the 5% VAT scheme for three years, and an extension of business rates relief.
Both Lord and Wade emphasised the significant economic impact their events have at a local and national level, not least the hundreds of thousands of pounds given to charities.
Wade also discussed the impact of cancelled events on the supply chain: “There’s going to be a big knock-on effect if events like ours are not in the position to go ahead because they not only invest heavily in local services, people and skills but also the supply chain.”
Lord said there was huge appetite among consumers to attend festivals and other live events but Association of Festival Organisers general secretary Steve Heap said the industry would benefit from a major marketing or PR campaign, much like the Government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme, to encourage confidence among consumers to attend events.
“Customer confidence is one of the biggest hurdles we have to overcome,” said Heap. “Customers are no longer prepared to release the funds for tickets because they are unsure the event will go ahead.”