If you were puzzled when you saw this year’s first Glastonbury lineup announcement at a time when other festivals and events were being cancelled left, right and centre, you aren’t alone. It was far less surprising when the ‘Glastonbury cancelled’ announcement came just a few days later.
The majority of UK names seem to have cancelled, but overseas the situation is a little different, with Coachella being moved from April to October, and Lollapalooza also being postponed. Back in the UK, Live at Leeds Festival has also been postponed, but realistically these festivals may also have to be cancelled.
The festivals and events industries are dangerously precarious, and with a year off in 2020, it might be difficult for many of them to get back to normal next summer. Yes, major festivals like Glastonbury and Reading and Leeds will be fine, but spare a thought for the smaller festivals, who simply don’t have the budget to be able to throw away at least a year.
American healthcare expert Zeke Emanuel has predicted that the largest public gatherings, including concerts and festivals, will be “the last to return”, taking until the autumn of 2021 at the earliest. Two successive years of no festival could prove fatal for smaller events, and even those which are more established aren’t guaranteed to be safe. This doesn’t bode well for Coachella either, who would consider themselves lucky to be able to pull off any sort of event this year.
Take Bestival. The yearly festival had been held every year from 2004 to 2017, before closing. In 2015 and 2016 there was Bestival Toronto, but this didn’t return in 2017 after an underwhelming response. Likewise, 2017’s Bestival Bali didn’t make a return after the inaugural festival, and the Bestival brand lives on only through Camp Bestival, the ‘little sister’ of Bestival, and even this went into administration in 2018. Even before coronavirus-invited cancellations, the survival rate for festivals was low.
What’s the future for festivals? Coronavirus will almost certainly have long-standing effects on the industry, and it won’t be simple to get back to normal – whatever normal will be as we adjust back to life after the pandemic. Sure, if you’re looking forward to Glastonbury in a couple of years’ time, you’re unlikely to be disappointed, but spare a thought for some of the smaller festivals, as it’ll take a while for them to get back on their feet, if they manage to at all.
Written by Adam England.