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U.K. INDIE FESTIVAL SECTOR FACES COLLAPSE

The British independent festival market is at risk of collapse without further Government support, according to figures from the Association of Independent Festivals. With 90% of U.K. festivals predicted to be canceled this year as a result of the coronavirus crisis, independent events are facing potentially crippling costs and may not be able to return in 2021 and beyond.

Based on impact surveys, 92% of AIF festival organizers have said their firms are at risk without Government intervention, with the effects of COVID-19 likely to result in businesses shuttering under refund requests.

The festivals are facing potential refunds of up to £800m in total this summer, and average “sunk costs” of £375k that are not recoupable. More than 98% are not covered by insurance for cancellation related to COVID-19.   

A recent member survey also revealed that the sector could be facing redundancies of 59% on average and will lose over half of its workforce between September 2020 and February 2021 without support. 

AIF CEO Paul Reed said that many festivals “have fallen between the cracks” of current Government support measures such as loans and grants. “While the Government has been receptive to AIF’s counsel, it has not taken meaningful action to protect our sector. Single event festival companies are seasonal businesses. They need urgent support now and ongoing support after lockdown ends and restrictions are eased. 

“This is not a temporary shutdown of business—it is an entire year of income and trade wiped out. If support is not offered throughout the autumn, then the sector will face widespread job losses that will seriously inhibit its ability to deliver events in 2021.”

The 65-member AIF has lobbied the U.K. Government on a range of issues related to the current crisis, including clarity on eligibility for grants and loans, and rolling premises license fees over to 2021 for events that do not take place this year. 

The organization is calling for a continuation of all employment (furloughing and self-employed) schemes in their original form and business support packages until the festival industry can get to the planning and sales stage of 2021 events. It is also asking for clear guidance about when festivals will be able to operate, as well as any social distancing measures that would be expected in order to maintain public safety. 

“Next year’s festival season will hopefully offer much needed relief after a very difficult time for the country,” Reed concluded. “But, for now, these independent businesses need to survive. Otherwise, every year from now could be a fallow year for independent festivals, for the emerging artists they provide a platform for, and the local economies across the U.K. that they generate income for.”

AIF’s members have a collective capacity of 820,000 and generate an estimated £386m for the U.K. economy each year, with almost 10% of that spend going to businesses based around each festival’s site.

 

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