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Coronavirus update 7
5th June 2021
It is with great regret that we have to tell you that it will not be possible for us to run a HEFF event in summer 2021. This is due to the continuing uncertainty about what rules will be in place for larger events after June 21st, and indeed whether that date might be pushed out. The best we might have achieved would have been some sort of “HEFF Lite” with reduced numbers and quite significant restrictions. Our decision is that it is much better to focus our energy on delivering a real fun event in 2022.
We know a lot of you have been eagerly awaiting news, but we wanted to ensure we had exhausted every potential opportunity before making the decision to cancel.
We plan to run a full HEFF event in 2022 within the summer school holiday period. We are not in a position to confirm either the venue or the dates at the moment. As soon as we are we will make an announcement and put tickets on sale. If anyone did not receive a refund on their HEFF 2020 tickets please email us – firstname.lastname@example.org
The rest of this update is to give those who are interested the background to the decision. If you just wanted to know if HEFF2020 is happening, you may wish to skip the rest of this.
This is an attempt to summarize many hours of discussion since the Autumn. In January the board discussed the situation and agreed to watch and wait, setting June 1st as the final date at which we thought we could decide to “go”. We have not booked anything where a deposit would be needed. To go ahead we needed 3 things, permission from the Local Authority, confidence we could run the event without people’s health or lives being at risk, and enough people to want to come to make the event financially viable, provide the volunteers needed, and critical mass to make the event fun for all ages.
Permission (technically a “licence”) is required for HEFF to happen legally. This requires us to create an “Event Safety Plan” detailing how we would deal with all manner of things which might go wrong, some likely, some highly unlikely. This year we were told that even for an event after 21st June that plan would have to include measures to reduce risk of Covid transmission. The template we were given suggested we would have to hold everything outdoors, or at least in marquees with two open sides, we would have to have an enhanced cleaning program, control congestion in the toilet areas and require masks in them. Extra precautions would have been needed around first aid. We would have been required to keep information and contact details of attendees who refused to check in with the NHS covid app so those could be passed to Test and Trace if necessary. All this might have been doable with a large crew, who would have had to operate in separate bubbles so we would not have to shut down if one of them was infected.
Whether we could have put in place sufficient measures to keep people safe is really unknowable, and that weighed on the minds of some board members. We had hoped that by August the underlying infection rate in the population would be low enough that it would be unlikely anyone would arrive already infected. The current rising trend of infections makes that an unsafe assumption to depend on. We took into consideration that within our community there are a significant number of people for whom vaccination is not appropriate due to age, health conditions, pregnancy, breast feeding etc. This meant that the HEFF gathering would probably have had a lower vaccination rate than another gathering of similar size. We were also acutely aware that it would be impossible and cruel to try to impose social distancing on children and would defeat much of the purpose of the event.
The question of critical mass was also significant. A number of people who have played critical roles at previous events told us that they either did not plan to attend or were very reluctant to do so. Some regular attendees indicated they would not attend if we planned covid mitigation measures. Others indicated they regarded it as too risky to attend. We did not get a sufficient response to our request for crew volunteers. This left us with a concern that we might only get 500-600 attendees. With a requirement for around double the previous crew size and large costs which are fixed regardless of the number of attendees this made going ahead with the event a big financial risk. We also felt that a small event and experience marred by Covid mitigations might put people off attending in 2022
Taking all these things into consideration we concluded that we could not go ahead with an event in 2021. We are committed to running a full scale event in 2022, which we expect will be even bigger and better than our 2019 event.
- Coronavirus Update 6
Following the government announcement of the roadmap to exit lockdown in England it is starting to look like HEFF 2021 may be possible. This will be dependent on the vaccination program continuing to bring down community infection levels close to zero in the UK by August. The event may have to be quite different from previous years to be permitted to take place. The board has to provide a detailed “Event Safety Plan” to the local authority as part of getting a licence to run the event.
To be allowed to run the event we will have to follow whatever government guidelines are in effect for festivals at the time. This might include some or all of the following.
A firm fixed limit on how many people we will have on site, which will be lower than the 2019 event. This means it is unlikely that we would offer day or weekend partner tickets.
Everything taking place in an “outdoor” setting using marquees without walls. This would mean that the workshop program will need to be curtailed if the weather is really bad. Music would have a curfew at 11pm because it is outside. We wouldn’t be able to run a cinema in the daytime, and if we do so in the evening it would be with public domain content only as it’s really expensive to licence commercial films for outdoor showing.
We will need to enhance cleaning in the toilets, at water points, in workshops, and any social spaces we are able to provide, and to provide hand sanitizer and disinfectants at key points.
We will have to comply with whatever guidance is in place at the time regarding mask wearing for adults and older children. You may need to agree to this and let us know if you’re exempt at the time of booking so we can continue to gauge risk.
We will ask for people to volunteer for one “touch-point” cleaning shift during the week to help keep our crew costs down. It would be really helpful if at least one person over 16 from each family group can volunteer for this. Instructions, PPE and cleaning materials will be provided.
We may be required to ask screening questions or use non-contact temperature measurement at check in. Check in may be slower than in previous years.
All payments on site will probably need to be done by card, this will include catering.
We will make our refund policy more flexible, allowing anyone who has suspected Covid symptoms and does not attend, or we have to turn away, to get a refund on their ticket price. We will offer a carry over of tickets to 2022 as an optional alternative to a refund, This is to make it easier for anyone unwell on the day to avoid putting others at risk. We won’t be able to cover any other costs if we have to refuse admission.
It is not possible to obtain cancellation insurance for events at this time. If things go badly for the UK and we are unable to run the 2021 event tickets will carry over to 2022. Home Education Festivals had to take out a government backed loan to allow us to refund 2020 tickets even though we had spent money on the event we could not recover. We need to pay off this loan over the coming 5 years. Factors such as limited numbers, cleaning costs, more flexible refund policy, larger and more marquees all add to our costs for running in 2021, and we anticipate ticket costs will need to be slightly higher this year.
There are a number of things we will need to confirm before we can put tickets on sale, however we are quietly hopeful. Please watch for more news.
- Coronavirus Update 5
The Heff board had a call on Sunday and we decided we need to give you as much of an update as we can on Heff 2021 and Covid.
We have not made a firm booking for the Newark Showground, or paid out any deposits for Heff 2021 because of the uncertain situation. We have also not put tickets on sale for the moment.
We are grateful for the confidence many of you placed in us by carrying over your tickets, but don’t think it’s really fair to hold on to your money for the moment. We will start processing refunds in about a week’s time which will go back to the original payment card. If that won’t work because your details have changed please email email@example.com To show our appreciation anyone getting a refund now will be entitled to a 5% discount for our next event. This will be calculated on the ticket price total after all other discounts have been applied.
One ray of hope is that our date (the week starting 3rd August) is still available at Newark. We think that it would be possible to pull together a Heff event if we start even as little as 8 weeks beforehand. Heff 2016 was done in 12 weeks and we have more experience now, and a venue we know. We can only start the process if the situation has improved sufficiently that we can run safely and without risk of cancellation or onerous social distancing conditions imposed by the Local Authority. Please keep safe and we hope we will see you all later this year, and if not then we plan to run in 2022.
- Coronavirus Update 4
We are now starting to process refunds. An email has gone out today to all ticket holders with details of your options and what you need to do. You can choose to forward your payment to secure tickets for HEFF2021 or you can choose to request a refund.
If you have not received an email please contact us via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or via Facebook.
- Coronavirus Update 3
It is with great regret that we have to announce that HEFF 2020 is postponed until August 2021 with the exact date and venue to be confirmed. We really appreciate everyone’s patience as we’ve worked to get the best outcome. It is now clear that even if we were permitted to hold an event this year we could not ensure the social distancing needed to keep everyone safe.
We’re now expecting to be able to give you the choice of a 100% refund or to carry tickets forward to 2021. We will contact ticket holders in the next few weeks for them to make their choice.
Please continue reading below for more details.
What has changed since the last update?
We always wanted to give everybody who chose it a 100% refund, but until very recently we did not think this was going to be possible. We simply didn’t have money in the bank to do so.
Government assistance for Small Businesses has been introduced in a very piecemeal way. As we are all volunteers and there are no salaries the furlough scheme did not help us. All companies which had premises liable for business rates got £10,000 grants, but again this did not apply to us.
Finally about 2 weeks ago the Government announced the Bounce Back Loan Scheme which will allow us to take out a loan of about £12,500 to cover the cost of making refunds and paying up-front costs for next year. Ticket prices will have to rise a little to make the loss back over future years. The terms of the loan are very generous and we should be in a position to pay back the majority of the loan within the interest free 12 month period. Beyond this there is a low 2.5% interest rate (roughly £30 a month if not paid off early). We hope that the entirety of the loan should be paid off within the next 2-3 years. Unlike most business loans no personal guarantees are required, so no individual becomes liable if there are difficulties repaying.
Our current bank is in the process of being approved to provide these loans. Once they are able to offer them we will make the application or if they are unable to be approved for any reason we will be able to apply from another provider. Unfortunately this does mean that we do not currently have a timeframe for this but will update the community as soon as we do.
If you wish to support the festival and can afford to do so please choose to roll your ticket over to next year. Remember if you get a refund and then buy a ticket for 2021 later it will cost more. We have added the caveat that the exact date and venue are to be confirmed to maximize our options. It is still our preference to hold the event starting 3rd August 2021 at Newark Showground and hope we may be able to negotiate a discount for this.
For those of you who require refunds we will be working to get these to you as quickly as possible. We will contact everyone who made an order to ask your preference as soon as we’re able to. This will be by email and refunds will be done to the original payment card.
The HEFestivals Board
- Coronavirus Update 2
We promised earlier we would update you as soon as we could regarding HEFF 2020 and Covid-19.
Our preferred option still remains to go ahead with the event, and we are hopeful that this will be possible. Many events due to run between April and July at Newark Showground have been rebooked for August. We will continue with essential preparations like recruiting crew and completing documentation needed for the event licence. Our workshop planning is nearly complete.
Things are still uncertain with the government having extended restrictions for at least a further 3 weeks. We will have to follow government health guidelines at the time of the event. Behind the scenes the directors have been making plans either to continue with the event, or to provide ticket holders with a refund of as much of the ticket price as possible if we are forced to cancel.
We have had a discussion with Newark Showground regarding both the deposit money we have already paid, and the future payments due to them, the next of which was due on 1st May. They have agreed to hold our dates for us without us paying them anything further until it is more certain that we can go ahead. We have asked, but they are not willing to return any of the deposit money. The directors froze all outgoing payments in March once it was clear that there was a risk we might not be able to go ahead. This means that at present we have not paid for things such as accessible showers, film licencing, or any deposits to secure bands. We will not now do so until the situation is clearer. This may mean that some facilities are restricted this year. There will also be a heavy workload on the team in the few weeks before the event.
If we have to cancel it will not be possible to make a full refund of the ticket purchases. This is because some money has been paid out as deposits well in advance, primarily for marquees, and the showground hire. Home Education Festivals will not be able to get this money back. It does not seem at present as if there will be any government funding which would help us. Regarding insurance we have not taken out cancellation insurance for any of our events, as it is both very expensive, and carries exclusions which might well have meant that we could not claim in many scenarios. Our policy has been to put insurance for public liability and employers liability for volunteers in place shortly before the event, when numbers are more certain.
As set out in our Terms and Conditions if we have to cancel the event we will distribute all available funds to ticket holders as a percentage of their order value. In the meantime while we plan to go ahead with the event our policy that tickets once purchased are non-refundable and non-transferable will continue. We have suspended ticket sales, and will reopen them nearer to the event date.
We are living through an unprecedented and unpredictable time. As your representatives the board remain committed to getting the best outcome we can in really difficult circumstances. We hope you and your families stay well, and that we will be able to meet you all on August 3rd 2020, or failing that, on August 2nd 2021.