Festival organizers are disappointed with the cabinet decision to extend the ban on multi-day festivals until at least September 1, as a result of which Lowlands, Down The Rabbit Hole and Mysteryland, among others, cannot continue. It is “a huge disappointment” for both staff and visitors, who “have been locked up or curtailed in all kinds of ways for a year and a half,” says Lowlands director Eric van Eerdenburg in a telephone response. However, there is relief that the cabinet is creating clarity.
During a press conference on Monday, outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte called it “unresponsible” to allow the multi-day festivals to take place this summer. According to the prime minister, the decision is mainly related to the logistical task of ‘retesting’ visitors for the virus during a festival. In future, at events that work with Tests for Access, visitors must have a negative test result of no more than 24 hours old, where the validity previously expired after 40 hours.
With this requirement, the cabinet followed a recommendation from the Outbreak Management Team (OMT), which it previously ignored. This presented the festival sector with a challenge. Festival campsites, for example, should be equipped with large-scale testing facilities. According to Lowlands director Van Eerdenburg, that was an “impossible task”: “As if you have to test everyone every day in a city of 70,000 people. A test takes three minutes, do the math.”
Due to the ban, the multi-day festivals that would take place until September 1 can claim the Guarantee Scheme Events. According to Van Eerdenburg, this is mainly a ‘plaster on the wound’: ‘We have been compensated, but there are more costs than just project costs. However, this also means that all suppliers can be paid.”
The government will announce what will happen to festivals that take place on one day by August 13 at the latest. This is too late for festival organization ID&T. That is why the company is continuing the previously suspended summary proceedings. “Based on the results of the Fieldlab events, we know that we can organize events without overnight stays in a safe and responsible manner. It is not an option for us to wait until August 13 for a decision for events that are already planned the day after,” said operational director Rosanne Janmaat.
The Alliance of Event Builders, a coalition of several festival and event organizers, has already called on the cabinet to make a decision “with the greatest urgency” about one-day events.
Festival organizer UDC, responsible for the Dance Valley (August 14) and Dutch Valley (August 15) festivals, on the other hand, called it “pointless” to speculate about cancellation: “The measures apply until August 13, so we will continue with the organization. The additional requirements for Testing for Access are no problem for us.”
On Friday, the Belgian festival Pukkelpop already announced that the festival will not take place this year. In Flanders, too, the government required a test certificate of a maximum of 24 hours old, which the organization saw no other option than cancellation. A few international artists who would be at Pukkelpop already reported to Lowlands, which would take place in the same weekend (20 to 22 August).
The organization of the Grand Prix in Zandvoort assumes that the cancellation of the multi-day festivals will not affect the Formula 1 race. qualification. “The Dutch Grand Prix is a sporting event and therefore does not fall under the regulation of multi-day music festivals,” according to the organization. “We assume that the current measures have the desired effect and that the same measures can be released after August 13 for professionally organized sporting events.”
A version of this article also appeared in NRC in the morning of July 27, 2021