It’s no secret that festivals have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, but a report by the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) has painted a grim picture of the years to come. Warning of an “independent festival wasteland” in 2021 and thereafter, it estimates that the vast majority of U.K. festivals will not be able to go on without government intervention.
The AIF report cites recent surveys of their members, the organizers of 60 U.K. festivals ranging from 800 to 60,000 in capacity as of a 2018 video. The average AIF member reported sunken costs for their 2020 event of £375,000, with 98.5% not covered by insurance for cancellations related to the coronavirus. 92% of those surveyed claimed that their business would be at risk in the absence of government aid.
Independent by Association
The AIF is a nonprofit organization whose offices share an address with London, England nightclub Ministry of Sound. In addition to training and services geared towards festival organizers, they directly lobby the U.K. government in addition to sitting on the UK Live Music Group, which does lobbying of its own. Among the festivals they represent are ArcTanGent, Kendal Calling and Sound City.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the AIF has reportedly lobbied for clarity regarding eligibility for government grants and loans, among other things. “While the government has been receptive to AIF’s counsel, it has not taken meaningful action to protect our sector,” said AIF CEO Paul Reed in a quote obtained for the report. “Single event festival companies are seasonal businesses. They need urgent support now and ongoing support after lockdown ends and restrictions are eased.”
The AIF report says that according to UK Music, the live music sector contributed £1.1 billion to the U.K. economy in 2018.