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
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