Covid forces cancellation of Greenbelt for second year in a row

Greenbelt 2021 is off after the Government failed to give insurance protection to festivalsAlex Baker Photography

Greenbelt, one of the biggest Christian festivals in the UK, has been cancelled for the second year running due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The festival is normally attended by thousands each year at Boughton House near Kettering and organisers had hoped to go ahead with the event this summer as Covid rates come down.

In an announcement on Tuesday, though, organisers said they had been forced to cancel for a second time because of the Government's refusal to provide festivals with insurance protection. 

It comes despite months of planning and preparation, with bookings already taken. 

Explaining their decision, organisers said that although they were sure the event could be held safely by the summer, going ahead without insurance protection would put Greenbelt's entire future at risk if the plug had to be pulled at the last minute.

"Of course, there are many complex issues to wrestle with in delivering a festival in 2021, against the backdrop of the roadmap and our tentative re-emergence from the long shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic," they said.

"But the central dilemma facing Greenbelt and all other independent festivals is that, if they choose to move ahead without the government behind them, should pandemic restrictions return in the summer and force cancellation or drastic limitations, by then it would be too late.

"Along with many of its friends in the Association of Independent Festivals, Greenbelt has had to make the call to cancel because its pockets are nowhere near deep enough to risk the future of its event." 

Ticketholders have the option of a full refund, rolling their tickets forward to 2022, or donating their ticket back to Greenbelt. 

Organisers said that although they have not received any of the Government's cultural recovery funding, they are confident that the generous support of donors will enable the festival to survive the pandemic. 

They are also working on a hybrid 'Plan B' event which in contrast to the digital-only offering in the summer of 2020 "could be more sunlight than screens".

Paul Northup, Greenbelt's Creative Director, said: "We are heartbroken to cancel again. Particularly because we're sure that by the time late August rolls around all that we do would be safe and perfectly possible. So it will seem sad and unnecessary that we've been forced to cancel.

"It feels like the government injected a whole heap of consumer confidence into the UK events sector with its roadmap but then baulked at the relatively modest amount of money that would have been required to back its own plan with the insurance support it needed.

"Last year's cancellation had a weird, horrible novelty to it: the first summer without festivals. We could barely imagine it, let alone predict that there could be a second. This year, our small team has worked through the awful logic of this decision with a numbed, nauseous feeling. We know what a summer without the chance to come together feels like, and we can't quite believe that we will all have to endure it again.

"Our thoughts go out to all our supporters and ticket buyers, as well as to all our friends in the independent festival sector, all the artists and speakers and all our suppliers. A festival is an ecosystem, a delicate web that means life and livelihoods for so many, for so many reasons."