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Glastonbury Festival
Via Instagram/@glastofest

MPs demand urgent action to avoid another ‘lost summer’ for music festivals

Without a government-backed insurance scheme, this summer’s live music events are still at risk of cancellation

A group of MPs has called for urgent action to save the UK’s music festivals from another “lost summer” due to the lingering threat of coronavirus cancellations, citing the government’s refusal to provide a safety net as a major factor in the decision.

According to a new, 42-page report from the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee, ministers must provide a government-backed insurance scheme as soon as possible, if this summer’s live events are to go ahead as planned after lockdown lifts on June 21.

The government has previously “ruled out offering any support before all restrictions on the roadmap are lifted”, the cross-party committee adds, saying that this “will simply be too late for festivals this summer”.

Already, several UK festivals — such as Glastonbury and BST Hyde Park — have been cancelled for a second year running, and further cancellations could have a knock-on effect on the industry as a whole. Last summer, a survey by the Musicians’ Union showed that huge amounts of musicians and other music industry workers have considered quitting due to a lack of work amid the pandemic.

Noting the wider impact of cancellations, the DCMS adds: “Festivals play an important role in communities and can be a significant source of income for local authorities.” It also notes that they provide vital opportunities to earn money and build audiences for UK musicians, “who will face increased barriers to playing at European festivals” as a result of Brexit deals.

Joining industry-wide calls for an indemnity scheme earlier this year, MP and chairman of the DCMS committee Julian Knight called the UK Treasury’s refusal to back an insurance scheme “inane”. Insurance brokers estimated at the time that it would cost the government approximately £250 million to provide a guarantee to festivals and other events, which are worth billions to the economy and associated charities.

Following the latest report (published May 29), Knight adds that festivals have been treated “as the poor relation” by the government. “Events need to know now whether the government will back them,” he says, according to the BBC. “Or they simply won't take place this year.”

Across Europe, several successful COVID trials have raised hopes for a return to live music this summer. Late last year, an experimental concert in Germany found that the spread of the virus at events following appropriate protocols is “low to very low”, while Primavera Sound’s non-socially distanced gig in December resulted in no infections.

A maskless club night and outdoor gig held simultaneously in Liverpool last month yielded similarly positive results, with scientists and officials saying that the pilot events did not cause any detectable spread of COVID-19. Despite the cancellation of the main festival, Glastonbury is also set to welcome 50,000 fans in September, after securing a license for a restricted event on the Worthy Farm site.