The recent announcement by the UK Government of a roadmap to bring England out of the grips of COVID-19 lockdown has led to Festival Republic announcing that the Leeds and Reading festivals will be held this year, while a Facebook post on the Bloodstock Festival page, also due to be held in August 2021, gave similar hope to all.
However, the devil is in the detail and there are still a number of factors which need to be resolved before we can all properly plan for a summer of Heavy Metal fun.
Festival Republic director Melvin Benn [Leeds/Reading] told the Guardian newspaper that they were unable to procure insurance as it was impossible to buy, while “hoping” that the Government would announce an insurance scheme “in some form or another” in this weeks budget.
The Association of Independent Festivals today stated that 92.5% of respondents to their survey said that they would be unable to stage events without this vital insurance. For AIF members, the costs of staging a festival vary between £130,000 and £12.4m.
With an average of over £6 million, these costs include artist, production and infrastructure deposits alongside policing, medical provisions and licensing.
While there is the aim that all UK adults will be offered their first vaccine by the end of July, some are suggesting that a COVID-19 passport could help to keep people safe as the industry opens up. But there are practical, legal and ethical questions over the passport idea, such as data protection and possibility of unlawful discrimination. This makes implementing a ‘passport’ not as straight forward as people might think.
The Government is yet to decide how, or even if, this could be implemented.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport have not yet given the green light for large scale events this year, with pilot events only planned for April. There is also no guarantee that the UK will be back to normal by the target date of 21 June, as the Government roadmap requires a review at each of the four stages.
The AIF stated that “analysis suggests for a festival taking place in early July, an estimated 40% of total costs will need to be paid before 14 June – the date when Government will make a decision on Step Four of the roadmap. 20% of these costs are payable in April.”
Download have today moved their festival to June 2022.
With the Treasury shovelling out money to support the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic, UK national debt is now above the £2tn level, which is around the 100% gross domestic product (GDP). While there has been some support for the music industry via the Culture Fund, it remains to be seen if Rishi Sunak will support Festivals by underwriting insurance.
This is the first of the major stumbling blocks for 2021 festivals and all will become clear after the Budget on 3 March 2021.
However, even excluding the unanswered questions around travel for musicians due to Brexit, the reliance of Government support and the successful exit from the roadmap alone make it a very complex situation to solve.
If we are going to be standing in a muddy field this summer complaining about the UK weather, there are some massive hurdles to jump.
With Download, Graspop Metal Meeting (Belgium) and Hellfest (France) already moved to 2022, will we experience a UK festival fever this summer?