Is announcing music festivals for 2021 absolutely absurd?

Festivals scheduled to take place in England this summer are selling out at a rapid rate following the Government’s announcement of its roadmap out of lockdown. But a sense of unease hangs over the idea of festivals taking place just months after the peak of the pandemic, and some think it may be too soon to get our hopes up. Gemma Cockrell offers her thoughts.

Part of me wants to remain optimistic and hopeful for a summer of sun, cider, and no more social distancing whilst listening to my favourite bands and artists play live sets. The live music industry has struggled immensely since the start of the pandemic, suffering an estimated ninety per cent loss in revenue last year. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that organizers want their festivals to go ahead as soon as possible, especially seeing as there is such a vast demand for tickets, with festivals such as Reading and Leeds, and Creamfields already selling out, in record breaking times.

R&L and Creamfields will be going ahead as usual in August, whilst some festivals, including Parklife and Isle of Wight Festival, have been rescheduled from June to September. Other festivals, such as Download and Glastonbury, have confirmed that they will not be returning until 2022. A heavy-hearted Isle of Wight Festival boss John Giddings told NME: “We’ve spoken to the authorities at Public Health England and we will implement every government instruction to make it safe for people. We don’t want to be responsible for a fourth wave, we wouldn’t do anything stupid and we want to run a proper show.” He also claimed with some certainty that his festival, as well as other festivals, were likely to have improved hygiene measures.

‘After a year of lulling in and out of lockdown, the heartbreak of a late festival cancellation would be a crushing disappointment.’

The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) says that the “2021 festival season is by no means guaranteed at this point.” They add: “There is still the chance of widespread cancellations if data around covid cases does not meet the Government’s requirements and lockdown easing is delayed.” Virologist Dr Naomi Forrester-Soto explained to the BBC: “People singing and small spaces are perfect ways for the virus to spread.” She clarified that “there are still big risks” even though many festivals are held outdoors. Boris Johnson also issued a warning that there is no guarantee that the UK will be fully out of lockdown and “back to normal” by June 21st.

There is some concern from both organizers and festival-goers alike about the possibility of last-minute cancellations due to the virus, particularly in the absence of a government-backed insurance scheme for live music events. However, many ticket-buyers feel that it is worth buying a ticket just in case the festivals can go ahead, due to the fact that if there is a major cancellation then there is a chance of receiving a refund. This is logical; however, buying a ticket is what really cements the event as a real occurrence. After a year of lulling in and out of lockdown, the heartbreak of a late festival cancellation after the excitement of booking a ticket would be a crushing disappointment that I’m not sure I could handle.

A packed Creamfields festival before the pandemic.

Festivals are often dominated by the younger generation, from the ages of 16 to 25, who are by no means immune to the virus. In terms of the vaccine, it has been confirmed that all adults will have received their first dose by the end of July. Therefore, some people may be attending festivals without having received their first dose, and many without their second dose. I may be being over-cautious, but after a year of national lockdowns, I am reluctant for large-scale festivals to go ahead in 2021. I am merely grateful that there will be a chance of having some freedom this summer – pubs, bars and restaurants will be open, and I’ll be able to see more than one friend at a time – that is enough to keep me satisfied. It seems overwhelming to me that at the time of writing (the beginning of March) I am only allowed to see one person at a time outdoors, but in as little time as three months, there is potential for as many as 80,000 to gather together in the same location.

In September, I will be entering my third and final year of university, and I desperately want to be able to live a normal university lifestyle, for what will be the last opportunity I have. I am concerned that if we jump into the deep end this summer with large-scale gatherings like festivals, I won’t get this final year of university that I am dreaming of. I am aware that the vaccine is being rolled out rapidly, and that because of this, it seems unlikely that we will be placed into national lockdown at the end of the summer, and that it is unlikely that my fantasised final year of university will be threatened from becoming a reality. But one thing that I have learnt during this pandemic is that it can be unpredictable and that circumstances can change very quickly.

I am able to see the situation from both sides. I completely understand why people are eager for festivals to go ahead this summer – people feel that they need something to look forward to after a year of being trapped inside their homes. I want nothing more than to be with all of my friends, singing and dancing to live music. I just don’t know if it’s worth the risk of triggering another year like the last one.


Written by: Gemma Cockrell

Edited by: Olivia Stock

Featured image courtesy of Brandon Bynum via Unsplash. Article image courtesy of Creamfields via Facebook.