Without government action the UK’s independent festival industry could become a ‘wasteland’, according to The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF).
The leading festival trade body - which counts the likes of Boardmasters, Kendal Calling and Highest Point amongst its 65 members - says 92% of AIF festival organisers are at risk of going under following the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic.
With at least 90% of festivals expected to be cancelled this year, the sector is facing up to £800m in refunds. AIF says its members have, on average, sunk non-recoupable costs of £375,000, with over 98% of losses not covered by insurance.
A member survey suggested that over half of the festival workforce could be lost, with the AIF urging government to continue supporting employees ‘until the festival industry can get to the planning and sales stage of 2021 events’.
The trade body is also calling for VAT breaks on ticket sales for a minimum of 18 months, the rolling over of large, single-event premises license fees into 2021, and a timeline for when restrictions on large organised gatherings will be lifted.
AIF CEO Paul Reed said, “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.”
Highest Point festival has rescheduled for September 2020
He added: “There is no safety net for independent festivals, many of which have fallen between the cracks of current Government support measures such as loans and grants. For example, zero percent of AIF members have been able to successfully access the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans Scheme.
“UK festivals are not only an intrinsic, defining part of British culture but also an economic powerhouse that generates hundreds of millions for the economy – we urge Government to recognise them as such.
“Next year’s festival season will hopefully offer much needed relief after a very difficult time for the country. 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 UK that they generate income for.”
According to a 2019 recent report, a total of 4.9m people attended a UK festival in 2018, contributing £1.1bn to the economy.