The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) estimates that 51 per cent of all UK festivals 5,000 cap and over have now been cancelled.

The milestone has been reached following the delay of Step 4 of the UK Government’s lockdown roadmap and its failure to intervene on insurance for festival businesses, coupled with the uncertainty around the publication of the Events Research Programme (ERP) pilot results and subsequent guidance for events this summer.

A recent AIF survey revealed that just over half of the association’s membership who have not already cancelled are still actively planning to go ahead with their events later this year while 22 per cent are unsure. The remainder had already cancelled or have cancelled since the Step 4 delay was announced.

However, 78 per cent of those still planning will either not go ahead or are unsure about going ahead without Government-backed COVID cancellation insurance in place – although at this stage they are holding out as long as they possibly can for a Government announcement on the issue.

AIF members have spent an average of £451,500 in festival planning for 2021 to date, with costs ranging from £5,000 to £4 million. Organisers have spent, on average, 25 per cent of their overall costs. The survey covered festivals taking place from July 23 – September 26 with capacities ranging from 5,000-70,000.

Most of a festival’s costs fall in the month before the event, meaning the sector is at a real tipping point.

Paul Reed, CEO of AIF, said: “This is a milestone that nobody wanted to reach but, unfortunately, it has seemed inevitable for some time now thanks to the Government’s inaction and refusal to give organisers any kind of safety net that would allow them to continue to invest in their businesses and the supply chain with confidence. Make no mistake – these cancellations were entirely avoidable, and Government must now change its position of reviewing insurance at step 4, as it will be far too late for most UK festivals. At this point, every day counts. If Government has any confidence in July 19 as a terminus date, they will back this now.

“There are still a number of festivals that could take place after the intended final lifting of lockdown on July 19 but, as we have seen with the likes of Kendal Calling and Truck Festival cancelling this week, that number is rapidly declining. This is an existential issue; the 2021 season is collapsing without decisive Government action and there is a real risk of these festivals not returning.

“We also echo urgent calls from the live industry for full transparency and for Government to publish the Events Research Programme report to inform planning and guidance for the safe reopening of festivals this summer.”

Image: From the Fields/Kendal Calling