Swine Flu vs UK Festivals - Update
Whilst media sensationalists have been almost gleefully proclaiming the imminent cancellation of the festival season, we don't think that's very likely and here's why...
The true situation with the swine flu "pandemic sweeping through the UK" is that less than 40 people in the country have so far contracted the virus, no-one has died and most have already made a complete recovery. Some have even made a healthy windfall from TV interviews.
Nevertheless, four schools have been closed at the time of writing and the Government has pledged to enforce "whatever measures are necessary" to bring the spread of the virus under control.
In fact, the Government takes its orders on this from the World Health Organisation, who have currently set the Swine Flu alert to 'Phase 5'. This is a signal that the Government needs to swiftly plan its emergency strategy, should the alert escalate, but that no action is required at this stage.
If the alert rises to a Phase 6, however, the Goverment is then required to make a decision as to whether or not cancellation, down-sizing or modifications of mass gatherings - including festivals - is necessary.
If the answer becomes a yes and the live music scene is shut down for a period of time, the industry would be hit hard, particularly the smaller, independent events and any who had not taken out event insurance before the outbreak.
Furthermore, the impact on local economies - which are boosted by as much as tens of millions of pounds per year from some major festivals - would be devastating, not least in the current economic climate.For this reason, it is extremely unlikely that such measures will come into play, a view shared by every festival promoter Virtual Fetsivals has come into contact with recently, including T in the Park's Geoff Ellis, Vince Power, Isle of Wight's John Giddings, Creamfield's James Barton, Bestival's Rob da Bank and Beautiful Days creators The Levellers.
An anonymous promoter said in this week's Music Week: "The authorities seem to be dealing with the existing cases of swine flu very swiftly, so I don't think it will be a problem. Besides, the losses to the UK if there was a nationwide shut-down would be astronomical. We can't afford that given the recession we're already in."
So don't hang your wellies up just yet. In fact, we say that a far more concerning (but in some ways nicer) problem for festival-goers this summer will be the national suncream shortage...