Fes­ti­val plan­ners’ plea for guid­ance on sum­mer 2021

Gov­ern­ment urged to give early ad­vice on how events can op­er­ate at ca­pac­ity to avoid clo­sures and job cuts

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Ben Woods

LIVE mu­sic fes­ti­vals face a “catas­tro­phe” with­out ur­gent guid­ance on how to func­tion next year, the op­er­a­tor be­hind Lat­i­tude and Down­load has warned.

Melvin Benn, the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Fes­ti­val Re­pub­lic, said that some of Bri­tain’s best-known fes­ti­vals could close and thou­sands of jobs will be lost if the Gov­ern­ment fails to find a way for events to op­er­ate at full ca­pac­ity in 2021. The coro­n­avirus cri­sis sparked wide­spread can­cel­la­tions of mu­sic fes­ti­vals this year, blow­ing a huge fi­nan­cial hole in the near-£2bn in­dus­try.

Mr Benn ex­pects the in­dus­try to bounce back, but only if a vac­cine or mass-test­ing means fes­ti­val-go­ers do not have to so­cially dis­tance in 2021.

Plan­ning for next year’s fes­ti­vals has al­ready be­gun, and clear ad­vice is needed now to help or­gan­is­ers in their talks with the po­lice, coun­cils and other key play­ers. Mr Benn said: “A fail­ure [by the Gov­ern­ment] to en­gage early with the in­dus­try will re­sult in catas­tro­phe be­cause we can’t switch on overnight.” He spoke out ahead of giv­ing ev­i­dence to­day to the MPs on the cul­ture se­lect com­mit­tee for an in­quiry into how fes­ti­vals, theatres and live mu­sic venues can re­open at ca­pac­ity.

Oth­ers due to ap­pear in­clude Andrew Lloyd Web­ber, owner of LW Theatres, and the Royal Al­bert Hall’s artis­tic and com­mer­cial di­rec­tor, Lucy No­ble. Mr Benn will tell MPs that guid­ance over test­ing and so­cial dis­tanc­ing is needed now be­cause fes­ti­vals have to plan months in ad­vance and artists have al­ready been booked for next year. He said op­er­at­ing at any­thing less than full ca­pac­ity is not an op­tion, be­cause it would leave the in­dus­try un­able to turn a profit.

The­atre and live en­ter­tain­ment is worth £11.25bn a year to the UK econ­omy and sup­ports more than 600,000 jobs, ac­cord­ing to Me­dia In­sight Con­sult­ing. Mu­sic fes­ti­vals also help the re­gions where they take place by at­tract­ing tourists, in­creas­ing the amount of money spent with shops and ho­tels, and pro­vid­ing farm­ers and landown­ers with a way to di­ver­sify their in­come.

The coro­n­avirus cri­sis dealt a bru­tal fi­nan­cial blow. Fes­ti­val Re­pub­lic, owned by the Amer­i­can en­ter­tain­ment giant Live Na­tion and which op­er­ates Leeds Fes­ti­val and Lol­la­palooza in Ber­lin, had rev­enues wiped out this year.

In 2018, turnover grew 20pc to £55m, with pre-tax prof­its ris­ing 60pc to £7.8m, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est ac­counts at Com­pa­nies House.

Mr Benn added: “If the fes­ti­vals are not al­lowed to take place next year, then we would be clos­ing our doors. We are cer­tain that is not what the Gov­ern­ment wants. Our worry is that they don’t ap­pre­ci­ate the need for early en­gage­ment to­wards full ca­pac­ity.”

Mr Benn said some coun­cils and po­lice forces will not give ap­proval un­less they are given more cer­tainty. He has called for the cre­ation of a task force to en­sure the Gov­ern­ment un­der­stands what is needed.

The sort of packed crowds that Fes­ti­val Re­pub­lic, or­gan­iser of the Lat­i­tude fes­ti­val, says it needs to be fi­nan­cially vi­able

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