A lack of support for festivals and events could send the UK into a cultural crisis after the Government failed to support the sector in the Spring Budget, warns Nick Morgan CEO of live event production company The Fair.
Support announced in the budget for the UK’s cultural sectors included tax relief for theatres, museums, art galleries and orchestras. Scotland’s festival economy was given £8.6 million to help fund a permanent home for Edinburgh Fringe Festival and support local talent. No other nations were provided with such funding, despite the fact music festivals contribute £1.76 billion to the UK economy each year, and the live music industry contributes £4.5bn as a whole.
I’ve been producing festivals and events for over 25 years, and never have I been so worried about our industry.
Last week’s Spring Budget was an incredible opportunity for the government to show continued support across the events sector but the vast majority of us were dismissed.
Granted, Scotland’s festival economy was given £8.6 million to support the Fringe and Edinburgh’s local talent, which our industry welcomed with open arms but no other nations were provided with such support, despite the fact music festivals alone contribute £1.76bn to the UK economy each year.
Of course, we remain grateful for the support we received during the pandemic, but the reality is we are still suffering in the aftermath of Covid, not to mention Brexit.
Supplier costs are currently at an all-time high, and the cost of living crisis sadly means far less people are able to afford tickets. Some promoters have raised ticket prices, which has been well publicised, but others feel nervous to do so as they understand customers have a limit.
In addition, the global impact of climate change means shows are looking at spending even more on infrastructure due to unpredictable weather.
“If this lack of support continues in the current climate, there will be a cultural crisis, which will have a detrimental impact on our nation’s economy, global status, and welfare.”
Despite the devastating effects of the pandemic, the events sector has, in some aspects, recovered well. Firm numbers and jobs within the Out Of Home Leisure Economy (OHLE) have recovered to pre-pandemic levels, according to this year’s Night Time Economy report, and are at an all-time high in some sectors. But, as we continue through the cost of living crisis, consumer spend, sector income, productivity and profitability continue to struggle.
These challenges are being felt across the board. Responding to the budget, the Music Venue Trust said 2023 will “inevitably” be the worst year for venue closures since it formed in 2014, due to another surge in energy bills from April 1. In 2006, there were 3,000 nightclubs in the UK, which had plummeted to just over 1,000 last year. As The Guardian’s John Harris pointed out this week: “Whereas last week’s budget saw Jeremy Hunt announcing a freeze in beer duty that he called the “Brexit pubs guarantee”, the fate of clubs is not something politicians really talk about.”
The festival and events industry has shown incredible resilience over the last few years, and I have no doubt we will continue to do so as we fight these battles but venues are closing, and some festivals have already been cancelled. The reality is that, without support, others won’t trade through.
It’s not too late yet, but for many, it soon will be. The government must act now.