AIF CEO Paul Reed has given evidence to the DCMS Select Committee as part of its inquiry into the future of UK music festivals.
Reed identified three key issues that are creating uncertainty among festival organisers and preventing adequate planning for the 2021 season.
The issues are: a lack of working capital for some festival promoters; the absence of a re-opening timeline from government; and the lack of insurance for Covid-related cancellation.
AIF is calling for five key interventions from government to support the festival sector’s safe return in 2021:
1. A conditional start date - A clear timeline for ‘Stage 5’ reopening in Spring 2021 outlining exact ‘no earlier than’ dates and the kind of activity that will be permitted.
2. A government backed reinsurance scheme for festivals and other live events.
3. A VAT extension. A three-year extension to the reduced 5% cultural VAT rate on tickets in line with current DCMS Select Committee recommendations.
4. Sector specific financial support until the industry recovers, and further support if the industry is not able to fully return in 2021.
5. Premises license fee rollovers. AIF urges all local authorities to waive ‘capacity multiplier’ fees for festivals this year, to roll over any fees paid to at least next year, and to remove festivals on agricultural land from the business rates system.
Reed stressed that festivals are rapidly approaching the point where a concrete decision on whether they can go ahead with plans for 2021 will have to be made.
Speaking following the Select Committee, Reed said: “AIF is grateful for the opportunity to represent the UK’s leading independent festivals in front of the DCMS Select Committee today. We are clearly in a very serious and pivotal stage of the pandemic. Summer and festivals seem very distant. But, given that festivals take at least six months to plan, this is absolutely the right time to be having this conversation.
“Festivals will only return when it is absolutely safe to do so, and the industry is working hard on developing mitigations. But we are also calling for a ‘no earlier than’ date, government intervention on insurance, and targeted financial support if needed to protect businesses, countless livelihoods, local communities and a major contribution to the national economy. Key decisions do need to be made now to sustain the prospect of a UK festival industry this year and beyond.”
Reed underlined the fact that some festival businesses hadn’t been offered a grant through the initial rounds of the Culture Recovery Fund and were in urgent need of further targeted support.
“We are thankful for the support that the government has provided to date, but there is still a lot that needs to be done to ensure festival organisers can plan events for 2021 effectively and with confidence,” added Reed. “We have set out what is needed and will continue to work with government to meet those requirements.”
Other witnesses at the DCMS hearing included Boomtown’s Anna Wade, Parklife co-founder Sacha Lord, UK Music CEO Jamie Njoku-Goodwin and Steve Heap, general secretary, Association of Festival Organisers.