Cancelling a festival – is anyone liable?
Key Contact: Joy Barnett
Organising a festival takes months of preparation sourcing acts and vendors, creating marketing campaigns and undertaking safety checks. One thing you can’t organise however, is the weather. Last week saw the UK issued with yellow weather warnings for rain and wind causing various festivals to cancel.
Boardmasters faced a mixed response from disappointed fans after cancelling the festival due to safety concerns 7 hours before people were due to arrive in Newquay. The festival usually welcomes 53,000 party-goers to the area and shops, restaurants, coffee shops and bars see a boost in revenue over the weekend. In their statement, the festival organisers expressed that it was a devastating decision to have to make.
Boardmasters were quick to announce that they’d be offering anyone who bought tickets directly through their website and official ticket sellers a refund of the face value of the ticket. Although this may have gone a long way in helping protect their reputation and ensuring fans purchase tickets again next year, are they actually liable?
Cancellations by the organisers may be a breach of contract entitling festivalgoers their money back, unless in the terms and conditions there is a “force majeure” clause. This clause relieves the organisers from liability if unforeseeable circumstances such as natural events, prevent them from fulfilling their end of the bargain. If drafted properly, it is likely that these unusual and natural flooding and high winds will save the organisers, but not the festival!