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MPs and music industry ask Chancellor to help keep festivals alive

MPs and over 100 key figures from the music industry have written to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak in a bid to keep festivals alive, insisting that there’s a real chance that these much-loved mainstays of the cultural calendar could cease to exist.

This letter comes days after the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee was informed that this summer’s festivals would be cancelled this month without government intervention. The cancellation is related to assurances that festival organisers need regarding insurance, funding, the vaccine and mass-testing. Many festivals just about survived one year, but its believed that few will be able to cope with another summer of cancellations

The DCMS committee of MPs has now written to the Chancellor pleading with him to extend government-backed coronavirus insurance schemes. These schemes are currently available to the film and television industries and music and live music events.

Last month, whilst speaking to The Times, Glastonbury’s Emily Eavis revealed: “In a usual planning cycle we would already be well into organising the next festival. The best solution would be for the government to offer direct financial support in the event of Glastonbury, and other events, being forced to cancel once they’re well into the preparations.

“If the government can share the risk by offering direct financial support, then it gives everyone the opportunity to move forward with the planning in the hope that things will be safe to run in the summer, and in the knowledge that backing is available if we’re simply not in a position to go ahead,” added Eavis.

“The Government is telling us that life should be getting back to normal by the summer but unless it can provide a safety net, it will be a summer without festivals,” said DCMS Committee Chair Julian Knight MP. “The industry says that without government-backed insurance, many festivals and live music events just won’t happen because organisers can’t risk getting their fingers burnt for a second year.

“The Committee has heard from festival organisers that this is a matter of urgency. Insurance must be the first step in unlocking the huge contribution that festivals make to our economy, protecting not only the supply chains, but the musicians who rely on them for work.”

He added: “The Government already offers a level of cover to the film and television industries, now is the time to extend support to other creative industries or risk losing some of our best loved and world-renowned festivals.”

Read the letter in full, below.

“Dear Chancellor,

“Festivals, live performance and live music are the lifeblood of the UK entertainment industry, providing a huge contribution to our cultural landscape and our economy. In 2019 alone, the gross value added to the economy by festivals was £1.76 billion, and almost 1 in 3 Britons watched Glastonbury on TV. Live music is also a major reason why people visit the UK’s nations and regions: in 2019 music tourists spent £460 million across the Midlands alone and sustained more than 45,000 jobs nationwide.

“Planning for this year’s festivals, live performances and events is taking place now, and while the vaccine rollout is cause for optimism, organisers need confidence that this work and investment will not go to waste. Central to that confidence is insurance.

“Without insurance, the events we know and love simply won’t take place this year – vaccine or no vaccine. Sustaining losses like those we’ve seen in 2020 for another year isn’t an option, and hundreds of businesses in the events supply chain have already been forced to fold. The Government has backed insurance for the film and television industry to the tune of £500million. It’s now time to do this for other creative industries.

“There are a number of forms this could take. One of these requires no upfront contribution from the Government and utilises the existing Pool Re structure, developed in response to unpredictable and devastating acts of terrorism. This would leave Treasury with a maximum liability of £1.5billion and could be adapted to cover a range of sectors – including hospitality, sports, and leisure, as well as festivals, live performances and events.

“What’s clear is that insurance is of the utmost importance when it comes to getting our economy going again across the whole of the UK. Whatever form it takes, businesses need to be able to access reliable insurance schemes to get back on track. Government underwriting is the only way this will be possible.

“We call on you to act now and back the UK’s renowned events, music, festivals, hospitality and theatres, to name but a few, so that livelihoods are saved and people have something to look forward to in summer 2021 and beyond.”

The letter has been signed by MPs on the DCMS committee, as well as over 100 members and bodies from the music industry including the Music Venue Trust, Association of Festival Organisers, Featured Artists Coalition, Night Time Industries Association, PRS For Music, #WeMakeEvents, UK Music and the Ivors Academy.