Festivals in a post-covid landscape

While the more stringent restrictions associated with the pandemic have now dissipated, there is ongoing debate around how we can return to ‘normality’ while mitigating the risks associated with a spike in the number of Covid-19 cases.

Here, MK PR Executive Isabella talks of her experience of the festival scene over the summer.

Throughout August I had my first brush with festival life, having missed out on the opportunity previously due to the pandemic. Despite this, I can still appreciate the huge change both operationally and culturally.

Hand sanitiser and lateral flow tests are now among the debris left by festival goers along with the usual post-apocalyptic sights of tents sailing in the wind and unspeakable portaloos. Oddly, nothing about this felt out of place nor tainted the overall experience.

Festivals contribute a whopping £1.75 billion to the economy; they also form an important part of the entire music ecosystem. I can say my enthusiasm for the industry has blossomed once again, nothing quite compares to a live band and dynamic audiences.

However, criticism for the events has come in droves with almost 5,000 cases of Covid-19 emerging from Boardmasters alone.

Thankfully, neither myself nor my group of friends were among the many to have returned from the festival with a positive test result. Needless to say, we took every precaution possible to protect ourselves and others – including a period of isolation following each event.

Do I think it was right for the festival industry to come back so soon? That question is a hard one to answer and I don’t believe there is a right answer.

Do I think they had a choice? No, I don’t believe they did.

While writing my dissertation discussing ‘events in a post-covid landscape’ earlier this year I learnt that unlike other industries, the government didn’t really consider underwriting the events industry.

Many festivals like Tramlines, whose leadership team I spoke to, had to rollover their tickets from 2020. Insurance companies were not willing to cover ticket costs due to covid related cancelations. If they did have to issue returns in 2021, many festivals would not survive another year.

Supporting the events and hospitality sectors is something I have always felt a need to do, now with the rippling effects of the pandemic, even more so.

What can we conclude from this?

I think I can confidently say that I do not envy those in power who must make executive decisions on festivals, nor the festivals themselves who have been waiting on tenterhooks as to whether they would return this year.

I think it is fair to conclude that the creative sectors need our support more than ever and the industry deserves some recognition by everyone of the large economic & cultural benefits they bring to the UK.