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Background to the cancellation of the Gurtenfestival 2021

And again: We had to cancel the Gurtenfestival 2021.

In the jungle of Corona news, prevailing regulations and difficult to understand backgrounds of a festival organization, we would like to try to bring you closer to our starting position and considerations that led to the cancellation of 2021.


What’s happened so far

Unlike last year, as of today we cancelled without an official ban. But we don’t have a permit for our event either.

Legally, we would have had to rely on a ban because of agreements and contracts with third parties. Both emotionally and because of our entrepreneurial obligations to our audience, sponsors, suppliers and bands, we would have liked to cancel because of a ban.

But time is running out. The epidemiological situation has been getting worse since the end of February, as the Federal Council also said last Friday.

Unlike last year, the situation has been tense for a long time, normality has been gone for a while. This led to the fact that we never started the advance sale at all. We only wanted to do that when it seemed more or less certain that the event would take place. Unfortunately, that moment never came.

This also led to the fact that we never really started working, always postponed everything, always thought in x scenarios, always hoped for clearer announcements, positive developments, possible paths.

We now have to put an end to this wait due to the current situation, the time needed to get our festival up and running thoroughly and safely, and the prospect of pandemic development and accompanying regulations and requirements.


Outlook: Major events in summer 2021

Although the Federal Council’s press conference last Friday, 19.03.2021, did not deal specifically with major events in the summer of 2021, the statements made strengthen our resolve to cancel the festival on our own.

Understandably, the protective umbrella for Corona-related cancellations only takes effect when the event has a permit for its event. As of today, again understandably, we do not have this. Moreover, such permits are issued at relatively short notice even in normal operation. For more information on this, we refer to the media release of the SMPA of Friday, 19.03.2021, “Important partial success for the event industry: protective shield for Corona-related cancellations and postponements”.

The statement that as soon as all those who want it are vaccinated, closures will be dispensed with altogether does not help events of our size for mid-July either. It will take several more weeks, if not months, before it is clear when this time will have come reliably and bindingly. The dependencies and inaccuracies regarding vaccine supplies, capacities and the willingness of the population to be vaccinated are great. We cannot afford to hope and simply assume that a) this will really be implemented by the Federal Council and the cantons and b) vaccinations will be carried out ideally, efficiently and without delays from now on.


Gurtenfestival with a reduced capacity – realistic?

Another question we were and are often asked: Aren’t you planning a smaller edition, do you have a plan B? For us it’s like this – Gurtenfestival means: a capacity of 20’000 people per day, no seats, no social distancing, but closeness, singing and celebrating together and national as well as international acts.

Our event thrives on the masses, on moving freely, on emotional, closely packed moments in front of the stage. A Gurtenfestival with seats, reduced capacity, no dancetents, that is simply no Gurtenfestival.

We don’t have the option of expecting fewer visitors because of the corresponding regulations. Because we still don’t have an announcement about the upper capacity limits we have to reckon with in the summer. Plus: a Gurtenfestival with, for example, 3’000 visitors instead of 20’000, again, that’s no Gurtenfestival. And, unfortunately, that’s not financially viable for us either. Building a small town on the hill above Bern is too expensive. From a purely organizational point of view, this would also be a different event that would have to be rethought and planned.

Then there is the dimension of the program, the bands. Yes, it would be an option to book another band for every international one that cancels. At the end of the road, there would be countless Swiss festivals, all with the same program, the same bands.


Admission criteria at a large event with over 20’000 people per day

The option of holding a festival with full capacity and no distancing rules by means of admission criteria with proof of vaccination and negative tests is unfortunately in our opinion unrealistic for July 2021. Because:

Where are the capacities for these daily 10’000 – 30’000 (depending on the number of vaccinated persons, incl. all employees, bands, crews etc.) tests within a few hours? Who pays for that? For the Gurtenfestival alone, the additional costs would easily amount to 1 million. A million that we don’t have, especially after last year. A test currently takes 3 – 6 minutes to carry out, depending on the test. Depending on the type of test, the result is available 30 minutes to 48 hours later. Testing also always means waiting in line with distance and protective measures. Again, we have more than 20,000 people a day on the hill. This is logistically, temporally and financially an impossibility for us. Or are we gambling on home self-tests? As of today, these are not yet approved, and one would rely on self-responsibility, because no one can say for sure whether the test is actually from that person. To put it simply, 80,000 such tests would be used in 4 days for the Gurtenfestival alone. At present, it is said that ideally, each person should be given 5 free tests per month (!) by the federal government. If we project this to all events, small to large, in the whole of Switzerland – these are quantities and dimensions of tests that will probably not be available on this scale. We cannot afford to hope that we are wrong with this assumption.

As you can see, our options for this year are exhausted. To be honest, we are also a little exhausted.


For a summer of smaller events

Other organizers still have a few options as of today, for others it is only five to, instead of already five past twelve.

Therefore, we ask the politicians, analogous to the statements of the Federal Council of 19.03.2021: Create clarity, in the sense of and for the cause. Offer the cultural sector and the population a perspective.

Concentrate on the events that are possible in the coming months and ensure that the capacities, framework conditions and protective measures are clear there as quickly as possible. So that as many events as possible can take place this summer and autumn within a clearly defined framework. For the population, the visitors, who are eagerly awaiting offers and events for the second Corona summer, for our industry, all event organizers, artists, technical companies, caterers, etc., and for the people. Enabling a summer and autumn of events – within realistic, reasonable and plannable capacity limits and protective measures.


Unfortunately, our time is already up. But we would love to spend our summer at other, smaller events, drinking a fresh beer in the evening sun, attending a concert after a swim in the Aare, having a beer and a fine dinner in our favourite restaurant and cheerfully toasting to complete strangers (from a distance ;)).


Thank you for the attention!

See you and hear from you. Stay safe, stay true, your Gurtenfestival-Crew