Music festivals issue ‘red alert’ over insurance gap

More than a quarter of UK festivals over 5,000 capacity have been cancelled due to lack of insurance cover, with more set to be shelved without urgent government help, according to the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF). It warns that up to 76% of the remaining festivals – those that are scheduled to take place in July and August – could be forced to cancel if immediate steps to support insurance cover are not taken.

According to research from AIF, 26% of all UK festivals over 5,000 capacity have already announced that they will not be able to go ahead this year. This leaves an estimated 131 festivals over 5,000 capacity still scheduled to go ahead at some point in 2021 at present.
Of those, the vast majority are scheduled for July and August. 22% of festivals tracked by AIF are now taking place in September or October – a shift from 10% according to analysis earlier in the year, illustrating how many organisers have changed plans to avoid complications should the roadmap not go according to plan.

The Association is calling for urgent intervention from the government to save the remainder of the 2021 festival season and protect the long-term survival of many of the businesses behind these events. It says most of the festivals that are holding their position in July and August will need to commit to substantial, non-refundable costs by the end of May. 72% have said that if they do not take place in 2021, they will require financial support to return in 2022.

Paul Reed, AIF CEO, said: “For months now, we have been warning Government that the UK’s 2021 festival season would be quickly eroded if they failed to back their own roadmap out of lockdown and act on COVID-related cancellation insurance. That danger is now coming to pass, with over a quarter of festivals having cancelled already this year.
“It’s now red alert for the UK’s festival season. By the end of this month, 76% of the remaining festivals planned for 2021 could very quickly disappear from the calendar.”

He adds that expecting remaining festivals to simply delay their 2021 events is becoming ever more unrealistic as the September/October period becomes more congested, resulting in pressure on the festival supply chain.

The AIF previously warned the government that many festival organisers needed such assurances by the end of March if they were to go ahead at all in 2021. The effects of failing to heed that call have already been seen in the cancellations the festival sector has witnessed to date, including high profile independent events such as Boomtown, Deershed, and Bluedot. All have mentioned insurance in their announcements.

A statement from Boomtown announcing the cancellation of the event which was due to take place in Hampshire in August, said: “After almost half a year of collective campaigning to the government, sadly COVID-specific cancellation insurance for events simply does not exist at this point in time. This means anyone putting on an event this year, will be doing so without the safety net of insurance to cover them should COVID prevent them from going ahead in any capacity. For an independent event as large and complex as Boomtown, this means a huge gamble into an eight-figure sum to lose if we were to venture much further forward, and then not be able to go ahead due to COVID.”

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