• Louis Parker

To Book or Not to Book? UK Festivals in 2021

By Louis Parker

As the Brighton Pride Festival just announced yesterday that they will be cancelling the event for the second year in a row, it begs the question; should expect more festival cancellations as we move into summer?

Photo by Tony Pham on Unsplash

A ‘red alert’ warning from the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), reported that 26 per cent of UK festivals with a capacity above 5,000 have already been cancelled ‘due to Government inaction on insurance’ and projects that up to 76% of the remaining festivals (that are scheduled for July and August) ‘could quickly cancel if immediate action is not taken.’

Lee Craig is the CEO of Pagoda Security, one of Brighton’s biggest security companies that provide security for Brighton Pride and various festivals and events around the country.

“Just earlier today we found out that Brighton Pride is going to be cancelled,” says Craig, “events such as Pride are going to be risky. Risky not just because of the existence of COVID, but because all the planning goes in with a lot of finances but that could be pulled at any moment.”

Brighton Pride 2018 Source: Sussexy Youtube

“People need to have briefings about sites specifically and what the COVID rules are. One way systems, table service and reduced capacities. But the biggest challenge is people who initially play by the rules but then after a drink start to get confident and think they can flout them and do their own thing.”

Craig says that for bigger events and festivals there is a risk if event organisers try to cut corners to save on security expenses. “Security is often one of the areas that sees cuts first, as it’s often the most expensive thing to pay for. If you cut safety considerations and try to save, then expect the consequences!”

Damien Fell, the operations manager at The Arch nightclub in Brighton is currently organising a large-scale festival ‘Life in the Park’ in Brighton which is set to take place over the last weekend of June and the first weekend of July.

He says that whilst there are concerns about the festival going ahead, they have followed all of the safety measures and government guidelines to minimise the risk in the hope of being able to run the festival as planned.

“Ticket sales compared to previous years have shown that people are still unsure on whether to book or to hold off - I think we will see a huge spike in sales weeks and even days before the festival,” explains Fell.

“If we keep sitting and waiting until the pandemic is over, my view is that we could be holding on forever,” he says, “so now is as good a time as any to get on with the planning and just hope that by the time the festival comes around the powers that be will let it go ahead.”

So should you book tickets in advance, or hold off until we know more? Craig says that he is understanding of festivals that have taken the decision to hold off for another year.

“If they do not have any cover in place where they can claim for losses in the event of a lockdown/pandemic requiring them to stop trading or stop the event then do you want to be the person planning on the basis of crossed fingers and hope? Or would you want to hold fire and plan when it’s all a lot more certain? It’s a tough one.”

Damien Fell is planning Brighton's 'Life in the Park' festival Source: Damien Fell

Only time will tell if festivals and live events will be able to go ahead this summer. Tell us what you think by entering the survey below: