Music festivals 'need intervention' - as number of cancellations hits 50

24 June 2024, 17:33 | Updated: 24 June 2024, 21:30

The number of music festivals cancelled, postponed or closed for good this year has risen to 50, according to a representative body for independent events.

The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) shared the latest figure as Geronimo, a family festival held in Cheshire, announced the event is "no more", having become an "unsustainable financial risk" due to "a huge percentage of festival-goers holding off booking until the last week".

In a statement shared on social media, organisers said ticketholders for this year's event, which was due to be held from 23 to 26 August, will be refunded. "We hope you will cherish the memories of your time in our festival fields and wish everyone a wonderful summer," they added.

It comes after Sky News' report on the "crisis" in the industry, with many organisers already struggling to recover from the pandemic saying rising costs and changes in ticket-buying habits mean they cannot afford to keep going.

Read more:
'It's carnage' - Inside the UK's festival crisis

Festivals such as Towersey, in Buckinghamshire, and Nibley, in Gloucestershire, have announced that events this year will be their last, while others have cancelled or postponed.

The 50 so far this year means the total lost since the start of the COVID pandemic in 2019 now stands at 182, says the AIF, with many more predicted to cancel by the end of 2024 due to the "pressures of unpredictable and rising costs".

'More could go in 2025'

John Rostron, chief executive of the association, says there have not been successive steady seasons for festivals since the pandemic, meaning the industry is "under more financial strain than ever".

He added: "This is a regrettable landmark for the UK's festival sector. This is the most challenging time for independent festivals who desperately need an intervention from the incoming government before more events inevitably fall.

"Our research suggests around 100 festivals will throw in the towel before the year is out, and more will go into 2025 at risk if there is not the temporary fiscal support they need."

The AIF is calling for a temporary VAT reduction from 20% to 5% on festival tickets, which it says would save many event promoters from closure.

During the pandemic, the government supported festivals through its £1.57bn culture recovery fund, and it recently increased a fund for grassroots music up to almost £15m to cover festivals and provide additional support.

But festival organisers say specific support is needed for their industry.

Henry Morris, one of the organisers of Norfolk dance festival Field Maneuvers, which has announced this year's event will be the last in its current form, previously told Sky News the VAT reduction would help.

"We operate on such a tiny margin, to have a little bit of breathing space so you can plan a bit better would be a lot easier," he said.