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Summer festivals at risk of being cancelled as rocketing insurance premiums throw them into doubt

A Mayo festival has seen its insurance premium jump from €6,500 to €25,000 in just three years.

Image: Shutterstock/dwphotos

THE COST OF rising insurance premiums is putting festivals in Ireland at risk of being cancelled this summer.

Industry members and festival organisers have warned up to 200 festivals might not go ahead this year after a renowned festival in Mayo said it seen an 80% rise in their insurance and could not proceed with this year’s event. 

Ballina Salmon festival has been up and running for 65 years and attracts thousands to the town every year.

Organisers hosted events on the Moy river, as well as a traditional food events, live music in the evenings and a family fun day.

In a statement, the festival’s board cited “increased insurance and general festival costs” as a reason, and said it was with a “heavy heart” they made the decision to call it off.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, committee member Tracy Smith said the insurance premium for the festival has increased almost four-fold over the last three years, with this year’s premium quoted at almost double what it was in 2018.

“In 2016 we paid €6,500, then in 2017 we paid €13,500,” she said.

“But this year we were looking at a premium of €25,000 and that doesn’t include our own health and safety officer, which would be another €12,000 on top of that.”

As a result, board members decided to cancel the festival – which attracts up to 200,000 visitors from around the world across the five days – with a view to building funds and restarting it a few years down the line.

“Sponsorship has diminished in recent years. We had major sponsorship from Coke and other organisations locally, but their costs could have increased too, so they may not have the sponsorship that they had once given us.

“A few other people joined a steering committee, to look at a few different events and not have so much of an insurance premium but it was taking away from the festival.

“We’re lucky to have such a sizeable festival and we were going ahead with it,” she said. 

“But every year on year we’ve held a world-famous festival and this year would have turned into a mediocre event,” she said.

Smith said the decision caused both “anger and confusion” among locals who expected the five-day festival would go off as planned this year.

Colm Crofty, executive director with the Association of Irish Festivals and Events told TheJournal.ie that a number of other festivals around Ireland have closed in recent years citing insurance issues.

“Festivals are already stretched to breaking point by rocketing insurance costs and this is the thing that will push them over the edge,” he said.

Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan said she was aware of reports of rising insurance premiums but said it was the remit of junior minister Michael D’Arcy.

“Public liability insurance needs to be looked at and he is looking at that,” she said. 

“There is a small festival scheme run under my own department, it has closed for this year, but people will be in a position to apply for that next year.

“Insurance is something that needs to be addressed in this country… we are looking at measures to try to ensure that people will be in a position to hold these festivals that bring people together in each county and each town in Ireland,” she added.

With reporting from Christina Finn.

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