Wednesday October 05, 2022

Festivals survival at risk without govt support: MPs

By Pa
June 23, 2021

LONDON: Festivals and freelancers in the cultural sector could face “devastating consequences to their survival” if fresh government support is not offered, MPs have warned.

In July, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden announced a £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund (CRF) with the objective of rescuing up to 75 per cent of arts, culture and heritage institutions and organisations at risk of financial ruin following the first national lockdown in England. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC), in its report on the fund published on Wednesday, praised the speed at which the money was allocated to 5,000 organisations in dire straits.

But MPs have urged ministers to do more to support festivals and those behind the successful running of live events, such as lighting engineers and sound technicians, which missed out on financial support from the CRF despite their income streams drying up as a result of Covid measures.

The 20-page Covid-19: Culture Recovery Fund report said the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) needed a better understanding of the fund’s “impact on freelancers, commercial organisations, supply-chain businesses and festivals”.

Criticising the lack of non-financial support offered to festivals, the committee said: “Festivals are making difficult decisions about whether to risk their survival by going ahead this summer, but the department has not modelled the cost of underwriting festival indemnity insurance.”

PAC chair Meg Hillier has urged ministers to consider underwriting the risk of festivals — a move undertaken by the Dutch government — following the cancellation of some events by promoters after the Prime Minister’s decision to delay lifting all Covid restrictions for possibly as long as a month.

The sector has warned that, without the government bearing the insurance risk, the UK faces a litany of cancelled events for a second summer. The push comes after a festival pilot was held on the weekend as part of a trial to kickstart a summer of live music.

The Download Festival saw fans who had tested negative for Covid-19 able to enjoy rock and metal music in Leicestershire without needing to wear face coverings or socially distance — although the capacity was significantly reduced from its normal attendance of 111,000 to around 10,000. Latitude, which is run by Festival Republic, the company behind the Download pilot, announced on Friday it would be going ahead between July 22 and July 25 in Suffolk. However, Lake District event Kendal Calling has cancelled its 2021 edition, due to take place from July 29 to August 31 with headliners including Stereophonics and Dizzee Rascal, citing a lack of guidance from the government.