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U.K. FESTIVALS IN A PRECARIOUS STATE 

Several U.K. music festivals are considering canceling 2021 events, which could be ruinous in the long term, according to evidence heard Tuesday at the first parliamentary inquiry into the future of British festivals.

Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) CEO Paul Reed said festivals are rapidly reaching the point where a concrete decision on whether they can proceed with plans for 2021 must be made. With the U.K. in full lockdown until at least mid-February, the summer season is looking precarious.  

At the inquiry, Boomtown Fair’s Anna Wade said festival organizers will be in “absolutely dire straits” financially should the season be canceled. Sacha Lord, co-founder of Parklife Festival, said if the government doesn’t help with cancellation insurance, “the vast majority” of festivals will disappear. Stalwarts Reading, Leeds and Glastonbury, among others, have announced dates for 2021. 

Echoing UK Music's Tuesday call for a government plan, AIF is seeking five key interventions to support the festival sector’s safe return this year. The org wants a conditional start date, a reinsurance scheme and an extension of the reduced 5% cultural VAT on tickets. It is also arguing for sector-specific financial support until the industry recovers and premises license-fee rollovers from local authorities. 

“Given that festivals take at least six months to plan, this is absolutely the right time to be having this conversation,” Reed said. “Key decisions do need to be made now to sustain the prospect of a U.K. festival industry this year and beyond.”

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