International arts and world music festival WOMAD has been canceled for 2021, with organizers throwing shade on the UK government for failing to support an event insurance scheme.
The festival, which was set to take place at Charlton Park in Malmesbury from July 22 to July 25, will now take place in July 2022.
In a statement posted to the festival’s website, event organizers said:
Since the government decision to extend the Phase 3 restrictions by at least four weeks (to the 19th of July, 72 hours before WOMAD should open its gates) we have been seeking urgent clarification from the DCMS and Public Health England as to what this means for large scale events such as WOMAD. Whilst the Prime Minister and his colleagues say there will be no restrictions on society at that point, we have been unable to get any confirmation of what the plan is. Nor is there any clarity on how what is being learned from the Event Research Programme might affect the guidance for festivals and how they are required to operate.
Following today’s update and the Government’s unwillingness to provide insurance support for festivals, we are very sadly out of time and have no option but to cancel WOMAD 2021.
A few days after that extension the DCMS sought applications from festivals taking place within that extension period to join the next stage of its Event Research Programme. As WOMAD takes place after that period, we did not qualify. Subsequently and on hearing rumours that events outside that period had been granted “Event Research Programme – Test Event” status we immediately applied and contacted the DCMS and have had no response despite repeated requests.
On the BBC news last Friday, we heard that Latitude and Tramlines festivals have been granted Test Event status on the same weekend as WOMAD which clearly implies that only approved test events will be protected and guaranteed the right to go ahead as normal – even though this flies in the face of the Prime Minister’s statements.
It is the lack of government backed insurance along with these actions that have forced WOMAD to cancel. We have not been asking for financial support; all we have wanted is certainty in the form of insurance against cancellation (that we’d be happy to pay for). We need an understanding of the realities of how our industry works and the benefits that we bring. The industry should see equal access to support and a much less opaque way of deciding who gets help.
It does seem a little bizarre that a five-day camping event at Silverstone is a risk worth taking and independent festivals alas are not. With 140,000 people attending the Silverstone Grand Prix it certainly doesn’t seem to be supported by science – as even Lewis Hamilton has commented.
At WOMAD, we are indebted to our audiences, artists, and suppliers for the love and support we have received, which has only increased as we have tried to climb the mountain that kept growing in front of us. We hope you will continue to hang in there with us, and as for options of ticket refunds or rollovers to 2022, we hope as many of you as possible will consider rolling your tickets over to join us next year from 28 – 31st July 2022 – It’s easy, do nothing and your ticket will automatically roll over.
Festival co-founder Peter Gabriel added: “It is with great regret that we are cancelling WOMAD ’21 today. Without the simple support of a government insurance scheme or the guarantee of Test Event status, we cannot continue and put WOMAD’s long term future at risk. We feel that our audience, artists, staff, and contractors, who have been amazingly supportive throughout all this, will understand the need for us to act to guarantee our survival.”