Now Cheltenham’s gone

Now Cheltenham’s gone


norman lebrecht

April 07, 2020

The Cheltenham Music Festival, in July, has been cancelled.

With deep regret we have taken the decision to cancel this year’s Cheltenham Music Festival. We had been optimistic that our Music Festival could still go ahead in July, but because of the continuing impact of the COVID 19 virus, we must put the safety of our audiences, artists, staff and volunteers first. We are sorry for this additional disappointment, following the cancellation of our Jazz and Science Festivals.

At the forefront of our minds are the wonderful artists and ensembles who will no longer be able to perform in Cheltenham this summer. We are working hard to find a way to bring them back as soon as we can.



  • Martia says:

    Guys. It’s not news. They’re all cancelled.

    All festivals are cancelled. They just haven’t announced yet. No one is going to these events.

    • Alexander Hall says:

      Some people refuse to address current realities. Several days ago Edinburgh announced that its festival would not take place in late August. The BBC, on the other hand, seems to be on a completely different planet. Proms anyone?

      • Saxon Broken says:

        The Proms have already payed for both the hall and the orchestra. The BBC SO musicians live in London and have no travel or hotel expenses. And there are many other London groups who would love to give a concert or two. So their situation is different from other festivals.

        The Proms could go ahead with only London orchestras and a limited audience. Some sort of festival will go ahead, almost certainly.

  • GCMP says:

    May be I am too much of an optimist but we don’t know what July or August will be like yet. I wish they would wait until they know more before making decisions like this.

    • Martia says:

      We don’t know what the virus will be doing, that’s true. But we do know: Older audience members (read: the entire classical music audience) will be avoiding gatherings, institutions and groups will be struggling or bankrupt, and 90% of the people who might be healthy enough and willing to go to concerts, won’t have the money.

    • Ellie says:

      They probably wish they could wait too… I work for a festival which has been cancelled. So – there were 4 major factors for our decision.

      1. Of course, safety of everyone is paramount, but to be completely honest, that’s an unknown yet (what government advice will be like in the summer is not known).

      2. We got to the point where major un-refundable, un-insurable expenditure was due and cancellation after that point would be financially devastating – ‘going under’ level. This forced the decision earlier.

      3. We had a string of artist cancellations. Our highest profile artists pulled out – even before lockdown. We identified around 40% of our programme was likely to pull out due to being ‘at risk’ (principally age) or because they are travelling from abroad – and true enough, the trickle started to become a flood. It got to the point where it wasn’t the programme we had offered. We were able to source a small number of ‘local’ high profile step-in artists, but not of the scale we needed to create a full programme.

      4. Our audience members were calling for refunds / assuming cancellation. It’s extremely damaging to our reputation – our audience is 75% repeat visitors – to decline refunds in these circumstances. A significant number of overseas visitor groups cancelled. So, the income we would get from running it was drastically lower, the ‘feel’ of a 50% empty seat auditorium would be difficult to manage, and the secondary spend we rely on to prop up the huge costs of the festival was going to be halved. The festival would make a loss.

      So – all in all, it became untenable to ‘wait and see’. We wish we could have – but our hand was forced by artist cancellations and a significant risk of insolvency that would be negligent to ignore.

      I hope that helps give a bit of context to these decisions – they are not lightly taken. We all work to put these things on – the decision to cancel was genuinely heartbreaking.

      • SVM says:

        Thanks for providing a detailed explanation of how it works on your side of the table. I would be particularly interested to hear more about §2 (“major un-refundable, un-insurable expenditure”) of your numbered points.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        This is pretty much why the Proms are different. The hall is already hired and they can easily drop the foreign acts and use only local musicians. If you go back to the 1960s, it was all done by only two or three London orchestras. They also have not yet sold any tickets.

  • Sue Conroy says:

    The only responsible thing to do is cancel these events this year everyone is working so hard to get life back to normal it would be wasted if we give up too soon.

  • bored muso says:

    sad, but inevitable…
    When will it be announced that the BBC PROMS are cancelled…?!

    • Saxon Broken says:

      They pretty much announced some kind of festival will go ahead. It will just be different from what they planned (e.g. foreign acts pulling out).