WOMAD latest festival to cancel

lack of government support outside Test Events cited

published: Mon 28th Jun 2021

the procession

Thursday 22nd to Sunday 25th July 2021
Charlton Park , Malmesbury, Wiltshire, SN16 9DG, England MAP
£225 for 4 days, £185 for 3 days
daily capacity: 40000
last updated: Mon 28th Jun 2021

WOMAD has been cancelled for 2021. It was due to return to Charlton Park, near Malmesbury in Wiltshire from Thursday 22nd to Sunday 25th July, with a number of measures in place to ensure COVID safety. While this date is after the government's current planned date for the end of restrictions, the level of support and communication for music festivals is insufficient and WOMAD will not be going ahead. 

Organiser Peter Gabriel said:
"It is with great regret that we are cancelling WOMAD '21 today. Without the simple support of a government insurance scheme or the guarantee of Test Event status, we cannot continue and put WOMAD's long term future at risk. We feel that our audience, artists, staff, and contractors, who have been amazingly supportive throughout all this, will understand the need for us to act to guarantee our survival."

We at eFestivals have heard from a number of smaller festivals who have been eagerly seeking any reassurance from the government that would enable them to go ahead. Much larger events from other industries with Tory donors have been able to proceed with confidence, while the music industry has largely been abandoned with the exception of the largest in the business.

Further communication from WOMAD has the following:

"Since the government decision to extend the Phase 3 restrictions by at least four weeks (to the 19th of July, 72 hours before WOMAD should open its gates) we have been seeking urgent clarification from the DCMS and Public Health England as to what this means for large scale events such as WOMAD. 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. Nor is there any clarity on how what is being learned from the Event Research Program might affect the guidance for festivals and how they are required to operate.

A few days after that extension the DCMS sought applications from festivals taking place within that extension period to join the next stage of its Event Research Programme. As WOMAD takes place after that period, we did not qualify. Subsequently and on hearing rumours that events outside that period had been granted "Event Research Programme - Test Event" status we immediately applied and contacted the DCMS and have had no response despite repeated requests.

On the BBC news last Friday, we heard that Latitude and Tramlines Festivals have been granted Test Event status on the same weekend as WOMAD which 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.

It is the lack of government backed insurance along with these actions that have forced WOMAD to cancel. 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). 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.

It does seem a little bizarre that a five-day camping event at Silverstone is a risk worth taking and independent festivals alas are not. With 140,000 people attending the Silverstone Grand Prix it certainly doesn't seem to be supported by science - as even Lewis Hamilton has commented.

At WOMAD, we are indebted to our audiences, artists, and suppliers for the love and support we have received, which has only increased as we have tried to climb the mountain that kept growing in front of us. We hope you will continue to hang in there with us, and as for options of ticket refunds or rollovers to 2022, we hope as many of you as possible will consider rolling your tickets over to join us next year from 28 - 31st July 2022. It's easy, do nothing and your ticket will automatically roll over."

It is incredibly sad that the viability of a festival in 2021 is dependent not upon its audience, its ability to engage with COVID restrictions, its size, or its sustainability. Our government is unfortunately deciding to inconsistently approve certain events, with no communication or apparent guidelines as to what makes an event worth declaring a "Test Event", and therefore worthy of going ahead.



Thursday 22nd to Sunday 25th July 2021
Charlton Park , Malmesbury, Wiltshire, SN16 9DG, England MAP
£225 for 4 days, £185 for 3 days
daily capacity: 40000
last updated: Mon 28th Jun 2021


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