How realistic is the idea of going to festivals this summer?

As Primavera becomes the latest festi to confirm their corona cancellation, our initial wave of post-lockdown optimism is fading fast.

by Roisin Lanigan
03 March 2021, 7:11pm

Image courtesy of @glastofest

When the UK government announced their roadmap out of lockdown, a wave of optimism spread across the country about what a restriction-free summer could look like. Nightclubs! Holidays! Touching each other's faces! Festivals… maybe! At least, it seemed that way at first, with Reading Festival quickly confirming that they would be going ahead with their event at the end of August 2021 as planned. But where Reading have charged in, other festival organisers are cautiously hanging back. Some, most notably Glastonbury, have played it safe and cancelled anyway, setting their sights on 2022 instead. 

The latest rona casualty is Primavera Sound, which announced today on its official website that they would not be going ahead as planned due to the pandemic. In fairness to Primavera, the Barcelona-based festival was originally scheduled to take place in the first week of June, and with vaccine rollouts still in their early stages across Europe (as well as the fact thousands of people travel thousands of miles to go to festivals in hot, beautiful places like Spain) it was pretty unlikely that it would be safe to attend. Writing on Primavera’s website, organisers said that they could not “work normally on the preparation of the festival, nor ensure that, once the date arrives, it can be celebrated”. 

Primavera’s cancellation is a bitter pill to swallow too, given that this year was supposed to be a celebration of the event’s 20th anniversary (much as Glasto was due to celebrate its 50th). And doubly bitter given the festival held a clinical trial in December to see how a socially distant festival might look. Turns out, it doesn’t look like anything. 

So, if Primavera, Glastonbury and Download Festival are all cancelling for 2021 because of safety concerns, then how are other festivals, like Reading, London’s Mighty Hoopla and Isle of Wight (which recently postponed its June event until September) able to go ahead? Sadly, the most likely answer is that festival planners intent on going ahead in the summer have probably jumped the gun a little. Almost immediately after Reading announced it had sold out of tickets for 2021, local politicians pointed out that “nothing had been agreed” yet for the event, prompting concerns that it may not go ahead after all. 

Speaking at Reading’s Covid-19 Outbreak Engagement Board last Friday, Councillor Graeme Hoskin said: “What’s become apparent from comments on social media and people contacting the council is that some people are under the impression that the council has approved Reading Festival taking place this summer. That is not the case. Reading has not, and nor has anyone else, agreed anything. But the announcement is the intention of Reading Festival to happen. That is going to be a major item for our licensing department and various other national bodies to consider but nothing has been agreed by the council.”

Sadly, this is par for the course of the pandemic. While vaccines are making impressive strides on hospitalisation and transmission numbers, and all of us are keen to leave lockdown behind for good, planning for the future, even a few months in the future, is for now just staring into the great unknown. And so sadly, you might not be able to lie sunburnt, drunk, happy and glitter-covered in a crowded field, at least not with any certainty, any time soon.

“We will make it doubly good in 2022,” Primavera promised festival-goers, pledging to allow those who had already bought tickets to either apply for a refund or roll their passes over to next year. Can next year come immediately please? Thanks. 

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