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Mayors cancel Tomorrowland out of the blue, organisers devastated

14:00 18/06/2021

The mayors of Boom and Rumst in Antwerp province have cancelled the world-famous Tomorrowland dance festival. The announcement yesterday came as a shock to festival organisers and provincial and regional authorities.

Tomorrowland, which brings 400,000 people from Belgium and around the world to the De Schorre recreation domain in Antwerp province every year, had already postponed its two July weekend dates to the last weekend of August and first weekend of September. Organisers did this in March to increase the chances of the music festival – considered one of the best in the world – being able to take place at all.

Coronavirus regulations that enter into force on 13 August allow 75,000 people to attend organised outdoor events. Over the four days, that would have let Tomorrowland welcome three-quarters of its normal capacity. It was giving priority to those who had already bought tickets to the cancelled festival last year.

‘Too early’

Mayors have the right to make exceptions to federal coronavirus regulations, depending on risk factors. The mayor of Boom, where the festival takes place, has refused the festival a permit this year, in co-operation with the mayor of the neighbouring Rumst.

“We are concerned about the public health situation,” said Boom mayor Jeroen Baert (N-VA). “We have a great moral responsibility, and I would find it very difficult if there was a local outbreak with deadly consequences. The experts have made this very clear to us, and we cannot look the other way.”

Rumst mayor Jurgen Callaerts (N-VA) praised Tomorrowland staff for their work in organising one of the biggest music festival in the world smoothly in the recreational park and for their help in the vaccination campaign. “We hope that we will be able to welcome Tomorrowland back in 2022, but for this festival it's just too early. It is not reasonable to allow an event of this magnitude to go ahead. The epidemiological risk is too high, even in late August.”

Boom mayor Jeroen Baert
Boom mayor Jeroen Baert at the press conference to announce the cancellation of Tomorrowland  ©Jasper Jacobs/BELGA

Provincial and regional authorities, however, have expressed their disagreement, citing that other major festivals such as Pukkelpop are going ahead. Flemish interior minister Bart Somers told VRT that he plans to have a conversation with the mayors.

“It is of course up to the local authorities as to whether a particular event can take place in their municipalities,” said Somers. “But the Flemish government has campaigned to allow summer music festivals to be able to go ahead. This sector has suffered enormously under the corona crisis … and from 13 August it should be possible to organise the larger festivals. If Pukkelpop can do it, then we are convinced that Tomorrowland can do it.”

As for the organisers of Tomorrowland, they were stunned by the announcement from the mayors yesterday. “It hit us like a sledgehammer, hard an unexpected,” said Tomorrowland spokesperson Debby Wilmsen. A second year without a festival “is extraordinarily difficult on us, both financially and emotionally. We were so ready for this, and it all looked so positive.”

It feels “awful,” she said, for the mayors to do this “after 15 years of intense collaboration with Boom and Rumst and after the constructive preparations and discussion. We have just no idea what is happening.”

Photo top: ©David Pintens/BELGA


Written by Lisa Bradshaw