Coronavirus: Why hanging on to a ticket could save your favourite festival

By Steve Holden
Newsbeat music reporter

James and his mates Ethan, Joshua and Matthew at Glastonbury 2019Image source, James Tudor Jones
Image caption,
James and his mates Ethan, Joshua and Matthew at Glastonbury 2019

"After everything that's been going on we just want a bit of a party."

James Tudor Jones, 23, has been looking forward to Kendal Calling festival in the Lake District this summer but expects his plans to change.

"I'm praying it's going ahead but the likelihood is it's going to get cancelled any day now," he tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

Despite the coronavirus crisis, the festival is still currently due to take place in late July, with Foals and You Me At Six on the line-up.

If (or rather when) it does get cancelled, James says he'll roll his ticket over to next year as "it's the least we can do to support the festival".

Refund or rollover?

Depending on who you bought a festival ticket from, fans are likely to be entitled to a full refund if it has to cancel - and many people in the UK already have already claimed money back.

However, many festival organisers are hoping that people who have tickets will keep them for next year as the events enter "survival mode", according to the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF).

Image source, Getty Images

The AIF, which represents more than 60 events, says many of its members face losing huge amounts of money if or when they announce a postponement or a cancellation due to coronavirus.

In the worst case scenario, it fears some smaller festivals will go under if they end up having to pay back thousands of pounds in refunds.

"If they need to refund on mass, they might not be able to return next year," says AIF chief executive Paul Reed.

"Staging festivals is a year round endeavour. There's a cashflow concern and a lot of money has already been spent that festivals won't get back."

Wanting your money back

If fans do want a refund, individual festivals should be instructing them on how to get one (depending on where you bought the ticket).

According to Citizens Advice, if you no longer want to attend but the festival hasn't cancelled yet, you're not entitled to a refund.

Some of the AIF-represented festivals which are still due to take place this year include:

  • Boardmasters, Cornwall
  • Kendal Calling, Lake District
  • Standon Calling, Hertfordshire
  • End Of The Road, Dorset

Typically, at this point in the year, festivals of all sizes have already paid out on things like artist deposits, contractors' deposits and fees, press and marketing, staff costs and infrastructure.

The AIF says insurance, potential refunds and the drop in ticket sales are all issues organisers are currently dealing with as they decide what to do.

Image source, Steph Simmons
Image caption,
We're assuming these two might want to return to Deer Shed Festival, a smaller, family-focussed event which has rescheduled for next year

'We could be ruined'

Bloodstock in Derbyshire is due to celebrate its 20th anniversary this summer. It hasn't cancelled yet, but its director tells Newsbeat it will be "devastating" if that has to happen.

The co-founder of ArcTanGent in Bristol, Goc O'Callaghan, says she's worried a business that's taken years to grow "could be ruined in a matter of weeks unless the government steps in and offers support."

Oliver Jones, director of Deer Shed Festival in North Yorkshire, says the "essential thing" for him is that people "roll their tickets forward" after he had to cancel this year's event.

"The number of people who refund their tickets will have a financial impact on this. We're resigned to the fact that we are going to be losing money this year," he says.

Since the cancellation, the percentage of people seeking a refund to Deer Shed has been low and Oliver's currently feeling "more upbeat than since coronavirus cast a shadow over us".

'A festival is my summer holiday'

Recent figures showed nearly 5 million people went to a festival (in 2018) and helped the live sector contribute £1.1 billion to the UK economy.

Isabel Knight, 24, says her trip to 2000 Trees in Gloucestershire is the "highlight of the summer" and her "annual holiday".

Currently, the festival is still set to take place but Isabel thinks it's "silly" to assume it will happen and is likely to take advantage of a rollover option.

"It's all been paid for. I did monthly instalments since the tickets went on sale last year. The money's already gone out of my account so I may as well wait for next year now," she tells Newsbeat.

Image source, Isabel Knight
Image caption,
Isabel Knight (in the mac on the right) says 'the feeling you get from a festival is what we'll need after all this'.

AIF boss Paul Reed says many independent festivals will struggle because their insurance won't cover a communicable disease like Covid-19 and there's a feeling they're "falling between the cracks in terms of government support."

In a statement, the government says it will get "great British festivals back up and running as soon as it safe to do so" but its focus now is making sure people stay at home.

Responding to the AIF's concerns, it says it's "committed" to supporting festivals during the outbreak.

"This includes an unprecedented support package for businesses and workers. We are also in regular contact with the creative industries during this unprecedented time."

Follow Newsbeat on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Listen to Newsbeat live at 12:45 and 17:45 weekdays - or listen back here.