As organisers cancel their events because of no Government-backed insurance scheme, others press ahead and hope for positive news. Tim Thornhill, director of Tysers, talks to Stand Out…

It’s quite depressing when you see a steady stream of organisers announce the cancellation of their events/festivals. In recent weeks, Belladrum, Bluedot, Brighton Pride, Greenbelt and Shambala have all announced that they will not be going ahead – all cite the lack of a Government-backed insurance scheme. No insurance = too much of a risk.

It’s a huge shame, as it would not take much from the Government to ensure that events and festivals – with a local and regional economic impact of £850 million – could take place this summer.

Tim Thornhill, director of Tysers, has spent the last few months lobbying Government on such a scheme, following the company’s successful role in pushing through a Government-backed Restart Scheme for the film and TV industries.

A similar policy for events/festivals would restore confidence in the sector and encourage organisers to plan for 2021. Thornhill explained: “The maximum exposure that the Government would have to put in to put a scheme in place for live music and festivals, for a full year, would be in the region of £250 million and that would be insuring around £1.1 billion of festival and live music costs.”

Financial security

According to reports in City AM, the Government has put a compensation scheme in place, capped at £300,000, for pilot events taking part in the Events Research Programme. But alas. No scheme has yet been confirmed for the wider events industry. And if one is to be approved, Thornhill hopes that it would be developed concurrently alongside pilot events rather than after they have taken place. That’s because getting the structure right of any such scheme would be crucial.

“If no scheme is put in place, organisers won’t commit to costs with a gaping hole in their policy, that gaping hole being COVID.

“People are not going to put their livelihoods and houses on the line to run an event if they don’t have the financial security of an insurance policy when there’s the risk of it not taking place.”

Saturated September

According to Thornhill, the general public do not realise that many live events will not go ahead if they do not have protection. Furthermore, enormous pent up consumer demand for tickets, and news of festivals selling out, may have given some within Government the perception that everything within the industry was going to be fine.

What is certain is that a delay in announcing such a scheme will have consequences for the supply chain. Also, “saturated September” – because many organisers are moving their events to later in the year – may see suppliers being pushed to the limit and demanding terms.

Thornhill continued: “There are a number of pro-active civil servants and MPs who are working with the live events industry and giving us support.

“We’re making progress but it’s taking longer than we had hoped. This has been more of a difficult ask for the Government. And I can understand their concerns, and that’s the lack of control that live events have with audiences compared to a closed film set. They are a different animal but that’s not to say that our industry should suffer.”

He added: “It is safe for events to go ahead and if we can prove that safe events can take place then why not have a Government insurance scheme in place. It’s often said that the scheme is the last piece of the puzzle but it’s not. It’s the first.”

Thornhill explained that the insurance scheme may not even need to be used and so it would sit as a liability on a balance sheet. However, it would kickstart the industry and the economy and that is paramount.

Things will change

Like many businesses, 2020 was a challenging year for Tysers. With not many events to insure, but a huge amount of work in terms of sorting out claims, thoughts now turn to 2021 and beyond.

“The claims piece has been a mammoth task. We had unprecedented levels of claims. In total, we paid over £ 250,000,000 in claims, that’s over 320 policies in 64 countries. We haven’t been insuring any events and we haven’t been able to attend events, which is what we like to do.”

Instead, Thornhill and the Tysers team have had lots of conversations with the wider industry. They hope that those conversations will turn into good and safe events.

“I am optimistic,” Thornhill concluded. “I see lots of pent-up demand, some changes to the nature of how events run and operate, there’s likely to be testing; things will change.

“But looking to 2022, I am hoping for a full year of live music, sporting events and in-person business events.”