Not all festivals boast the capacity and footprint of the 140,000-capacity Glastonbury, but they all come with their own risks, challenges and unforeseen headaches.
As the festival market gets more competitive, the individual events have had to go above and beyond to win headliners and get people through the gates.
With multiple stages, numerous artistes and production crews and hundreds of thousands of pounds of hired equipment, event organisers feel the pressure of having to keep pace with ever higher expectations from their audiences.
But, while the most experienced festival teams are used to rolling with the punches and tackling the unexpected, comprehensive insurance cover is ever-more essential.
At the very least, it provides peace of mind, but could save a festival’s future in the worst cases.
Including many of the most experienced live music specialists, having acquired the pioneering Robertson Taylor some years ago, Integro Insurance Brokers works with festival organisers all over the world, from independent promoters dealing with niche audiences to the second largest festival operator in the UK and the largest greenfield festival in the world.
Integro account executive Tim Rudland is keen to highlight the ongoing need for a particular type of insurance that has “slipped under the radar” for many festival organisers recently, which is compulsory motor insurance for vehicles and plant.
“A common interpretation we hear from organisers is that if a vehicle or item of plant isn’t used on a road, then it doesn’t need motor insurance because the liability [injuring someone or something] will be covered under your Public Liability policy,” he says.
“However, the European Union Motor Insurance Directive states that insurance should be in place for ‘any use of a vehicle that is consistent with the normal function of vehicle’. In other words, even if a vehicle is on private land, it may potentially need compulsory insurance and, if that is the case, your standard liability insurance won’t provide cover, and you would be left uninsured.”
Rudland’s advice is for festival organisers to take on an insurance broker as part of the event team. “That way we can be open and frank about the risks, and you can make informed
“Events are becoming more diverse in order to stand-out from the ever-increasing competition, so it’s always a challenge to make sure every element is covered,” he adds.
“Ensure you use a broker who understands what you’re doing and can actually add value to your event. When something goes wrong, you’ll want to know that you’ve positioned yourself with someone who knows your event and the insurance required.”
Media Insurance Brokers provided insurance for around 150 festivals last summer including Boomtown Fair (50,000), Shambala (10,000) and End Of The Road (7,000)
Director Steven Howell notes that, as festival production budgets have increased over time, the demand for event cancellation insurance has increased along with hired equipment cover.
“In recent years a lot of ticketing partners have started to hold back cash advances unless an event cancellation policy is in place which also names them,” he explains. “This has also led to an increase in number of festivals organising taking out this type of insurance cover.
“Historically very few organisers purchased event cancellation cover and most kit would have been insured by the hire firm, rather than the event organiser.”
Howell adds, however, that the majority of events do manage to go ahead, with contingency plans being made well in advance and emergency budgets put in place.
“The majority of claims we see are for additional expenses in order to make sue the event opens on time – things like hiring pumps to remove surface water, extra trackway or bark to shore up soggy fields,” he says.
“When these additional expenses exceed the organiser’s contingency budget then they can be claimed under the event cancellation policy, as this mitigates a full loss if there’s a danger the event would be cancelled if the action were not taken and the money not spent.”
“Events are becoming more diverse in order to stand-out from the ever-increasing competition, so it’s always a challenge to make sure every element is covered”
To make sure all eventualities are adequately prepared for, Howell is another who stresses the need to talk to a specialist insurance broker as early as possible in the planning process.
“We can help by providing indications of insurance costs for the budget, advise on how to mitigate risks and the policies available to protect the event, the equipment, the people attending and the staff.”
He also suggests choosing subcontractors carefully. “Always engage with subcontractors that are specialists in their field and have their own adequate insurance in place,” he says.
“You don’t want to open yourself up to claims arising from the negligence of a supplier, as this could be costly for you and also damage the reputation of the festival.”
Event Insurance Services works with festivals such as Blokout Festival (5,000) at Locko Park in Derbyshire, the PierJam events (2,000) at Blackpool and Hastings piers, and S2S Dance Festival (3,000).
Company director Dan Rose also points to the changing nature of festivals and their increasing diversity, as having an impact on how organisers need to think about insurance.
“A food festival might also incorporate elements beyond food,” he offers as an example. “It might also have things like bouncy castles, fairground rides, animal displays and petting zoos. As such, you can’t approach it simply as a food festival. Each element needs to be investigated.”
Rose goes on to describe how the impact of a festival cancellation can tumble beyond the initial costs.
“When an event is cancelled, lots of time, energy and money is spent on contacting ticketholders and suppliers. That’s on top of the lost income, which is often what goes towards funding the event for the following
“Any kind of loss can be detrimental and threaten the future prospects of the organisation or individual organising the event,” he points out. “Fortunately, insurance is available to cover a whole host of things. While you can’t insure for every eventuality, you can insure for the majority of things which could go wrong.
“Run the event like a business, get your best people involved and take out insurance as soon as possible,” he advises. “Build a robust Risk Management Policy including a number of options within your contingency plan.”
Director of EVS Insurance Brokers Darren Vickery is experienced in working with festivals and events ranging from 1,000 capacity to 40,000.
“Every festival is unique and has different requirements,” he says, “so we will provide a bespoke policy that best fits their needs.”
One major risk that organisers of events of all sizes need to be alert to is the new threat of terrorism.
“Over the past few years, music events have been targeted and we have been discussing this more and more with event organisers,” says Vickery. “The threat of terrorism is not purely restricted to your event, something could happen nearby and have a knock-on effect resulting in your event being cancelled.”
Vickery says that more organisers are also taking out insurance to cover an unexpected period of national mourning, which has the capacity to disrupt their event indirectly.
“Event organisers put considerable time, effort and money into organising their events. However, if it were to fall within a period of national mourning, it may have to be cancelled.
“With royals having been admitted to hospital due to ill health recently, the risk of a potential national mourning incident is increasing and could start to play a huge part in festivals and events over the coming months and years,” he says. “It has never occurred in this country before, so nobody really knows what will happen.”
TicketPlan has zeroed in on a particular section of the consumer festival experience, working specifically with ticketing agencies who sell on behalf of the likes of Glastonbury, Rewind (30,000), Y Not (25,000) and Festival No 6 (15,000).
The firm provides ticket refund protection and insurance solutions that protect ticket buyers against their inability to attend events.
“With customers purchasing tickets further and further in advance, solutions such as our own are more valuable and necessary than ever,” says TicketPlan development manager Ben Bray. “Naturally, with an extended period during which things can go wrong, administering these facilities is not without its challenges.
“We are finding that there are more and more ticket vendors who are understandably enabling buyers to pay for their festival tickets via instalment and payment plans, and we have worked with our partner companies to tailor ticket protection facilities to suit the different payment methods that they
Bray says that, over the past couple of decades, ticket protection and insurance has grown from a very niche concept to a customer expectation.
“The only thing worse than not being able to attend an event booked due to an accident or illness, is being left out of pocket,” he says. “In offering customers TicketPlan protection, vendors and festivals are giving ticket purchasers the option of protecting themselves against these and many other unforeseen eventualities.”
He suggests that offering a ticket refund insurance facility is attractive to ticket sellers and encourages them to book further in advance knowing that they have an added level of
“However, partnering with a ticket insurance provider is an important decision and there are many issues that need to be considered,” he warns. “A provider’s history in this very niche market, coupled with their attitude to regulatory compliance is absolutely key.
“This is especially important if you are involved in selling tickets to overseas events or overseas-based customers.
“There is no one size fits all solution when it comes to ticket refund insurance and protection. Both the ticket seller and their ticket insurance partner need to ensure that they are adhering to all applicable regulations in all of the markets in which they operate.”