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Belgium’s summer music festivals: What we know so far

16:42 04/04/2021
Belgium punches above its weight when it comes to outdoor live music – but this is going to be no ordinary summer. Here’s what we know so far

Now is an uncertain time to be in the music festival business. The only thing we know for certain is that this isn’t going to be a regular summer yet.

Because of the current Covid-19 situation, there is still no information from the Belgian government about whether music festivals can go ahead this summer, the number of people who might be allowed to attend, or whether artists from outside Europe will be able to freely travel here to perform.

It’s not just the organisers who would like more news soon – but also festival crew, the artists and, of course, festivalgoers. What will our summer look like? Will there be Covid-19 restrictions and what will they look like? Here’s what some of the major festival organisers have decided (or not) so far.

Skipping a year

Graspop, Rock Werchter, Werchter Boutique, TW Classic and Couleur Café have all postponed their next edition until 2022.

Couleur Café - normally one of the earliest festivals of the season, taking place on the first weekend of the summer holidays - says a lack of "direction, advice or perspective from the government" had made it impossible to go ahead. "We seriously considered postponing the festival to a later date this summer or organising it on a limited basis, but this also proved to be impossible financially and artistically," a Couleur Café spokesperson said.

Delayed but staying positive

Tomorrowland has delayed its 2021 edition until 27-29 August and 3-5 September, in the hope that the coronavirus situation will have improved.

“We understand there are festivals who want to skip a year because they realise it’s going to be very difficult to book artists from abroad,” says Tomorrowland spokeswoman Debby Wilmsen.

“We did our research and we think for us it will be possible to organise our festival this summer. We’re going about this with a positive attitude and we hope for the best, without being naïve. We are prepared for possible restrictions, a different interpretation of the festival is also possible, with more or fewer stages or acts – or, in the worst case, cancellation.

“We expect to come back with a more detailed update in May, until then we will continue to work hard to create the best and safest festival possible.”

Undecided for now

Some festival organisers are holding out, in the hope of some positive news in the coming weeks.

“We are also waiting for more information from the government,” says Pukkelpop spokesman Frederik Luyten. “But we don’t know when that will be - that depends on the Covid-19 numbers. We also won’t postpone our festival to a later date this year. Pukkelpop will either take place at the end of August this year or will be postponed to 2022.

“We hope that the vaccines will make our situation better soon and that there will be no new variants and mutations, then we can go ahead with our festival this year on the dates that we planned.”

Timothy Heyninck, organiser of the Lokerse Feesten in Lokeren, West Flanders, is similarly cautious: “It looks like we won’t have a normal festival season this year. We haven’t decided yet if we will go through with Lokerse Feesten. We are waiting for more information from the government regarding Covid-19 restrictions, information on how fast people can get vaccinated, how the numbers are evolving, etc.

“In the meantime we are looking for possible alternatives. We won’t postpone our festival to a later date this year - we can’t, because of our volunteers. We promise we will definitely organise a festival like we did before in 2022, but for this year, it’s still too early to make a decision.”

Written by Els Mertens