UK festivals face apocalypse with over 100 set to disappear

UK festivals face apocalypse with over 100 set to disappear
Dua Lipa, Coldplay and SZA to headline Glastonbury 2024
Bang Showbiz / VideoElephant

The future of more than 100 UK music and arts festivals could be at risk because of soaring costs to run them, according to a leading festival trade association.

The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) has said 21 festivals across the UK have already announced a postponement, cancellation or complete closure in 2024.

The most recent of those are Cotswolds-based Nibley Festival announcing this year's event will be its last. Bradford's Bingley Festival also announced this year's edition will not go ahead.

The AIF says in both cases, promoters have said rapidly rising production costs is why their festivals cannot go ahead.

The future of larger scale festivals, such as Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds and Download, seem to be more secure because of the sheer popularity of them; higher attendances mean they can generate more money through ticket sales and spending at the festival itself.

They usually sell out, very quickly in some cases too, with punters prepared to pay a big price for a ticket - a standard weekend ticket for Glastonbury 2024 was £360 including a booking fee and these sold out within an hour.

It's smaller or mid-sized festivals that seem most at risk.

A total of 36 festivals cancelled before they were due to take place in 2023 and the AIF says as 21 are already not going ahead in 2024, this number could rise to more than 100 at the current rate - and it's not yet even festival season.

The AIF is campaigning for Government to act.

It's running a campaign called Five percent for Festivals, calling for temporary support for VAT on festival ticket sales to be slashed from 20 percent to five for the next three years.

John Rostron, CEO at AIF, said: “It's with grave concern that we again sound the alarm to Government upon passing this critical milestone.

"UK festivals are disappearing at a worrying rate and we as a nation are witnessing the erosion of one of our most successful and unique cultural industry sectors.

"We have done the research: a reduction of VAT to five percent on festival tickets over the next three years is a conservative, targeted and temporary measure that would save almost all of the festival businesses that are likely to fall by the wayside this year and many more over the years to come.

"We need this intervention now.”

In response, the government said there are currently no plans to do this but keeps all taxes under review and welcomes representations to help inform future decisions on tax policy.

A Treasury spokesperson said: "While the Government understands a VAT cut could help ease financial pressure, VAT is intended as a tax applied broadly across consumer goods and services, with a standard rate of 20 percent.

"While there are exceptions from this norm, these have to be balanced with demands on the public purse including funding for our public services."

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