'A drop in the ocean': Tomorrowland doesn't have to repay €1.8 million Flemish aid

'A drop in the ocean': Tomorrowland doesn't have to repay €1.8 million Flemish aid
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Tomorrowland does not have to pay back the full €1.8 million it received as aid from the Flemish government now that it will not take place this year, but this will not be enough to get the festival out of financial trouble.

The festival does not have to repay the full sum, but only the costs it can recover, Flemish Minister for Home Affairs Bart Somers explained on Flemish radio on Thursday morning.

However, that is "definitely not" enough to get the organisation out of the financial trouble for the second year in a row, Debby Wilmsen, spokesperson for Tomorrowland, told The Brussels Times.

"€1.8 million is a lot of money and we are very happy with the support, but it is a drop in the ocean," she said, adding that the festival cancelled orders for a total of €50 million already.

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On Wednesday, the organisation of Tomorrowland announced that the festival would not take place this summer, after the mayors of Rumst and Boom refused to grant a permit, and consultations with both Federal and Flemish Ministers led to nothing.

"We were starting up already," Wilmsen stressed. "The Mainstage was finished, we had to pay the advances for ordering materials, the delivery of the wristbands had been ordered, 140 people were working full time to make the festival, artists were booked... I can make a whole list."

"A lot of advance payments had already been made, and we were already in action," she added. "Organising a festival like Tomorrowland costs a lot of money, and a lot of things have to be paid in advance."

To start organising the festival, Tomorrowland already received €1.8 million in support from the Flemish government, as an advance payment. According to the agreement, this amount would not have to be repaid if the festival could not take place due to the government's coronavirus measures.

However, as the festival itself decided to postpone this year's edition after the local authorities refused to grant the permit, things are now a little more complicated.

According to Somers, Tomorrowland will only have to repay the Flemish government the costs it can recover.

"It is a kind of guarantee in case they have concluded contracts, made payments to third parties, and are still faced with a 'no'," he said. "We are going to look into that. We are going to apply the scheme correctly."

"I stand behind this 100%. Otherwise, a lot of cultural events, including small-scale ones, would not dare to start in these uncertain times," Somers added. "At a certain point, you have to stand behind your cultural sector as a government and be prepared to make an effort for it."

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