Greenbelt organisers ‘heartbroken’ at decision to cancel festival

Festival organisers have criticised the Government for its failure to provide insurance protection against the financial implications of a ‘last minute’ cancellation.

Tuesday, 4th May 2021, 11:21 am
Updated Tuesday, 4th May 2021, 11:24 am
Greenbelt Festival. Photo by Jonathon Watkins.

The Greenbelt festival will not take place for a second successive year because of the ongoing impact of the coronavirus.

Greenbelt usually takes place at Boughton House near Kettering over the bank holiday weekend in August.

Festival organisers have spent the last few months planning and booking the event, while hoping the Government would provide festivals with the insurance protection they need to go ahead this summer.

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However, because this backing has not been forthcoming, they have decided to cancel the event.

Greenbelt’s creative director Paul Northup said: “We are heartbroken to cancel again.

“Particularly because we’re sure that by the time late August rolls around all that we do would be safe and perfectly possible.

“So, it will seem sad and unnecessary that we’ve been forced to cancel.

“It feels like the Government injected a whole heap of consumer confidence into the UK events sector with its roadmap but then baulked at the relatively modest amount of money that would have been required to back its own plan with the insurance support it needed.

The central dilemma facing Greenbelt, and all other independent festivals, is if they choose to move ahead without the Government behind them, should pandemic restrictions return in the summer and force cancellations or drastic limitations, many risk significant financial costs.

Greenbelt, which was started in 1974, decided to cancel this year’s event because “its pockets are nowhere near deep enough to risk the future of its event”.

Mr Northup said: “Last year’s cancellation had a weird, horrible novelty to it - the first summer without festivals.

“We could barely imagine it, let alone predict that there could be a second.

“This year, our small team has worked through the awful logic of this decision with a numbed, nauseous feeling.

“We know what a summer without the chance to come together feels like, and we can’t quite believe that we will all have to endure it again.

“Our thoughts go out to all our supporters and ticket buyers, as well as to all our friends in the independent festival sector, all the artists and speakers and all our suppliers.

“A festival is an ecosystem, a delicate web that means life and livelihoods for so many for so many reasons.”

Greenbelt did not receive any of the Government’s cultural recovery funding over the course of the last year.

However, is confident that because of its generous community of donors it will pull through.

Additionally, the team is even working on a potential ‘Plan B’ which, rather than its digital offering in the summer of 2020, could be more ‘sunlight than screens’.

All ticket-holders can get full refunds or roll their tickets forward to 2022.

Organisers also expect some to donate their tickets back to the festival for the second year running.

Greenbelt was started in 1974 with a vision to engage with culture, inspired by the arts and sustained by a progressive, political Christian faith.

It is an open, generous and inclusive community gathering, with an award-winning wide-reaching, all-age and multi-disciplinary programme.

Greenbelt aims to make links with people in situations around the world struggling for justice and peace and provide a stage for overlooked and marginalised voices to be heard.

For more information, visit https://www.greenbelt.org.uk