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UK culture select committee calls for government-backed insurance scheme for festivals

By | Published on Thursday 7 January 2021

Houses Of Parliament

The Chair of the UK Parliament’s culture select committee has called for the creation of a government-backed insurance scheme to cover festivals and live music events to help ensure that the live industry is able to kickstart its recovery as COVID rules begin to relax later this year.

Julian Knight MP has written to Chancellor Of The Exchequer Rishi Sunak following the oral hearing earlier this week as part of the select committee’s inquiry into the festival sector.

Live industry reps told the committee that while there remains a real risk that ongoing COVID restrictions could cause festivals and other events due to take place this year to be cancelled, it was impossible to get those events insured. That puts promoters in a really tricky position.

They are already planning their 2021 events, which will require extra logistics because of the COVID restrictions that will definitely still be in place later this year. However, while there remains a chance that more severe COVID restrictions might result in cancellations, and with no insurance available, investing time and money into that planning is very risky.

Many festivals and live music companies cannot afford to take that risk. As a result, those companies might be forced to cancel their 2021 events sooner rather than later, even if it then turns out that COVID restrictions start to relax in the spring meaning those events could have actually gone ahead.

Therefore, Knight says in his letter to Sunak, a government-backed insurance scheme is required for 2021, so that planning for this year’s events can continue ensuring that – as soon as COVID rules allow – festivals and other music events can quickly resume. Such a scheme has already been set up for the TV and film industries which have faced similar COVID-caused insurance issues.

A statement from the culture select committee yesterday said: “[We have] written to the Chancellor asking him to extend government-backed insurance schemes to festivals and live music events or face them disappearing from our fields and cities for good”.

“At a crucial point in festival planning schedules, MPs warn that organisers and investors are unable to risk repeating losses sustained in 2020 unless events can be insured against cancellation. With the commercial insurance market not expected to offer COVID-related insurance until 2022, a government-backed scheme is required for festivals to start planning their events and signing contracts with artists and suppliers”.

Knight himself added: “The government is telling us that life should be getting back to normal by the summer but, unless it can provide a safety net, it will be a summer without festivals. The industry says that without government-backed insurance, many festivals and live music events just won’t happen because organisers can’t risk getting their fingers burnt for a second year”.

“The committee has heard from festival organisers that this is a matter of urgency”, he went on. “Insurance must be the first step in unlocking the huge contribution that festivals make to our economy, protecting not only the supply chains, but the musicians who rely on them for work. The government already offers a level of cover to the film and television industries, now is the time to extend support to other creative industries or risk losing some of our best-loved and world-renowned festivals”.