This year's edition of Hellfest has been officially canceled after the French government culture ministry said summer events would be allowed to go ahead — but with a limit of 5,000 people, all whom must remain seated, to meet COVID-19 restrictions.
The Union of Contemporary Music (SMA), which represents festivals, concert venues and producers, said late Thursday that the figure had been agreed at a meeting with culture minister Roselyne Bachelot.
Hellfest, which drew 180,000 people in 2019, generally features a lineup which is 90 percent made up of international acts and 20 percent of spectators coming from abroad. As a result, organizers felt they had little choice but to call off this year's event.
On Friday (February 19), Hellfest released the following statement via social media: "Hellbangers, we hoped for the best but the worst is coming. The uncertainties about the health situation and the latest government regulations are forcing us to cancel the 2021 edition of the Hellfest Festival next june (18th, 19th and 20th).
"Thanks to your support the last few weeks, both the public opinion and the media were alerted about the critical situation of our industry (like many others). The Government reacted quickly and organized meetings with members of the Ministry of Culture and other French Festivals in order to explain the situation and to ask for answers regarding the organization of summer festivals.
"In a 'final' meeting on Thursday, the 18th of February, the verdict was returned. Summer festivals will be allowed under drastic conditions : 5,000 seated people and social distancing. These requirements make the organization of our 2021 festival imposible and force us to postpone once again our anniversary edition.
"We do not wish to blame the government. We are well aware that the health situation requires everyone to be cautious. However, these measures are more or less the same as last year resulting in a 'dead summer' for the festivals and culture in general.
"A year has passed since the outbreak of the epidemic and it seems that little has been done for a return to a 'normal life' despite a greater knowledge of the disease, the vaccinations, the tests ... We asked for answers, we had them... We obviously cannot be happy about those restrictions, which goes against the Rock'n'Roll experience we want to offer to our festival-goers. A festival should be a place of freedom, where social interactions and spirit of celebration cannot be sacrificed.
"We cannot imagine the Hellfest festival with 5,000 festival-goers drawn out of the 60,000 3-day pass holders, seated and distanced. It is a heresy. Unfortunately, through this decision and new regulations, we see once again that musical aesthetics appreciated by young people are going to be hit hard next summer.
"Unlike other festivals, we make the hard choice not to accept these overly restrictive rules. It would go against the very DNA of the festival. We owe our festival-goers consistency in the project we want to offer them and for which they have agreed to pay a high price. Hellfest was born out of a desire to gather all the "extreme" music lovers together in communion and a spirit of celebration. Living with the virus shouldn't be giving up what makes us happy.
"The future of Hellfest is compromised and once again it is your trust and solidarity that will get us through this storm.
"As we offered last year, you can keep your 3-day or 1-day pass purchased in 2020 in a safe place. This pass will be valid for the 2022 edition, which will be held on June 17th, 18th and 19th 2022. You don't have to do anything, just keep your ticket safely. By keeping your ticket, you will support Hellfest Productions for the preparation of its future edition in 2022. A year which will fulfill our desire to live these great moments together!
"We are aware that in this economic crisis, this financial effort will be too important for some of you. Which is why a reimbursement solution will also be offered. We will get back to you shortly about the terms of reimbursement, including the specifics of the different transport packages (train, bus, etc.). Until then, you can also use our partner's website Ticketswap to safely resell your ticket to another festival goer. You will not only support the festival but make somebody happy.
"This hard blow did not bring us down, and believe us, we need a lot more to overcome our desire to come back stronger. After two years of absence, we will be 'physically' back next year to offer a Hellfest festival that will meet all your expectations. There is no doubt that it will be an historic moment of reunion of all our fans, the artists and our teams! In the meantime, we are already working on a way to be there this summer. Many surprises (including one in particular ...) are to be expected next June... so stay tuned!
"We could not finish this new cancellation announcement without having a thought for all our employees, technicians, volunteers, artists, contractors, sponsors and partners who will suffer another year from the cancellation of Hellfest. We are not alone in this storm and our motivation and desire to offer you a show worthy of this too long wait are stronger than ever."