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This year has already seen the cancelation of six UK festivals, following the closure of 36 in 2023, a figure the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) is convinced will grow substantially unless the Government immediately makes a significant cut on VAT on festival tickets.

Speaking at the AIF Congress in Bristol this morning, 1 February, the organisation’s CEO John Rostron announced the launch of a 5% For Festivals campaign designed to inform festival-goers about the problems that music festival promoters have faced over the last five years. The aim is to encourage them to contact their MPs to lobby for a much needed VAT reduction on tickets.

AIF’s 5% For Festivals campaign includes a new website that outlines the problems promoters are facing and gives festival-goers tools to write to their MPs about the VAT reduction.

Among the events AIF highlighted as having been subject to some form of recent cancellation were NASS Festival, Leopollooza, Bluedot and Barn On The Farm while Nozstock The Hidden Valley will make the 2024 edition its last.

As well as the huge impact of the pandemic, Rostron said Brexit has played a hugely negative role for festival organisers, with it contributing to a 30% rise in production costs. AIF is calling on the UK Government to lower VAT on tickets to 5% for the next three years.

Rostron said the festival sector had reached a critical point: “Five years ago, it would have been impossible to imagine that promoters would have to endure something as damaging as the Covid-19 pandemic – but many of them did, without passing the inevitable cost onto the consumer. To think that, since then, they have had to manage the effects of Brexit, war in Ukraine, inflation and an energy crisis is staggering. That festival-goers were able to enjoy some of the fantastic events they did in 2023 is testament to the resilience and passion of those promoters. But we lost 36 festivals last year, and with six festivals having postponed activity in 2024 or closed the gates for good, we are on track to see well over double the number of casualties this year.

“UK festivals need time to recover and rebuild. They need help from our Government. A reduction in VAT on festival tickets from 20% to 5% for three years is an evidence-based, simple, sensible remedy that would ease the financial burden on promoters enough for them to return to health. We need this action now.”

John Rostron will be a speaker at the Event Production Show conference, where he will join a panel of leading events operators discussing the key pain points that arose in the 2023 season and what is required to resolve them. Register for free to attend here.