5 percent

WHAT IS THE ISSUE?

Festivals are in trouble. We're asking the UK Government to lower VAT on music festival ticket sales from 20% to 5% for a temporary period of three years and we need YOUR help to reach our goal.

Stendhal Festival, a beacon of culture and music in Northern Ireland, has navigated the turbulent waters of the events sector, much like its counterparts across the UK and beyond. As an independent festival, Stendhal has faced its own set of challenges within the broader context of the music festival industry’s recent hardships. 

The festival successfully ran in 2019 but was forced to close its gates in 2020 due to the pandemic, missing crucial seasons for growth and stabilisation. The introduction of temporary support from the UK Government, such as the reduction of VAT from 20% to 5% on ticket sales, would offer a vital lifeline, allowing Stendhal and others like it the breathing room needed to recover and rebuild. Unfortunately, not every festival has survived this period; one in six were permanently lost due to the financial strains imposed by the pandemic. 

In 2021, Stendhal Festival made a triumphant return as the first event to run in the whole island of Ireland, although operating on tickets sold at 2019 prices, despite facing significantly higher production and operational costs. The aftermath of the pandemic, compounded by the effects of Brexit, led to a sharp increase in costs, notably in production and artist touring expenses, exacerbated by a shortage of skilled labour. Despite these challenges and operating at a loss, Stendhal remained committed to delivering a high-quality experience to its audience without increasing ticket prices. 

The following years, 2022 to 2023, continued to test the resilience of the festival industry. Stendhal, among others, adjusted by increasing ticket prices to counterbalance rising supply chain costs. However, the onset of inflation, geopolitical tensions, and an energy crisis further complicated financial planning. The strong demand for festival experiences contrasted sharply with the economic realities, leading to the cancellation of numerous festivals due to financial pressures. 

Behind the scenes, the story was one of struggle and perseverance. Like many festivals, Stendhal had taken on loans and relied on the Cultural Recovery Fund to survive the pandemic. The consecutive impacts of the 2021 to 2023 seasons left many festivals, including stalwarts of the industry, facing uncertain futures. Several notable events announced their closure or hiatus, highlighting the precarious state of the festival scene. 

The call for action is clear: without immediate and targeted support from the UK Government, more festivals, potentially including Stendhal, face the risk of making 2024 their final year. Temporary measures, such as the proposed VAT reduction on ticket sales, could provide the essential support needed for these cultural landmarks to continue their legacy. 

Stendhal Festival’s journey mirrors the broader challenges faced by the music festival industry in recent years. It stands as a testament to the resilience and passion of those who create these unforgettable experiences, as well as a reminder of the importance of supporting cultural events in these trying times.

 

 

5%

WHAT CAN THE GOVERNMENT DO?

We’re appealing to the UK Government for crucial support in the aftermath of the challenges we’ve faced. By reducing the VAT on music festival ticket sales from the current 20% to 5% for a proposed period of three years, we believe this adjustment could significantly aid in the recovery and rebuilding process of festivals across the country.

This request isn’t without precedent; the Government had previously lowered VAT rates during the Covid-19 pandemic to support the events sector, which had a profoundly positive impact. We’re urging a similar intervention now to help us navigate through the current difficulties.

The context of our appeal is further underscored by an international comparison. The UK’s VAT rate for cultural events stands out as notably higher than that of many of our European counterparts. For instance, France applies a VAT of 5.5% to such events, Sweden 6%, Germany 7%, Italy and Finland both 10%, and Ireland 13.5%. This disparity places additional financial strain on both the festivals and their patrons in the UK.

By aligning the UK’s VAT rate for music festivals more closely with those of other countries, the Government would not only level the playing field but also demonstrate a tangible commitment to the cultural sector’s sustainability and growth. This measure would offer a lifeline to festivals like ours, enabling us to continue delivering the rich cultural experiences our audiences cherish, while also ensuring the sector’s long-term viability.

WHAT CAN I DO?

Your Mission: Write for the Love of Music

The single most impactful action you can take? Pen a heartfelt letter to your local MP. We’re talking old-school: type it, print it, post it. Your voice can sway the decision to lower VAT on music festival tickets from a steep 20% to a mere 5% for three crucial years. This isn’t just about saving a few quid; it’s about saving the soul of the festival scene.

Finding Your MP is Easy: Just hop online, enter your postcode, and voilà! Remember, your MP champions the voices of their constituents – that means you.

CLICK HERE TO FIND YOUR MP

What to Write? Start with the basics: your name and address. Then, dive into the heart of the matter. Express your desire for a VAT reduction to rescue music festivals. But don’t stop there! Share your festival stories and why these magical gatherings matter to you. Whether it’s the music, the memories, or the community, let your personal touch shine through.

Beyond the Letter: Spread the Word

Be a Festival Hero: Don’t keep this crusade to yourself. Shout it from the digital rooftops! Share our campaign far and wide. Every tweet, post, and share amplifies our collective voice.

Together, we can make a difference. For the love of festivals, for the spirit of music, take action. Write that letter. Share the cause. Let’s turn the volume up on this campaign and save the festivals we call home.