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Exit and We Are FSTVL cancel postponed 2020 editions

By | Published on Wednesday 15 July 2020

Although some live music is returning across Europe as COVID-19 measures are relaxed in many countries, there remains much uncertainty as to what gigs and festivals – and what kinds of gigs and festivals – will be able to take place in the months ahead. One of the bigger European festivals that had hoped it could proceed with an albeit postponed 2020 edition – Exit in Serbia – has now confirmed its cancellation.

With Eastern European countries generally seeing lower levels of infection in the first phase of the COVID-19 pandemic – possibly because of the quicker introduction of lockdown restrictions by governments in that part of the world – it looked like Exit could be one the few major European festivals to get to go ahead this summer. And the Serbian government even urged organisers to postpone rather than cancel the July event, believing that things would be more or less back to normal by August.

However, many of those countries are now seeing a second spike of the virus, requiring previously lifted restrictions to be put back in place. As that began to happen in Serbia, Exit promoters considered reducing the festival’s capacity – at one point a 90% reduction was even being mooted, with most people being invited to tune in via livestreams – but yesterday they confirmed that there was now no viable way to continue.

The festival said in a statement: “As you may know, earlier this spring, the Serbian Prime Minister had asked Exit not to cancel the festival but rather postpone it to mid-August”.

“At that time, the number of new daily cases was on a steady sharp decline and even our most cautious health experts believed that zero number of cases would be reached in June, almost two months before the new festival date in August. During this time, the whole of Serbia was also fully re-opened, with no restrictions in an open-air public gathering and all borders were open”.

“Unfortunately”, it went on, “during the past few weeks, there has been the development of the epidemic with an increase of new daily cases in several municipalities in Serbia that were put under strict restrictions. The Exit team has followed the current situation of the epidemic closely, always keeping in mind the safety and health of all visitors, artists and team members. That is why it was decided first to drastically reduce the festival capacity in order to make sure that everything would be as safe as possible”.

“However, since the health situation has not improved yet after the second spike in cases, organisers have made the decision that the 20 year celebration of Exit Festival will not take place from 13-16 Aug this year at Petrovaradin Fortress. It has not been an easy decision to make, but, the health and safety of festival-goers, artists and all our team members is paramount and under the current circumstances, this was the best decision to make”.

Organisers added that they now hoped to stage an online event of some kind in September to mark the festival’s 20th anniversary.

It remains to be seen how many of the European festivals scheduled to take place in August and September – some events that were pushed back from earlier in the year – are able to go ahead, with the risk of localised second spikes arguably as problematic as the actual localised second spikes.

In the UK, the government last week gave the go ahead for open-air performances to resume, albeit with some social distancing restrictions still in place. But it’s not really clear if that will enable the open-air music festivals that had not yet cancelled their 2020 editions to proceed.

Organisers of the East London dance music centric We Are FSTVL have said they are calling off their plans to stage a rescheduled edition of the event in September because current government guidance is “contradictory and unhelpful”.

We Are FSTVL organisers have been liaising with two local authorities to the east of London because of plans to move sites. It was while in communication with Barking & Dagenham Council that they said they were no longer going ahead with their planned September 2020 edition, which was a rescheduling of what should have been a May 2020 event.

According to the Barking & Dagenham Post, Simon Taylor – speaking on behalf of promoter Springmerch – told the Council: “The applicant has determined that the time has come where a decision about the event in September has to be made. Therefore yesterday we decided to cancel the event. It will not be taking place in September”.

Dubbing current advice on live events from the UK government “contradictory and unhelpful”, Taylor added: “Outdoor festivals can proceed but advice is against licensing authorities granting licences to hold such events”.