How to cancel a festival: what to remember?

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Unfortunately, festivals get cancelled.

It’s not something we like to think about when we’re planning our events, but it’s a reality that we might have to deal with sooner or later.

In fact, in the last month alone, Camp Bestival in Dorset was cancelled due to adverse weather conditions, Field Trip festival in Somerset was cancelled because the location was no longer tenable and, astonishingly, the Another World Festival in Bristol had to be called off because of the amount of sheep poo found on the field.

Cancelled festivals cause people to become disappointed or angry. For many, the festival was going to be a highlight of their calendar.

As an organiser, you can do everything in your power to ensure that a festival isn’t cancelled, but examples like the above show that you can’t account for all possibilities.

When you have to cancel a festival for reasons outside of your control, it’s disappointing for everyone, but prior planning can limit the damage.

To help you out, here’s our list of 5 things to remember when you have to cancel a festival. Some of these are things you should do before cancellation, and some are in the aftermath. It’s important that you remember them all if you want your customers to purchase tickets for your event in the future.

1. Purchase an insurance policy with cancellation cover

If you have to cancel a festival at the last minute, you could be left with big debts to contractors. In many cases, you will have booked caterers, live acts and staff based on the revenue you planned to receive from festival goers.

If the festival is cancelled for reasons outside of your control, an insurance policy with cancellation cover should cover you for any costs already incurred. It’s obviously not the scenario you’d have chosen, but it will limit the damage and ensure that the cancellation doesn’t financially cripple you, or your business, for future events.

One word of caution; you should purchase your policy through a specialist event insurance broker. Specialists understand the true cost of cancellation, and can tailor a policy to suit your exact needs.

2. No sudden announcements – keep your customers informed

Breaking news of cancellations is never going to go down well, but even less so if it comes out of the blue. Customers want to know that you’re doing everything in your power to prevent the festival being cancelled. They also want to be in a position where they’re not spending hundreds of pounds (and lots of time) organising transport and accommodation if there’s a strong chance the festival won’t go ahead.

As soon as you think there is a possibility of cancellation, start communicating with your customers, even if it’s just to alert them that a thunder storm is predicted, or the police are advising of political marches on the same day. You might lose some customers in the build-up, but you’ll prevent a lot more from never wanting to purchase with you again.

3. Offer refunds as soon as possible

What could be worse than a festival you were really looking forward to, being cancelled? Not going to the festival and not having the money to do anything else as you’re waiting for your refund. It might seem like a financial hit, but less disappointed customers could make you a lot more money in the long run. Get refunds sorted straight away, and it’s one less thing for you to think about.

4. Give your contractors as much notice as possible

Your responsibility isn’t just to your customers; the contractors you’ve hired may rely on the takings from your festival to keep their business in the black. It’s not always possible, especially if your festival is cancelled last minute, but letting the contractors know of the cancellation as soon as possible may give them enough time to sort a booking elsewhere.

5. Speak to local accommodation and travel companies

And finally, customers will think better of you if you’re seen to be doing everything you can to make sure cancellation doesn’t affect them too much. As soon as you realise your festival needs to be cancelled, talk to local travel and accommodation companies to find out what refund options are available to customers. It’s not your fault the festival is cancelled, but it is in your power to make sure that it doesn’t leave ticket holders completely out of pocket.

And that’s our five things. If you’ve had experience of cancelling a festival, we’d love to hear from you. Your experience could give lessons and learnings to thousands of others.

If you’re planning a festival, make Insure Our Event one of your first stops. We’ll help you organise your insurance and minimise the possibility, or impact, of cancellation.

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