WOMAD founder Peter Gabriel has announced in a statement that this year’s festival has been cancelled.
Gabriel has said that continuing with plans for this year’s event, which was set to take place from 22-25 July, would put the whole festival’s “long term future at risk”.
“It is with great regret that we are cancelling WOMAD 21”, says Gabriel in the statement. “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.
“Since the government decision to extend the phase three [COVID] restrictions by at least four weeks (to 19 Jul, 72 hours before WOMAD should open its gates) we have been seeking urgent clarification from the Department For Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and Public Health England as to what this means for large scale events such as WOMAD”, Gabriel’s statement continues.
“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 Events Research Programme might affect the guidance for festivals and how they are required to operate."
Gabriel highlights that next month’s Latitude and Tramlines festivals have now been added to the list of pilot events included in the government’s Events Research Programme (ERP), “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,” says Gabriel, who revealed that WOMAD applied to be included in the ERP as soon as lockdown restrictions were extended in June, but this was denied because the event was set to take place after 19 July.
“It is the lack of government backed insurance along with these actions that have forced WOMAD to cancel”, he continues in the statement. “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”.
Tickets already purchased for this year’s WOMAD will be rolled over to next year’s event, scheduled to take place on 28-31 July 2022, with refunds also available.