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Pandemic uncertainties prompt Greenbelt to cancel 2021 festival

04 May 2021

Jonathon Watkins/Photoglow

The Greenbelt Festival in August 2017

The Greenbelt Festival in August 2017

THE Greenbelt organisers announced on Tuesday that, for the second year running, there will be no live festival. All those who have booked in advance are to be offered a refund.

Although the arts and activism festival was due to take place over the August Bank Holiday, 27-30 August — after the pandemic restrictions are due to be lifted — the organisers say that too much uncertainty remains.

“The central dilemma facing Greenbelt and all other independent festivals is that, if they choose to move ahead without the Government behind them, should pandemic restrictions return in the summer and force cancellation or drastic limitations, by then it would be too late.

“Along with many of its friends in the Association of Independent Festivals, Greenbelt has had to make the call to cancel because its pockets are nowhere near deep enough to risk the future of its event.”

Attempts to persuade the Government to provide some form of insurance protection have been unsuccessful. Paul Northup, Greenbelt’s creative director, said: “It feels like the Government injected a whole heap of consumer confidence into the UK events sector with its roadmap, but then baulked at the relatively modest amount of money that would have been required to back its own plan with the insurance support it needed.”

Although Greenbelt’s planning for the festival was well advanced, there has been relatively little financial outlay so far. That would have increased quickly through May, however, as facilities were booked for the site at Boughton House, Northamptonshire.

Greenbelt has not been able to secure any support from the Government’s cultural recovery fund. Mr Northup said, however, that the festival’s survival was being underwritten by its Angels: a group of 2000 supporters whose contributions over the years have enabled it to withstand various financial vagaries.

“With Angel support and the government furlough support, we navigated last year without making a financial loss and without cutting the staff team. Having done the projections, we hope to be able to get through this year similarly, although it is tighter this time around. But we will survive, thanks to our Angels.” Many are expected to roll their tickets forward to 2022, or even donate the cost to the festival.

Last summer, Greenbelt produced a number of online events (News, 4 September 2020). Nothing similar is planned for this year, but the organisers’ statement hinted at smaller-scale live events: “The team is even working on a potential ‘Plan B’ which, rather than its digital offering in the summer of 2020, could be more sunlight than screens.”

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