Government-backed cancellation insurance “critical” for UK festival comeback

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Uncertainty prevailed at a Live Music Festivals Committee meeting this morning, with industry representatives calling for a clear message about when, and if, it will be safe to reopen; to start selling tickets for outdoor events in 2021.

A government-backed cancellation insurance, which European markets including Germany already have in place, and maintaining the cut in VAT for the hospitality sector are two other vital elements in protecting the UK festival map.

Sacha Lord, co-creator of Parklife and the Warehouse Project and Anna Wade, communications and strategy director at Boomtown Fair, took questions from MPs in the first session. They detailed the brittle nature of the supply chain, with freelancers reskilling for work less affected by the pandemic, how reducing the capacity of their events would not be sustainable and how insurance companies duck the infectious disease question.

A government-backed scheme, they stressed, was the only way to guarantee at least an element of the 2021 festival season, to protect that fraction of the £1.76bn and 85,000 jobs the sector brings to the economy.

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“Insurance is the key to the door,” Anna Wade said in response to the suggestion that government sees it as ‘the last piece of the jigsaw’.

“We have 250 artists booked for Parklife who will want deposits imminently,” Sacha Lord added.

Paul Reed, CEO at the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), Steve Heap, general secretary at the Association of Festival Organisers, and the new chief executive at UK Music, Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, took a similar line in session two.

They also highlighted the success of the Cultural Recovery Fund and suggesting the minimum amount be reduced to £15k to foster greater take-up among smaller/independent festivals.

“It’s too early to tell if the season is on or off,” Paul Reed said. “Larger events will need to know by the end of this month while small festivals can last a bit longer. Insurance is the most critical factor. We need that safety net.” Without it, festivals will cancel en masse…

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