Womad cancelled as organisers blame government

Womad festival has been cancelled for the second year in a row, with the co-founder Peter Gabriel blaming the government’s refusal to provide insurance support for festivals and a lack of clarity on how large-scale events should proceed after the proposed lockdown easing on 19 Julie.

“We feel that our audience, artists, personeel, and contractors, who have been amazingly supportive throughout all this, will understand the need for us to act to guarantee our survival,” Gabriel said in a statement.

Aan 14 Junie, the government announced that it was delaying lockdown easing from 21 June to 19 July – two days before the global music festival was due to start.

“Whilst the prime minister and his colleagues say there will be no restrictions on society at that point, we have been unable to get any confirmation of what the plan is,” the organisers said in a statement. “Nor is there any clarity on how what is being learned from the events research programme might affect the guidance for festivals and how they are required to operate.”

Scientists advising the government on research into pilot mass events such as concerts and sports matches have been left frustrated by the government’s delay in publicising the findings, the Guardian learned last week. Despite such events dating back to April, no research has yet been published. A spokesperson said the results would arrive “shortly”.

Events in Liverpool, Sheffield and London were compromised by a low uptake of gold-standard PCR testing, experts said.

Womad was also unable to secure the test event status that has allowed events such as the recent Download pilot and the forthcoming Latitude festival to take place, the organisers said in a statement.

Initially, only festivals taking place between 14 June and 19 July were eligible to join the events research programme. “Subsequently and on hearing rumours that events outside that period had been granted ‘events research programme – test event’ status we immediately applied and contacted the DCMS and have had no response despite repeated requests,” said Womad’s organisers.

The Latitude and Tramlines festivals – which fall on the same weekend as Womad – were admitted into the government’s programme. Womad organisers said this “clearly implies that only approved test events will be protected and guaranteed the right to go ahead as normal – even though this flies in the face of the prime minister’s statements”.

The UK festival season has been left on a knife edge without government support. More than half of UK festivals have already cancelled their 2021 gebeure.

“We have not been asking for financial support; all we have wanted is certainty in the form of insurance against cancellation (that we’d be happy to pay for),” the organisers said. “We need an understanding of the realities of how our industry works and the benefits that we bring. The industry should see equal access to support and a much less opaque way of deciding who gets help.”

They commented on the irony that the Silverstone Grand Prix – a five-day camping event attended by 140,000 people – could take place yet music festivals could not. “it certainly doesn’t seem to be supported by science – as even Lewis Hamilton has commented,” they said.

The Formula One world champion said he felt that with cases rising in the UK, an event of that scale was “a bit premature”.

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