UK festival bosses have reflected on the 2019 season after a summer of highs and lows for the sector.
Glastonbury and The Great Escape’s Martin Elbourne, Isle Of Wight Festival’s John Giddings, End Of The Road's Lauren Down, Ben Robinson of From The Fields, Alex Trenchard of Standon Calling and Paul Reed of the Association Of Independent Festivals (AIF) shared their reflections as part of Music Week's annual festival roundtable, which featured in this week's magazine.
A key talking point was the extreme weather that led to the cancellation of three events – Boardmasters, Rewind North and Houghton Festival.
Robinson, who works on festivals such as Kendal Calling, Bluedot and Inner City Electronic, told Music Week: "I don’t think we can hide from the fact that the climate is hugely unpredictable now. Obviously there have been some big cancellations – shows that just didn’t go ahead – and for us a real focus is on how we plan for the worst in terms of weather.”
“The biggest negative has got to be the festivals that were cancelled because of the weather before they took place," agreed Elbourne. "I’ve been to events where they’ve had to close down for a day or have gone out through electrical storms, but to actually have it cancelled before you open the gates is really unusual and you wonder about the insurance implications.
"Boardmasters wasn’t that long before Reading & Leeds, which probably had their best weather ever, so that’s very hard to predict. I’d be interested to see how much people’s insurance goes up next year and what covers what.”
Whenever you have a cancellation it has a knock-on effect to the rest of the sector
AIF CEO Reed shared similar concerns. “Premiums have been doubling and tripling in the last couple of years anyway because insurance underwriters are understandably a bit nervous," he said "Whenever you have a cancellation it has a knock-on effect to the rest of the sector and will increase a cost that is already escalating."
On a more positive note, Trenchard said the family festival market was "very strong". "That’s the part of our festival that has seen the most growth," he said.
End Of The Road MD Down added: “We’ve always booked a lot of female artists and BAME representation is something we’re increasingly conscious of. This has to be one of the biggest opportunities for the sector right now, along with pledging to tackle environmental issues."
Giddings said that half of the tickets for this year's Isle Of Wight Festival were snapped up before the line-up had been announced, while early-bird tickets had already sold out for 2020.
"Every year there’s more and more glamping," he said. "People want better quality service in terms of campsites and loos. You’ve got to spend money on that to make sure people are looked after and have a good time and if you do that then they’ll want to come back.”
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PHOTO: James Bridle