What does the cancelling of festivals mean for the future of live music?

2020 brought hardship to all live music venues. Music festivals however, were particularly hard hit, with all scheduled events last year having to be cancelled. Despite promises that festivals would be able to see their stages filled by summer 2021, many organisations feel they have, once again, been left in the dark. Recent cancellations by Y Not festival and Kendal Calling have not only put the future of these events in jeopardy but artists and fans of live music are also left feeling unsure as to whether other events will still go ahead. 

Unlike previous festival organisations who were forced to cancel due to being scheduled before the complete lifting of lockdown rules, Y Not Festival and Kendal Calling cancelled due to uncertainty regarding secure insurance plans. In their statement informing ticket holders of their decision to postpone, Y Not commented, “We are yet to receive the government’s guidance from their pilot schemes and the lack of a government-backed insurance package, amidst rising Covid cases both locally and nationally makes us unable to fully commit to the next stages of planning needed for this year’s event without greatly risking the future of Y Not Festival.”

The risk of having to cancel any mass scale event last minute is too high to chance, meaning that for events such as this an early letdown has sadly become the more attractive option. At the very least, it means they should be able to secure a future for next year. Despite Y Not and Kendal Calling promising to make a full comeback next year, these cancellations beg the question: Can live music survive another summer of abrupt closures and reschedules? 

Left in a split decision, fans of artists are keener than ever to get back to listening to the music they love. However, they are equally having to weigh up the risk factor of buying what, let’s face it, are very pricey tickets with no guarantee the event will even go ahead. Confidence in the events industry is at an all-time low. In addition, the easing of the lockdown rules before young people have been fully vaccinated disappoints a huge number of the population who perhaps won’t feel safe enough to attend these highly populated events.

It’s not all bad news, however, with Latitude festival confirming they will run at full capacity as part of the government’s events research project (ERP). Although, is the end of July not a little late to be ‘testing’ events such as festivals? With a packed-out summer schedule of events ahead for the live music industry, we can only hope that early openers like Latitude take place without causing significant damage. 

The government’s lack of support in guiding these festivals through a safe reopening is simply just another kick in the teeth for the music industry, which has repeatedly called for greater support. UK venues and large festivals are tired of being consistently left as one of the least-prioritised business sectors, despite being one of the biggest entertainment industries in the world. They urgently need better guidance so more festivals do not have to cancel, and organisers can continue to invest money into what should be the summer which sees the return of music.

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Elizabeth Woor

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November 2021
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