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UK festival season under threat from “perfect storm” of issues this summer, industry experts warn

The fallout from Brexit and a supply chain crisis are among key concerns

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Industry experts have warned that the UK's summer festival season is under threat from a "perfect storm" of issues.

The CEO of the UK's leading festival representative body, the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) has suggested that a combination of concerns such as workforce shortage, a live entertainment supply chain crisis and the fallout of Brexit will directly impact the running of festivals this summer.

“We are facing a perfect storm in many ways,” said Paul Reed at the trade body's 2022 Festival Congress in Bristol. “I’ve spoken with many festival organisers in the last few weeks about supply chains, loss of skilled workforce, 20-30 per cent increase in costs across the board and a government-backed insurance scheme that isn’t simply isn’t fit for purpose despite our best efforts.”

In his opening remarks, Reed also warned that UK festivals are facing a range of cost increases of 20-30% across operations and infrastructure, as a result of staffing, materials, and increases in labour, as well as transport being passed on by suppliers.

Reed noted that since 53% of festivals in the UK of 5,000 capacity and over did not take place in 2021 — and with many tickets purchased in 2019 rolling over to this summer — a hike in prices isn’t an option to combat the deficit.

“The UK festival industry is a powerhouse, contributing £1.76billion in GVA to the UK economy and supporting 85,000 jobs,” added Reed. “The cultural and wellbeing benefits of festivals cannot be measured. We know they are profound, and the absence of festivals has been felt keenly by artists, the wider supply chain and of course audiences.”

Ahead of the summer, the CEO called on the UK government to provide continued VAT relief on festival tickets at 12.5% beyond March, as well as creating a loan scheme for suppliers to relieve some of the financial pressures and to encourage investment within the UK’s festival supply chain.

Despite all this, many UK festivals have pressed on with their plans for 2022, with the likes of Houghton, FleshRisen, Dialled In, AVA and many more announcing their line-ups for this summer.