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One in six UK festivals ended during the COVID period

By | Published on Monday 19 June 2023

Live Music

A new study by the Association Of Independent Festivals sets out the long-term impact the COVID pandemic has had on major music events in the UK. According to AIF’s stats, one in six UK festivals came to an end during the pandemic, either not returning once the COVID lockdowns ended, or attempting a return in 2022 but then finding it too challenging to stage a 2023 edition.

The trade body for independent festivals says that “there were 600 music festivals held in the UK in 2019, but only 482 will take place in 2023. The 19.7% decline includes festivals that disappeared during the pandemic and those which tried to return in 2022 but either failed in 2022 or took place but have not made it through to 2023”.

Backed by those depressing stats, AIF has again called for more government support for festival operators, who are still facing significant challenges as a result of surging production costs, and the cost of living crisis impacting on ticket sales and prices.

AIF CEO John Rostron says: “Whilst the pandemic is behind us, the impact of COVID is still revealing itself. We’re understandably shocked by the large number of events that either went down during the pandemic, or tried to get through to 2022 and have subsequently failed”.

“Closures have a huge effect on the supply chain of production staff, freelancers and artists, on audiences, and on local economies and communities”, he adds. “AIF calls on the UK government to extend support to the festival sector to ensure recovery from the COVID pandemic”.

Expanding on what form that support might take, Rostron says the festival sector needs “a small but speedy intervention from the government”.

That would “ensure that those festival operators who made it through the pandemic – often thanks to government support from Culture Recovery Fund, furlough and bounce back loans – are able to see through both the unforeseeable challenges of 2023 – energy costs, inflation and the cost of living crisis – and the impact of COVID – supply chain costs and concerns about younger audiences”.

The latter concern relates to young people who would have likely attended their first festivals in 2020 and 2021, some of whom would then have become festival regulars, but who missed out on that opportunity because of the lockdowns.

AIF itself has set up a scheme to try and ensure those people do, in fact, get a first festival experience, and is currently raising funds in a bid to make heavily subsidised tickets available to those potential young festival-goers.

Rostron concludes that, with the right government support right now, “existing operators, as well as new start-ups, will begin to rebuild the festival sector to the number of events that were prevalent in 2019”.