US festivals face the prospect of another ‘lost summer’ over the government’s decision not to introduce a coronavirus insurance plan, a report concluded.
The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (DCMS) report on the future of the UK summer circuit said the government had “refused to take multiple opportunities” to address concerns of the organizers.
The document, the result of a consultation with artists, organizers and industry leaders, calls on ministers to introduce a time-limited insurance scheme for events scheduled after June 21 – when social distancing measures must take end – in case they are disturbed. by a return to Covid-19 restrictions.
Boomtown Fair, on the Matterley Estate in Hampshire, is among the events that canceled their 2021 editions, blaming pandemic uncertainty and the lack of a government-backed insurance scheme.
In the report, MPs said they were “not convinced” that the pilot concerts held as part of the events research program, which included the Brit Awards, would provide the necessary evidence in time to lift all the hurdles. restrictions on live events from June 21.
They said the festivals were “one-stop-shops” but had been “overlooked” in the first round of pilot projects.
“We warmly welcome the decision, following our questioning of the Minister, to conduct a festival-type pilot project at the beginning of May; However, a one-day event for 5,000 people does not cover the full range of UK festivals and therefore further pilot projects may be needed, ”they said.
The report also warns of a possible increase in drug-related deaths at festivals this summer.
“We are very concerned that a compressed festival season, the likely circulation of high concentration adulterated drugs and increased risk-taking after the lockdown will lead to an increase in drug-related deaths at festivals this summer.” , did he declare.
The report urges the government to change legislation to allow drug control services, such as those run by The Loop, to function legally.
Elsewhere, MPs criticized the festival industry for failing to meet its environmental targets.
They said, “Despite the good intentions and countless initiatives to reduce the environmental impacts of festivals, the growth of the market has undermined the industry’s efforts to reduce global emissions, and the legacy of the pandemic poses an additional threat to the environment. these measures.”
The committee recommends that, before the 2023 season, the government put in place standardized environmental goals that local authorities should adopt when licensing festivals and report regularly to DCMS.
Massive Attack frontman Robert Del Naja, also known as 3D, previously told the inquiry that he was “furious” at the lack of meaningful activity being undertaken to reduce live music emissions.
The report also warns that “important UK-based infrastructure” such as transport for tours and festivals are at risk unless the government finds a solution to the costs and challenges of Brexit, and calls for monthly reports on the progress of the committee.
DCMS Committee Chairman Julian Knight said: “Music festivals have been treated like poor relatives by the government. Despite the enormous economic and cultural contribution they make, few have benefited from the Culture Recovery Fund, and without our efforts the sector would have been excluded from the program of pilot events on the safe return of the country. public.
“We have been told very clearly that the vast majority of music festivals do not have the financial resilience to cover the costs of another year of late cancellations. If the commercial insurance market does not intervene, ministers must, and urgently: events now need to know whether the government will support them, or they simply will not take place this year.
“We reiterate our call for the government to announce an insurance plan to cover festival organizers if any events need to be canceled due to Covid-19 restrictions that continue beyond June 21. There is still time to get the music playing, but no more room for excuses. “
Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, managing director of industry group UK Music, said the festival circuit is approaching a turning point.
He said: ‘Julian Knight and the DCMS Selection Committee deserve great credit for this timely and excellent report, which demonstrates the vital contribution of festivals to our £ 5.8 billion music industry and shows how, with the good support, our sector can help with post-pandemic recovery.
“We’re only weeks away from major events that might be re-authorized – but the organizers are supposed to plan for these events and pay huge upfront costs without any sort of safety net.
“If the government doesn’t take action on insurance, we’ll see more cancellations this summer. It’s a watershed moment for this year’s summer festival season. “
Greg Parmley, Managing Director of Live, the representative body of the UK live music industry, said: “The DCMS selection committee is right that the government is dropping UK festivals by refusing to deal with lack of commercial insurance.
“After months of fruitless discussions with DCMS and the Treasury, the industry is enraged by the government’s reluctance to step in to help prevent the collapse of the festival industry for another 12 months.
“Without some form of insurance, the risk of going forward will just be too great for many festivals this year and, whatever happens with the reopening schedule, the vast majority of events could cut the taken in the coming weeks.
Paul Reed, Managing Director of the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) trade body, said: “The AIF welcomes the committee’s findings and appreciates its efforts over the past few months. We are pleased that Members have once again echoed our repeated calls for government-backed festival insurance.
“The government is essentially committed to acting in this direction once we reach stage 4 of the roadmap. We anticipate rapid intervention at this point with an insurance scheme that protects festivals that may need to be canceled after June 21, if the trajectory of the pandemic calls for a new lockdown, imposed capacity reduction, or social distancing measures. .
“As it will take some time for such a program to become operational, it is imperative that it be retroactive so that all festivals scheduled after June 21 are protected.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: “We continue to work hard to support festivals and live events.
“Our Events Research Program explored how festivals can safely get back on track and festival organizers have received over £ 34million from our unprecedented Culture Recovery Fund, with support extra along the way.
“We will continue to examine what assistance may be needed as we move cautiously but irreversibly through the roadmap, including examining the issue of indemnity coverage.”