Rishi Sunak urged to announce support for festivals during Budget

The sector has been buoyed by news that events including Reading and Leeds plan to go ahead this summer.

A senior Tory MP has called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to announce additional support for festivals as part of the Budget next week.

Julian Knight, who is chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said the sector needs “more than a road map” if the summer circuit of events is to go ahead.

The Treasury has previously dismissed calls, backed by more than 100 organisations and individuals from the performance sectors, to extend an underwriting scheme offered to other creative industries including film and TV.

Coronavirus – Sun Feb 14, 2021
Chancellor Rishi Sunak will set out his Budget on March 3 (Yui Mok/PA)

Mr Knight said the time is now right to review that decision ahead of the Budget on March 3.

He said: “The Treasury rejected our earlier call for a government-backed insurance scheme that would have provided a safety net for festivals to go ahead, saying the time was not right.

“While we’ve seen welcome news for fans that the Reading and Leeds festivals will happen, the rest of the sector needs more than a road map to give them the confidence it takes to get events under way. For some, like Glastonbury, it’s already too late.

“We’re calling on the Chancellor to review that decision now that the Government has a better sense of the road to recovery.

“There’s still time ahead of next week’s Budget to give the festivals industry, which makes a significant contribution to the economy, the helping hand it needs.”

MP portraits
Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee chairman Julian Knight (Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament/PA)

In correspondence to Mr Knight published on Friday, John Glen, economic secretary to the Treasury, suggested the publication of a road map could be the “right point” to consider potential support for the events sector, including insurance-based options.

The live events industry has been buoyed by the news that festivals including Reading and Leeds, Camp Bestival and Creamfields plan to go ahead with their 2021 editions.

The Boomtown festival, held on the Matterley Estate near Winchester, is the latest major event to sell out of tickets following the announcement of the road map on Monday.

Its organisers said: “We are completely overwhelmed by the support shown by our incredible community… Please rest assured we will be doing everything possible to make sure that we can come together this August for the ultimate celebration.”

However, in January, Glastonbury was cancelled for a second successive year after organisers said they had tried to “move heaven and earth”.

UK Music, which represents the collective interests of the sector, has previously called for a range of measures to be put in place to help the industry get back up and running this year, including coronavirus cancellation insurance.

Festivals added £1.76 billion in gross value to the economy in 2019, with almost one in three Britons watching Glastonbury on TV.

A Government spokeswoman said: “We will launch the Events Research Programme to explore when and how music festivals and other events can return. The Government will continue to consider potential support options which could unlock the reopening of the sector, informed by the findings of this programme.

“Funding from the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund is supporting festivals and we will continue to invest in protecting and creating jobs through the remainder of the pandemic and through the recovery.”

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