Boomtown is the latest festival to fold over insurance row

By Joanna England
The annual Winchester festival, Boomtown 2021, is the latest festival to cancel this year citing lack of COVID-19 insurance...

Boomtown 2021 is the latest large-scale UK festival to cancel it’s event this summer, citing a lack of insurance to cover COVID-19 last minute closures.

The UK festival industry has been dealt a series of severe blows this year following the news that despite being allowed to go ahead, the events will not be offered government underwritten COVID-19 insurance should restrictions prevent the events from taking place at the last minute. 

So far, Glastonbury, Shambala, Blue Dot, BST Hyde Park, Download and the Bristol Harbour Festival, among others, have all pulled the plug on their 2021 events, citing a lack of insurance as the reason for their withdrawal. 

In a statement earlier today, explaining the decision to cancel its 2021 festival, the organisers of Boomtown said, “After almost half a year of collective campaigning to the government, sadly COVID specific cancellation insurance for events still does not exist at this point in time. This means anyone putting on an event this year, will be doing so without the safety net of insurance to cover them should COVID prevent them from going ahead in any capacity.”

Festival revenues 

Festival industry experts argue that the amount of cover they would need to underwrite the cancellation of an event, is far lower than the revenue generated by the industry should the events go ahead, because they support thousands of UK small businesses and charities. 

Ideally, a government-backed indemnity scheme that operates as a form of Covid insurance by providing financial support if festivals are affected by coronavirus, similar to a scheme that has kept film and TV production rolling in the UK, would solve the issue. 

Other European countries are supporting their festival industries. In December, Germany announced a €2.5bn (£2.3bn) event cancellation fund to support event organisers.

Massive losses for the festival industry

Last year, the UK festival industry lost 90% of its revenue due to COVID-19 cancellations. Hopes that it will be able to bounce back in 2021 have been largely dashed by the lack of insurance underwriting from the UK government. 

In January, Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, chief executive of UK Music, warned, “Lack of notice and available insurance options will mean much of the 2021 summer music season can’t go ahead. The clock is ticking, and any day soon we could see major festivals and events start pulling the plug for lack of certainty. There will need to be a concerted effort from industry and the government together.”

However, on March 25th, the UK government defended its decision to not to provide state-backed insurance to music festivals and other large-scale events after restrictions are lifted. Culture Minister Caroline Dineage said that although the film and TV industries were receiving government support, the risks in COVID-19 preventing filming were small compared to the festival industry.

However, many promoters are already on the financial brink after cancelling their 2020 festivals and will not be able to survive the heavy losses incurred due to their events being cancelled this year. 

Boomtown organisers described the situation as complex, saying, that going ahead without insurance would be a "huge gamble into an 8-figure sum.” 

They added, “Unfortunately, without any clear indication of what size events will be able to take place, and the conditions in which we will be able to operate, we have come to the conclusion that time has simply run out for us to be able to proceed in a way that would live up to our high safety and production standards for the event we had planned.”


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