UK Music’s Jamie Njoku-Goodwin speaks at festival organisers’ conference

UK Music Chief Executive outlines to AFO conference how festivals can play key role in the post-pandemic economic and cultural recovery - with the right support. 

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20.02.2021: UK Music Chief Executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin tells the AFO conference how festivals and live music events can play in the post-pandemic economic and cultural recovery – with the right support. 

Read his full speech to the AFO today (Saturday) below:

Good afternoon, and thank you for having me at the AFO Conference 2021

It’s a real pleasure to be speaking at this conference, and to have the chance to say some words about the vital role festivals play in our country’s cultural landscape and how I see the wider situation facing the music industry in the context of Covid-19.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the brilliant work done by Steve Heap and the whole AFO team. Steve has been a superb and compelling advocate of festivals, fighting for your interests and taking your case directly to MPs, officials and ministers.

You couldn’t have a better champion for this sector.

Let me first start by saying that festivals are an integral part of the UK’s vibrant cultural scene. 

They help to generate billions of pounds for the economy every year, support thousands of jobs across the country, and draw millions of music tourists to all four corners of the UK.

In addition to the huge economic impact they have, festivals also bring important social and cultural benefits. 

And let’s never forget how much they boost our global reputation, generating significant amounts of soft power for Britain across the world. 

As Chief Executive of UK Music, I represent the whole of the British music industry and bring together all elements of the music sector – from record companies to music publishers, music creators to collecting societies and the live sector.

All those parts of the music industry have a vested interest in there being a strong and successful festival sector.

Because when festivals suffer, the whole music industry suffers.

That’s why the impact of Covid-19 on live music has been so devastating for our entire sector.

Live events thrive on social contact. As that has been restricted, our industry has struggled to survive — and while the public health measures have been necessary to combat the pandemic, they have dealt a cruel blow to what has always been a proudly successful and self-reliant industry. 

Festivals have been one of the biggest casualties over the course of the pandemic, and the impact has been felt by artists, by crews, by composers and songwriters, and by audiences alike.

For this reason, one of my top priorities as UK Music Chief Executive has been to do everything I can to get live music going again, working with Government and with industry to make this happen.

To achieve this, I believe festivals and the wider live music sector requires three things: safety, certainty and security.

First, safety. We are still in the midst of a deadly pandemic and so it’s been important that we do everything we can as a sector to make events as safe as possible.

There has been some brilliant work on this front, with our sector engaging on testing, developing safe working guidance with government, and looking at all possible options to make live events as safe as possible.

If we are to convince Government to allow us to open, we must continue to highlight the huge amount our sector has done to reduce the risk of transmission at festivals and make live events safe to operate.

Second, we need certainty. Many festivals take months to plan – meaning that while June or July might seem a long way away to some, festivals are having to start making decisions about their summer plans now. 

It’s therefore vital that Government provides certainty about when live events will be allowed to operate again – or at the very least what the conditions are under which they will be allowed to take place again, whether that is vaccine rollout progress, or case rates, or hospital capacity.

Thirdly, we need financial security. 

The commercial insurance market is not currently offering viable Covid-19 cancellation policies for festivals, and the financial risk of planning an event without proper insurance is too great for many organisers to bear. 

This market failure should be urgently addressed by the government, as the lack of viable insurance options is one of the biggest barriers to festivals and live music events taking place this year. 

A government-backed insurance scheme is critical – the risks of putting on events during a pandemic means that without it, many festivals will not have the confidence to go ahead this year. 

In recent months, a whole host of European countries have introduced funds to cover the cancellation costs of events. With other countries acting to protect their events industries, it is vital that the UK does not get left behind.

In addition to insurance, we also need to help recapitalise festivals and remove cost burdens. 

Policies like the VAT rate reduction were welcome last year, but the restrictions on events mean we were unable to take advantage of them. 

They should be extended for their full benefit to be realised. 

And as long as we are not allowed to operate viably as sector, then the Government must provide us with adequate economic support to keep us going until we can generate our own revenue once again.

The Culture Recovery Fund was a lifeline for many festivals and organisations across the sector, but it will have all been for nothing if those businesses and organisations are allowed to collapse before we get to the finish line.

Covid-19 has devastated the whole live events sector, but that devastation does not have to be permanent. 

We were a growing and thriving industry before the pandemic hit, and with the right support we can be that successful and self-reliant industry once again.

I passionately believe that festivals and live music events can have a key role to play in the post-pandemic economic and cultural recovery, if we get the right support. 

So it is in the whole country’s interest for festivals and the wider live music sector to be supported through this pandemic and helped back to operating again as soon as it is safe to do so.

And I look forward to working with you as a sector to achieve this.

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