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Belladrum festival says lack of government-backed insurance has forced it to cancel August 2021 edition

By | Published on Monday 29 March 2021


Organisers of Scotland’s Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival last week announced that their 2021 edition will not go ahead, pushing the event’s post-COVID return back to 2022.

The festival usually takes place in early August, by which time it’s possible that COVID restrictions will have lifted, allowing larger events to take place at something nearing normal capacity.

However, all the current targets in the UK for lifting such restrictions are still subject to change and, generally, the Scottish government has been more hesitant when predicting when things might start to return to normal.

Promoter Kilimanjaro said that its decision to cancel Belladrum 2021 at this stage was the result of continued uncertainties regarding the relaxation of COVID restrictions, and the refusal of the UK government to provide state-backed cancellation insurance for 2021 events.

The live sector has been calling for such insurance for some time now. With festival promoters facing so many upfront costs once they go into full-on production mode, many can’t afford to proceed with 2021 editions when there is still a real risk of a COVID-caused cancellation, unless those events can be insured. But cancellation insurance is not currently available on the commercial market.

However, UK ministers have so refused to offer state-packed insurance policies – culture minister Caroline Dinenage saying last week that the government didn’t want to “give people the confidence” to announce events only “to pull the rug out from underneath them again” if the situation regarding the spread of the virus changes.

This might mean many more events will have to cancel in the next month, even if it turns out the ongoing vaccination rollout in the UK means that social-distancing rules can actually end in July.

In a statement, the Belladrum team said: “No one wants to be back in the fields at Bella more than us but the status of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear that delivering an event we all know and love just isn’t going to be possible this year”.

Noting government plans to run a number of pilot schemes in order to test the return of live events this summer, Belladrum organisers went on: “Despite politicians promising a great British summer of music and sport on the back of the vaccine rollout, it is not clear that pilot programmes are being run with enough urgency to enable festivals to go ahead this summer, putting festival organisers in an impossible position”.

Meanwhile, on insurance issues, they added: “We have also been working closely with the rest of the UK event industry in lengthy conversations with the Westminster government to provide an insurance policy for our industry. Without this, the risk of pushing on with planning with no certainty on what the future holds are simply too huge, but the government has refused to engage and this is the consequence”.

Those with tickets for Belladrum 2021 will be offered a 2022 ticket or a refund.