While Ireland boasts an impressive year-round schedule of arts, music, and miscellaneous festivals and community events, many are now facing an uncertain future. Executive Director of the Association of Irish Festivals and Events (AOIFE), Colm Crotty has warned that insurance hikes, other increasing costs, and changes on our high streets from independent local retailers to international chains are threatening the survival of smaller festivals and events across the country.

At least 12 of the association’s members have had to close down this year due to these issues and Mr Crotty suspects there may well be more who have disappeared under the radar. The rising cost of insurance is, he says, one of the biggest factors in their demise.

“Insurance is a significant issue for every event and every festival organiser whether they’re the St Patrick’s Day Festival or Cape Clear Story Telling festival in Cork,” he tells Independent.ie. He cites rising premiums and excesses, and describes the “limitations and exclusions and restrictions” on these policies as “becoming quite onerous”, with some activities like fire performance driving up premiums “by a multiple of a thousand or not being insurable at all”.

He believes that the public will soon no longer be able to enjoy events which feature activities from fireworks to children’s participation to events by the waterside because of the perceived risk to participants and the resulting impact on insurance premiums. “Very quickly, in a few more seasons, we’ll have festivals with no fireworks, no pyrotechnics, no children’s engagement in terms of circus skills, or participation, because there’s a risk of a child getting a nick or a twist.  There will be no raft races, there will be no events taking place on shores, or lakeside or river locations or on coastal piers.  The insurance companies just won’t cover the activity.” When events do close down, Colm says insurance is cited as “one of the top three reasons”. A large claim on an event’s insurance can kill the event.  Colm argues that in most cases insurance companies will settle claims “on the steps of the courthouse” rather than fight the claim in court.

“You find three years down the road that the insurance company has no intention of defending the claim,” he says.  “They’ve racked your premium up by a multiple of maybe 40 per cent for the three years it’s been trundling through the system and then decide maybe a week or ten days before the court case is due to be heard to settle for a very close multiple of what you’ve just paid for in increased premiums.” He adds, “There’s no way they want to go into a courtroom to defend the claim for any festival organiser or festival activity because once you go in past the courtroom door it’s Russian roulette.  You’ve some control of the chequebook on the steps.  You’ve no control of a chequebook once you go in front of the judge.   And that’s the judicial system.” The impact on smaller events in particular can be devastating.  “Our members are getting very frustrated.  The sector is getting very annoyed and frustrated.  People are going to walk away,” says Colm. “The societal price, or the community price, is that those of us who want to have torchlight processions, Halloween lantern processions, general gatherings of civic spirit of celebration or commemoration, are finding this is becoming a huge financial burden to navigate around.” Another aspect of insurance that is causing consternation for organisers is the increasing cost of public indemnities. Read more from independent.ie…

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