AIF gives evidence to DCMS Select Committee, calls for Government intervention to assist recovery and safe return of festival industry

Call for five key interventions from government to support the festival sector’s safe return in 2021

London, 5th January 2021

AIF CEO Paul Reed today (Tuesday 5th January) gave oral evidence to the DCMS Select Committee as part of its enquiry into the future of UK music festivals.

Reed identified three key issues that are creating uncertainty among festival organisers and preventing adequate planning for the 2021 season.

They are: a lack of working capital for some festival promoters; the absence of a re-opening timeline from government; and the lack of insurance for Covid related cancellation.

AIF is calling for five key interventions from government to support the festival sector’s safe return in 2021:

  1. A conditional start date – A clear timeline for ‘Stage 5’ reopening in Spring 2021 outlining exact ‘no earlier than’ dates and the kind of activity that will be permitted.
  2. A government backed reinsurance scheme for festivals and other live events.
  3. A VAT extension. A three-year extension to the reduced 5% cultural VAT rate on tickets in line with current DCMS Select Committee recommendations. This measure was greatly welcomed by the sector but applies in a period where festivals are not selling many tickets and an extension is needed to support recovery.
  4. Sector specific financial support until the industry recovers, and further support if the industry is not able to fully return in 2021.
  5. Premises license fee rollovers. AIF urges all local authorities to waive ‘capacity multiplier’ fees for festivals this year, to roll over any fees paid to at least next year, and to remove festivals on agricultural land from the business rates system.

Reed stressed that festivals are rapidly approaching the point where a concrete decision on whether they can go ahead with plans for 2021 will have to be made. With that being the case, urgent action is needed in the above areas.

Reed underlined the fact that some festival businesses hadn’t been offered a grant through the initial rounds of the Culture Recovery Fund and were in urgent need of further targeted support.

Speaking following the Select Committee, Reed said: “AIF is grateful for the opportunity to represent the UK’s leading independent festivals in front of the DCMS Select Committee today. We are clearly in a very serious and pivotal stage of the pandemic. Summer and festivals seem very distant. But, given that festivals take at least six months to plan, this is absolutely the right time to be having this conversation.

“Festivals will only return when it is absolutely safe to do so, and the industry is working hard on developing mitigations. But we are also calling for a ‘no earlier than’ date, government intervention on insurance, and targeted financial support if needed to protect businesses, countless livelihoods, local communities and a major contribution to the national economy. Key decisions do need to be made now to sustain the prospect of a UK festival industry this year and beyond.

“We are thankful for the support that the Government has provided to date, but there is still a lot that needs to be done to ensure festival organisers can plan events for 2021 effectively and with confidence. We have set out what is needed and will continue to work with government to meet those requirements.”


The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) is the UK's leading non-profit festival trade association. Created to represent and empower independent festivals.