A summer of fun or more Covid cancellations? A 'high risk' risk season ahead for UK festivals

Womad Festival is due to go ahead at Charlton Park in Wiltshire from July 22-25.

From Glastonbury Festival and Boomtown Fair to the Eden Sessions and Womad, the West Country is home to some of the biggest and best festivals the UK has to offer.

But coronavirus brought a summer of cancellations in 2020 and uncertainty remains as to whether festival-goers will get the summer of fun they are hoping for in 2021.

While the Government's roadmap out of lockdown means all restrictions are due to end on June 21, insurance issues and a lack of certainty mean many have already been postponed until 2022.

Festivals are some of the West Country's biggest temporary employers, adding millions to the region's economy. But even for the festivals which are still being organised, the summer of 2021 is looking a little different...

21%

of UK music festivals with 5,000+ capacity happen in the South West

'A huge risk'

Womad Festival is planning to go ahead just days after restrictions are due to end - from June 22 and 25.

Director of Womad Festival Chris Smith told ITV News West Country anyone who is putting on an event costing millions of pounds with current levels of uncertainty is taking a risk.

He added: "We're taking a huge risk.

"But with support of contractors and artists we've managed to minimise the risk.

"And with ticket-buyers, so far it seems to be a risk worth taking."

Why aren't festivals going ahead?

Glastonbury Festival cancelled the event for the second year running in January, instead doing an online-only event which will see some big names perform to fans via a live stream.

Glastonbury Festival has been cancelled for two years in a row. Credit: Yui Mok/PA

Bristol Harbour Festival has also been cancelled as has St Paul's Carnival and Gloucestershire's Forest Live gigs, while the hugely popular Bristol Balloon Fiesta is still yet to be guaranteed.

A big concern for many is the Government's unwillingness to underwrite insurance costs should coronavirus force further cancellations.

Paul Reed, chief executive of the Association of Independent Festivals, said: "Sadly, unless there is an intervention of insurance, it won't be the great British summer the Government is envisaging it will be an incredibly selective one."



Mr Reed said insurance will likely become "the soul remaining barrier" for many UK festivals, adding: "In fact many festivals that have already cancelled have cited it as such really.

"We've gone beyond some of the other uncertainty and there is confidence in the progression of the roadmap but this insurance issue will really pull the rug from under most of the market sadly."

A spokesman for Leopallooza in Bude, which has been postponed for the second year running, said: "Without Government-backed Covid-cancellation insurance... the risks are simply too high for us to continue planning, doing so would not only put this year's event at risk, but the long-term survival of the festival."

'Tough decisions' still to be made

Bristol festival Love Saves The Day normally takes place in May but has been moved to September this year to try to guarantee its survival.

Team Love organises the festival, which normally takes place in Eastville Park but is moving to a new location this year.

Festival organiser Dave Harvey says many event planners will have to make "difficult" decisions in the next few wees.

Team Love's director Dave Harvey told ITV News West Country: "I think the reality is that lots of events are going to have to make very tough decisions in the next few weeks, maybe a month, about whether they're going to go ahead. But obviously they all would go ahead with some sort of Government-backed insurance."

What will festivals be like if they do go ahead?

Even if the festival season does go ahead as planned this year, things will likely look a little different.

For Womad, they will use more of Charlton Park than they have in previous years to enable people to have more space.

Mr Smith said: "We know it's going to be safe, but people need to feel safe as well."

The Eden Project's Eden Sessions gigs, which were cancelled last year and then pushed back from June to September, can only host UK-based artists in 2021 because of travel restrictions.

David Harland, Eden's interim chief executive, said: "We're doing everything we can to make it feel safe.

"We know there are going to be people who feel nervous but if you follow the Government's own guidance you get to June, it opens up and life in theory returns to normal. So running music again here in September looks like it's possible."


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