When the cancellation of Glastonbury’s 50th anniversary festival was first announced as the pandemic started to take hold in the UK last year, it was a huge blow to the music industry but came as no surprise.
As the government showed us graphs of “flattening the curve”, and the impression was given it would be a case of simply getting through the next few months, at Worthy Farm in Somerset, tickets were rolled over and no doubt plans were made to get acts to keep their diaries free for June 2021.
While awful for everyone involved, it was one year, another fallow year. It would be okay.
Even when the festival’s founder, Michael Eavis, warned in August last year that he would “move heaven and earth” to make Glastonbury 2021 go ahead but that it might be “wishful thinking“, it still felt like he was erring on the side of caution, managing expectations, just in case. At that time, COVID-19 cases had been falling, lockdown measures had eased, the curve looked less terrifying and it felt like maybe things would start to get back to normal.
We all know what happened next. With cases starting to rise again and new variants of the coronavirus emerging, even with news of the vaccines being approved, normal started to seem very far away.
So cancelling Glastonbury for a second year sadly began to feel inevitable.
Bizarrely, it was Spice Girl Mel B who called it just a few weeks ago, saying in an interview that she had learned it was off. But Emily Eavis, who runs the festival, said no decision had been made at the time.
Just a few weeks later, they could clearly leave the announcement no longer. It is now official, with Michael and Emily Eavis announcing “another enforced fallow year” in a statement.
This news will be hugely disappointing for the 200,000 people who make the annual pilgrimage each year – the acts, their crew, the festival workers, the volunteers, as well as the fans.
With great regret, we must announce that this year’s Glastonbury Festival will not take place, and that this will be another enforced fallow year for us. Tickets for this year will roll over to next year. Full statement below and on our website. Michael & Emily pic.twitter.com/SlNdwA2tHd
— Glastonbury Festival (@glastonbury) January 21, 2021
But this is more than just a case of a missed weekend of fun. Glastonbury is the most famous festival in the word – its headline announcements alone making international news – and its cancellation is surely a bellwether for what we can expect for the rest of the 2021 festival season.
And it comes after almost a year of artists and those in the industry losing a huge chunk, if not all, of their income due to venues being closed.
The music industry is worth £5.8bn to the UK economy, generating 200,000 jobs, but as of December, half were working in roles outside the sector, according to the Musicians’ Union.
Of course, the Eavises had no choice. Socially distancing a festival of this scale would be impossible; despite the success with vaccinations so far in the UK, there are no guarantees.
While the big artists – Taylor Swift, Sir Paul McCartney and Kendrick Lamar had been due to headline Glastonbury in 2020 – will be okay, for the musicians and industry workers who have just scraped through the past 10 months, this news will have come as a devastating start to 2021.
And June 2022 seems a long way off.