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UK Festivals In 2021 In Doubt Without Government Support
Christian Eede , March 2nd, 2021 16:42

A survey by the Association of Independent Festivals found that many events will not be able to go ahead without more support

UK festivals this summer face cancellation if government-backed insurance and VAT intervention isn't forthcoming by the end of March.

In last week's announcement of a roadmap out of the current COVID-19 lockdown, Boris Johnson revealed that social distancing measures could be relaxed entirely on June 21 at the earliest, meaning a number of festivals after that date may be able to go ahead if all goes to plan. However, a number of festivals face substantial advance costs that could make them unviable for this summer without assurance that they will recoup those funds from insurance companies if the government's plans change.

In a member survey conducted by the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), 92.5% of those that responded confirmed this concern, describing insurance measures as "vital, not optional." In sharing the results of its survey, AIF also called for a three-year extension to the reduced five percent VAT rate on ticket sales, which was introduced back in July.

Breaking down the advance costs for an average UK festival, AIF said that a festival taking place in early July would need 40% of its total costs paid prior to June 14, which is the date that the government is scheduled to make a decision on whether or not to proceed into the final stage of the proposed roadmap.

Half of these costs would need to be paid in April, with these likely to cover artist and production deposits, as well as licensing and policing provisions.

AIF CEO Paul Reed said: "The Prime Minister has set out a roadmap and a 'no earlier than' date for festivals, and audiences have responded, demonstrating a huge appetite to be back in the fields this summer. But we need government interventions on insurance and VAT before the end of this month when festivals will need to decide whether they can commit to serious amounts of upfront capital.

"Having injected huge consumer confidence, the government should intervene at this stage and ensure that our culture-defining independent festivals can mobilise and plan for this summer. With the cut-off point for many organisers at the end of the month, this really is the final countdown for many businesses."

The government is reported to be considering the issue, according to The Times, with a spokesperson saying: "We are looking at a range of support options to help the sector get going again, and we have heard these calls for an insurance scheme."

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will reveal his Spring Budget, which will likely include measures affecting the events sector, on Wednesday (March 3).