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Summer festivals: What’s on, off or different?

Flags flying at Pukkelpop festival. Credit: Pukkelpop/Facebook

As summer is approaching and the Belgian government has confirmed organising larger events will be possible, several festivals made announcements about their 2021 editions.

On 11 May, Belgium’s Consultative Committee announced that, from 9 June, relaxations would be made for cultural events, leading to the possibility of large-scale outdoor events including festivals from 13 August, for which participants will have to have proof of vaccination or a negative test.

So, knowing this, what’s the latest news from Belgium’s renowned festivals on their 2021 editions?

After cancelling its 2020 edition due to the coronavirus crisis, Pukkelpop announced it will continue this year at full capacity, or 66,000 visitors a day, from 19 to 22 August. It is currently waiting for advice from the government on how to check whether people are eligible to attend the festival.

Tomorrowland, which announced in March that it would be delaying its 2021 edition until the end of August and the start of September, said it is studying the guidelines and parameters set out by the government in the next few days, and will properly communicate the different scenarios and implications of these guidelines.

Rock Werchter announced on Wednesday it would be reinventing its usual festival concept to replace it with a month-long festival frenzy from Thursday 1 July and runs until 1 August, during which concerts will be organised four days a week under the name of Werchter Parklife.

Up to 2,500 visitors will be admitted to each show at the festival’s usual location in the province of Flemish-Brabant, during which artists including Balthazar, Goose, Arsenal and Black Box Revelation will perform.

Before the government announced its decision on festivals this summer, Suikerrock, which takes place in Tienen city centre, had already announced it would be postponing a full-fledged edition until 28-31 July 2022, but that it would be unveiling plans for an alternative event.

Graspop, in February, was the first major festival in Belgium this year to announce the cancellation of its 2021 edition because of the coronavirus pandemic. It has already announced Iron Maiden and Aerosmith will be headlining the festival in 2022.

The festival would have celebrated its 25th edition this year from 17 to 20 June, but the organisation postponed it for the second year in a row.

By April, Couleur Café, which usually takes place beneath the Atomium in Brussels in June, announced there would be no 2021 edition, as “organising a three-day festival for more than 70,000 people requires several months of intensive work.”

The organisers added that the time constraints and coronavirus crisis made it physically and artistically impossible to organise a decent festival and that they had “no choice but to restart the countdown to June 24, 2022.”

On International Jazz Day, 30 April, Gent Jazz announced that the postponed decision from the Belgian government had forced it to cancel this year’s edition, which was expected to take place during the second and third week of July.

“We understand that a decision about festivals in July may still be forthcoming on May 11, but for Gent Jazz, that decision will come too late,” the organisation added.

Other festivals announced they would be cancelling their 2021 editions following the Consultative Committee on 11 May, including Dour, the alternative music festival that takes place in July in the Walloon province of Hainaut.

In its announcement that the 2021 edition would not take place, the organisation referred to the gradual reopening of the sector, saying “even if the cultural sector will slowly come out of the shadows, the Dour Festival will still have to be patient. The 2022 edition – 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17 July – will be the year of our reunion.”

Smaller events such as LaSemo festival, Les Ardentes festival in Liège, and the Brussels Summer Festival (BSF), have also been cancelled for this year and postponed until 2022.

Anything to add? Let @LaurenWalkerH know.