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Festival organisers call for greater financial protections amid coronavirus

Live events could be cancelled ‘within days’ if the UK government doesn’t underwrite an insurance scheme, say campaigners

Festival organisers have urged the UK government to underwrite a protective insurance scheme, amid the ongoing threat of coronavirus closures. If the government doesn’t back an indemnity scheme, they say, they may be forced to begin cancelling events within days.

According to the Times, insurance brokers estimate that it would cost the government approximately £250 million to provide a guarantee to festival and other events, which could be worth billions to the economy and associated charities.

When the 50th anniversary of Glastonbury Festival was cancelled in 2020, organisers drew attention to this broader impact, saying: “There will inevitably be severe financial implications as a result of this cancellation – not just for us, but also the Festival’s charity partners, suppliers, traders, local landowners, and our community.”

Glastonbury organiser Emily Eavis also called for government support in December last year and has since had to cancel the event for a second time (though a new, livestreamed project, Live At Worthy Farm, is set to take its place).

Julian Knight, an MP and chairman of the Commons digital, culture, media and sport committee, has called the UK Treasury’s refusal to back an insurance scheme “inane”, saying that organisers “need the confidence to put plans in place”.

Though there is “quite a lot of support” for such a scheme in government, he says, “it is the chancellor that has stopped it”.

Paul Reed, the CEO of the Association of Independent Festivals, meanwhile, warns that over 90 per cent of the association’s membership feels it can’t hold events without cover in 2021, and that we’ll begin seeing events cancelled within days.

Earlier this month, a study indicated that there’s plenty of enthusiasm for the return of live events this summer. Run by Festicket, the study found that the vast majority (90 per cent) of UK festivalgoers would feel comfortable attending events this year, as long as precautions — such as extra cleaning and hygiene measures — are in place. Additionally, 82 per cent of music fans responded that they already have plans to attend two or more events as restrictions lift.