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Summer festivals postponed amid coronavirus uncertainty

Events in Kuopio and Espoo are among the first to be pushed back over pandemic fears.

Yleisöä Stereo-duon keikalla Ruisrockissa. paljon valoja ja savua.
Stereo-yhtye villitsi yleisöä Ruisrockissa heinäkuussa 2019. Image: Nelli Kenttä / Yle

Festivals scheduled for this spring and summer are being postponed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

If events were forced to cancel, it could mark the second year in a row that many festivals have been called off over the risk of infection.

Kuopio Dance Festival and Espoo's April Jazz are among the first to announce a change in their schedules, with both events pushed back to October.

Last month Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintilä (Cen) announced that the government would reimburse live event organisers for any cancellations caused by coronavirus restrictions.

"If an event is cancelled due to a decree by the state, it would be possible to recover part of the costs incurred," Lintilä said at the time.

No social distancing at Ruisrock

Meanwhile organisers of Turku's Ruisrock festival, scheduled for 9–12 July, said they were continuing with preparations.

Despite this, the festival's promoter said he was concerned by a wave of cancellations that has seen European summer festivals like the UK's Glastonbury and Barcelona-based Primavera Sound called off for the second year running.

"Early summer looks challenging. Ruisrock is awkwardly placed in the middle of summer, in July," said Ruisrock promoter Markko Niemelä.

Story continues after the photo.

Festariyleisöä Robin Packalenin Ruisrock-keikalla.
There was no need for social distancing at Ruisrock in 2019. Image: Nelli Kenttä / Yle

Niemelä said the festival was waiting for the results of a working group established by Minister of Science and Culture Annika Saarikko (Cen) which is studying how live events could be held in a cornavirus-safe way.

Niemelä maintained, however, that Ruisrock would not happen with social distancing measures in place.

"If you have to fear the other festival-goers then it's not a festival," he said.

According to Niemelä, the final decision on this year's festival will be taken at the end of March or in early April.

All or nothing

Organisers of Joensuu's Ilosaarirock festival, which is scheduled to celebrate its 50th anniversary this summer, said they were unsure whether or not the July event would go ahead.

"We're taking it day by day, but we're realists. How long we can stand to wait is a question of money," said Niina Hattunen, director of Joensuu Pop Musicians which organises the festival.

Story continues after the photo.

JVG esiintymässä Ilosaarirock -festareilla 2019
Rappers JVG performing at Ilosaarirock in 2019. Image: Nelli Kenttä / YleX

Hattunen added that Ilosaarirock's organisers will decide whether to go ahead in April at the latest. A slimmed-down festival would not be an option, she said.

"It will be done in full or not at all," she said.

Most summer festivals were cancelled in 2020 after experts warned of the risk of infection.

"Large public events are highly conducive to the spread of respiratory infections. People are often terribly close to each other. One should be extremely critical of public events this spring and summer," Ilkka Julkunen, Professor of Virology at the University of Turku told Yle in April last year.

But the few events that did go ahead in 2020 were not linked to any significant outbreaks of the coronavirus, according to hospital districts contacted by Yle.

Elina Kärnä of Seinäjoki Central Hospital told Yle last August that the lack of superspreader events was probably down to good fortune.

"Luck probably played a part, and it was partially possible to keep safe distances at some of these events," she said.

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