Glastonbury 2021 is officially cancelled, the festival’s organisers have announced.
“With great regret, we must announce that this year’s Glastonbury festival will not take place, and that this will be another enforced fallow year for us,” organisers Michael and Emily Eavis said in a statement. “In spite of our efforts to move heaven and earth, it has become clear that we simply will not be able to make the festival happen this year. We are so sorry to let you all down.”
The event will not be rescheduled for this year. Information for ticket holders is available on the festival’s website. “We are very confident we can deliver something really special for us all in 2022!” the Eavises said.
The decision came down to the wire: on 4 January, Emily Eavis said there was no news and that the event wasn’t cancelled, denying claims made by Spice Girl Mel B on BBC Radio 5 Live that it had been.
Paul Reed, chair of the Association of Independent Festivals (Glastonbury is not a member of AIF), wasn’t surprised by the decision to cancel, which could have mixed ramifications for the rest of the British festival circuit. “You have to consider its global and cultural significance – it’s the largest green-field festival in the world, and it could set the tone in terms of public confidence for festivals going ahead this year.”
However, Reed stressed that Glastonbury’s size – with a capacity of 210,000 – made it an outlier. “There are 975 festivals in the UK. Though some of the larger events will be making decisions this month as to whether they go ahead, for many of the smaller ones the cut-off will be later.”
A recent AIF survey said that the average “go or no-go” decision date for its smaller festivals was the end of March. It takes a minimum of six to eight months to stage a festival, said Reed, and it costs “anything between £500,000 to plan a 5,000-capacity festival to £12m for a 70,000-capacity festival, which is why we’ve been asking the government to intervene on government-backed insurance and give us some sense of a timeframe on reopening.”
UK festival organisers have said they face cancellation and possible financial ruin if the government does not institute an insurance scheme to protect them from bankruptcy in the event of cancellation owing to the pandemic, similar to a scheme that has kept TV and film productions in business.
Reed concluded that it was too soon to tell whether the festival season “is on or off”. A second year of cancellations left many at “the real risk of not returning”, he said.
A smaller festival season was “inevitable” in 2021, Anna Wade, director of communications and strategy for Hampshire’s Boomtown Fair, told a recent parliamentary inquiry into the future of festivals after the pandemic.