Nick Morgan (pictured), CEO of The Fair and Chair of UKEVENTS Outdoor Events Working Group calls on the Government for tax relief for the live events sector
In the vibrant heart of the UK lies a cultural phenomenon that has enchanted the world for generations: our festival, music, and cultural events. These events have not only become integral to our national identity but have also fuelled our economy, attracted millions of visitors from around the world, and continue to provide countless jobs. However, the UK events industry faces continued challenges, and it is time for everyone to recognise the looming crisis and act collectively to preserve the spirit of our nation’s creative heritage.
The events that have defined the UK’s creative landscape are in peril, and with them, our ability to innovate and inspire. The creative industry has been the cornerstone of our global reputation, but its future hangs in the balance as we grapple with the risks that threaten its very existence.
One of the most pressing risks is the lack of investment from the government in our culture. Astonishingly, the UK spends only 0.2% of its GDP on culture, while other countries like Estonia, Hungary, and Iceland allocate 1.1%. This disparity in funding puts our nation at a disadvantage and will undoubtedly have detrimental effects on our cultural vibrancy in the long run.
Moreover, the rising supply costs have become a formidable barrier for event promoters, making it increasingly difficult for them to organise successful events. Additionally, the terms and conditions surrounding event planning have become more stringent, further stifling the growth of new and innovative events.
We must recognise that even iconic festivals and events are not immune to these challenges. The media may report record-breaking attendances at large gigs, but what often goes unnoticed is that behind these successful events are conglomerates, more concerned with preserving their share prices than nurturing creativity and cultural experiences.
The Mayor of London’s office and the London Assembly announced that over the summer, more than one million people attended festivals and shows in the capital alone, generating more than £320 million in ticket sales. Indeed, following the second phase of his Let’s Do London campaign, which is successfully bringing more visitors to the city, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “London is the undisputed world leader in live music.”
Mayor Khan is providing funding for grassroots music venues and encouraging support, and that is a welcome intervention, but the bigger picture remains a concern.
On a national scale, the top-line numbers are deceptive. Music tourism generated £6.6 billion of spending in the UK in 2022, attracting more than 14 million international and domestic tourists to live events, according to a report by UK Music. It also notes that more than 30.6 million people went to a live show of some sort in 2022, supporting 56,000 jobs.
These are impressive numbers, and ones that should make pleasant reading for any MP, but the challenges stated above are a very real threat. If the Government is serious about protecting what it might see as a core revenue stream for UK Plc, then it must be bold in its solutions to tackle the underlying issues.
While the situation backstage may seem dire, there are steps we can take to steer our outdoor events back on track. The UKEVENTS Outdoor Working Group, under my guidance, is actively working on various solutions to revive our events industry and safeguard our cultural heritage.
Firstly, we are pushing for VAT relief in the short term, understanding that it may not be ideal given the current circumstances. However, in the long run, it is a crucial step to prevent an industry-wide collapse, ultimately benefiting the public purse.
Additionally, we ask the Government to implement a VAT cut from 20% to 5% on tickets for three years to provide much-needed breathing space for event promotors and give them a chance to bounce back from the past three years of dormancy.
Collaboration with the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) is paramount. By championing the sector and encouraging people to attend shows, we aim to restore the confidence of attendees who may have been reluctant to return to events after the prolonged hiatus.
The Government must act now
Unless we take immediate action, there remains the likelihood that more shows will fail, taking millions of spend with them. The time to act is now, and we call upon the UK Government to back its claims of being a global leader in events by providing the necessary support to rejuvenate our cultural scene.
The UK has always been a powerhouse of artistic expression, attracting talent from every corner of the world. However, we are walking blindly towards a cultural crisis that could irreparably damage the very soul of our nation.
As we face these challenges, I urge the Government to increase its investment in culture. By doing so, we can not only preserve our heritage but also bolster our economy and create a brighter future for generations to come.