Words by Grace Curtis

On 21 January, Glastonbury founders Michael and Emily Eavis announced “with great regret” that Glastonbury 2021 would not be going ahead. This marks the second year running that the iconic music festival has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

As with 2020, the organisers have promised to roll-over tickets and guarantee deposit holders the chance to buy a ticket for Glastonbury 2022. 

There is still the possibility that a covid-safe version of the festival might take place. On 23 January, Emily Eavis told The Guardian that Glastonbury could be put on as a live-streamed event for the first time. According to Eavis, “A lot of big artists have been in touch offering to perform for us at the farm.” “We would love to build a show that can be watched at home by people all over the world.”

The announcement comes as yet another blow to the live music industry. Prior to the cancellation, organisers had been optimistic that there was going to be a successful festival season this summer. Some remain hopeful. On Twitter Rob da Bank, co-founder of Bestival Festival, wrote that he still feels “optimistic festival season will happen in the UK this summer.” He suggests that it was Glastonbury’s 200,000-person capacity that made it more difficult to organise. “Sadly Glasto is such a mammoth beast to plan it ran outta time.”  

Glastonbury is not the only festival to have recently pulled the plug. The Country to Country festival, which was supposed to take place in London, Dublin and Glasgow throughout March 2021, also had to cancel due to the “current restrictions on mass gatherings and international travel.” 

These announcements come in the wake of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s insistence that it is “too early” to say whether England’s Covid-19 restrictions would be lifted by this spring.

The decision to cancel has impacted other large festivals. The BBC spoke to Anna Wade, Director of Communications for popular music festival Boomtown, which is currently still scheduled to take place in early August. According to Wade, “the cancellation of Glastonbury has got us all worried. If we can’t go ahead this year, it would be absolutely devastating.” She also emphasised the economic cost of the cancellations. “A huge amount of highly skilled people…rely on festivals being a large part of their summer income.”

Since the announcement, pressure has been ramping up for the Government to provide more support to the festival industry. Speaking to BBC Breakfast on January 22, Paul Reed, the head of the Association of Independent Festivals, said that the UK was at a “serious point in the pandemic and festivals only want to return when it is safe to do so.” Mr Reed added that “festivals were currently struggling to get insurance for coronavirus-related cancellations.” 

As reported by the BBC, last week MPs from the House of Commons culture select committee wrote an open letter to the chancellor, advising him to launch a Covid-19 insurance scheme to protect the live music industry which has struggled to bounce back after the initial lockdown in March 2020. 

Julian Knight MP, the committee’s chair, told BBC Radio 1’s Newsbeat that he had been to see the chancellor and that he thinks that there has been “some movement.” “I understand that they are dropping some of the objections that they may have had, and that we may end up with an insurance scheme.” “However, there’s a danger that it’s too little too late.”

The potential cancellation of the 2021 festival season will inevitably affect students. Anna Yeo, a third year Sussex student studying Sociology and International Development, said that she thinks that it is unlikely that any festival will go ahead this year. “Realistically, not everyone is going to be vaccinated by the summer. People would have to have a test before they went in, so I would be surprised.” Corinna Leng, a Law and American Studies final year, was looking forward to celebrating her graduation at a festival this summer. “It’s really gutting, because this is something I look forward to all year long. There was so much optimism after the vaccine announcements, but now I just can’t see it happening.” 

Picture Credit: WikiMedia

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