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(Credit: Aranxa Esteve)

Promoters warn that music festivals could be cancelled this year

With the UK heading back into a nationwide lockdown amid another significant spike in confirmed coronavirus cases, promoters of largest music festivals in Europe are warning of yet another disappointing stint of cancellations amid the current health crisis.

While 2021 offered a momentary period of hope that society would eventually return to a period of recognised ‘normal life’, the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine is proving slower than many had previously expected. With rising death tolls across the UK, promoters and organisers of music festivals are already putting contingency plans in place.

Given the strict lockdown measures enforced, all public events must now plan for yet more cancellations across 2021. While Glastonbury Festival organiser Emily Eavis has confirmed that tickets will carry over to 2022 if required, organisers of Parklife and Boomtown Festival have warned politicians that they may be forced to put a stop to their plans this year.

Speaking as part of ‘The future of UK music festivals’ inquiry, Sacha Lord, co-founder of Manchester’s Parklife Festival, commented: “If the government don’t help with insurance, then the smaller festivals are going to drop away.” Lord also insisted that vaccinations and mass testings will need to be an essential requirement.

“Social distancing does not work at any of these events,” he added. “It’s a festival. You just cannot put social distancing in place, so we are anticipating that we will be operating at 100 percent [capacity].”

The situation is at a major crossroads with many major events looking set to make a decision on their future later this month. Steve Heap, the general secretary of the Association of Festival Organisers, said the largest events don’t have any time to waste. However, Heap did suggest that smaller, independent festivals could perhaps hold out until April before majoring a judgement call.

“If we get as far as Easter and we still don’t know that crowds can gather at festivals, however large or small, then we are in a catastrophic situation with this year’s season,” he said.

Given the vast amount of income that the live music sector contributes, major fears off financial and economic disaster continues to raise anxiety levels. “The real danger here is that, if we see a lot of countries – particularly in Europe and closer to home – protecting their festival seasons, you could almost have a talent transfer,” the UK Music’s chief executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin warned committee.

“We don’t want to have a situation where musicians, crews, technicians – people who should be working in the UK festival scene – are looking to the continent and thinking, actually, if there’s going to be live music happening there in 2021, that’s where we’re going to be going.”

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