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Boomtown cancels its smaller replacement show because of surging COVID cases

By | Published on Thursday 15 July 2021


Demonstrating that the UK festival sector is still facing some significant challenges, despite the lifting of most remaining COVID rules next week, organisers of the Boomtown Fair have announced the cancellation of the small-scale event that they were hoping to stage in place of this year’s main event.

The main Boomtown Fair, due to take place in August, was cancelled earlier this year as the COVID shutdown extended. Although it seemed likely COVID restrictions would be lifted by August, Boomtown – like many other summer festivals – couldn’t afford to continue spending money on planning its 2021 edition while there was still a risk of last minute cancellation if any new COVID rules popped up.

The real problem, of course, is that there isn’t currently any cancellation insurance available on the commercial market and the UK government has so far refused to offer a state-backed alternative.

Subsequent to the cancellation, Boomtown organisers announced that they would stage a different smaller event in August this year that was specifically “designed to be at a more manageable size with significantly reduced risks”. With the government confirming on Monday that most remaining COVID rules will lift next week, it looked likely that Boomtown’s smaller event would be able to go ahead.

However, at the same time COVID cases are surging across the UK meaning that, even if there are no specific rules stopping the smaller Boomtown show from going ahead next month, it is still possible that COVID-related logistical issues could result in cancellation. In particular, it could result in members of the event’s crew suddenly being forced to self-isolate and being unable to work on the show.

Organisers said in a statement yesterday: “These past few days we have been back in the excruciating position of weighing up every possible scenario to see how we might be able to proceed. There is so much excitement out there for us to come together and host this beautiful festival but sadly the risks of holding the event now outweigh all the wonderful reasons for going ahead”.

“The core decision”, they went on, “is due to the escalating cases of COVID-19 across the country, and the risks that widespread illness and self-isolation could have on our crew and contractors, which would result in us not having enough people to build and deliver the show to the high public safety standards we uphold”.

“We appreciate that this decision may be confusing in light of the latest government announcement relaxing most of the COVID legislation from Monday”, they added. “In that announcement it was also stated that the responsibility and ‘common sense’ now lies with the individual or organisation; that is a responsibility we take very seriously. The circumstances we’ve outlined above severely affect our ability to deliver a show where we could guarantee high levels of safety for all in attendance, as there are so many factors outside of our control”.

They then concluded: “Whilst cancellation may not be the case for all festivals and we truly hope that many will still be able to continue this summer, as a fully independent festival with a small but highly skilled team and a close-knit extended crew, the rise in cases and isolation pose a real threat that we simply cannot ignore. Unfortunately, we have to accept this and make the best decision for all involved and in attendance, as well as the future of the festival”.

People with tickets for the streamlined event have been emailed about automatic refunds.