Festival bosses call for cultural events to be underwritten

Bosses are urging the UK Government to underwrite events to protect against future losses.

Festival bosses call for cultural events to be underwritten Getty Images

Edinburgh festival bosses have called on the government to underwrite major cultural events – amid claims organisers face financial ruin if hit with more cancellations.

The Edinburgh International Festival and the Fringe are backing a campaign urging the UK Government to underwrite events, to protect against future losses from cancellations.

It comes after the government backed insurance for the film and television industry to the tune of £500m.

Edinburgh’s main summer events were called off last April in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, which also wiped out the city’s winter festivals.

Government under-writing is believed to be essential to allow festivals and events later this year to go ahead if the vaccine rollout is successful.

Campaigners claim the maximum liability for the Treasury would be £1.5bn if all of this year’s major events end up being wiped out again.

The letter to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak read: “Planning for this year’s festivals, live performances and events is taking place now, and while the vaccine roll-out is cause for optimism, organisers need confidence that this work and investment will not go to waste.

“Central to that confidence is insurance.

“Without insurance, the events we know and love simply won’t take place this year—vaccine or no vaccine.

“Sustaining losses like those we’ve seen in 2020 for another year isn’t an option.

“The Government has backed insurance for the film and television industry to the tune of £500m.

“It’s now time to do this for other creative industries.”

A spokesman for the Fringe Society said: “Planning any festival or live performance requires months of work and spending commitments which are needed well ahead of the curtain rising.

“Fringe venues need to be confident they can start planning for potential reopening and the associated costs this entails ahead of August, which in turn will provide greater protection for artists when coordinating and negotiating their relationships with venues.

“The Fringe Society supports this call for the Government underwriting to ensure the successful return of live performance.”

Francesca Hegyi, executive director of the EIF, said: “The lack of available insurance is probably the single biggest issue holding back the festival sector at the moment.

“I would love to see the Government support this country’s festivals and help us build confidence amongst performers, audiences and the thousands of people that work in the industry.

“We need to make sure that there is something to look forward to after this devastating pandemic.”