Though the Belgian government has given the green light to Tomorrowland 2021 and other crowd-based events scheduled for mid-August or later, local government officials recently claimed that the event “cannot take place” in their town. Now, organizers are “exploring all possible options” in an effort to prevent a cancellation for the second consecutive year.
The 16-year-old festival was originally scheduled for the final weekend of August and the first weekend of September, once again from Boom, Antwerp, Belgium. In previous years, Tomorrowland – which attracted some 400,000 EDM fans to the approximately 16,000-resident town in 2019 – commenced in July, with the lone exception of the inaugural event in 2005.
But Tomorrowland organizers, by settling upon a late-August start date for the 2021 edition, appeared to believe that the extra month or so, in coordination with the continued rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, would enable their happening to take place without issue. Moreover, Belgium’s Consultative Committee seemed to agree with the assessment, clarifying that up to 75,000 fans would be able to simultaneously enjoy “larger scale events” as of August 13th – albeit after showing proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.
Today, the Consultative Committee outlined other coronavirus-restriction rollbacks, including allowing as many as 2,000 attendees per indoor show and 2,500 attendees per outdoor happening. At the next meeting – set for Friday, July 16th – the body will see if it “can remove many of the remaining restrictions,” according to Prime Minister Alexander De Croo.
In spite of this ongoing reopening, however, the mayor of Boom (and the mayor of neighboring Rumst) stated yesterday, in a release entitled “Sixteenth edition of Tomorrowland not until 2022” – according to Google Translate, that is – that they will not grant a permit to Tomorrowland 2021.
This decision, the mayors continued, is based “on the advice of virologists, the federal health service and the local and federal police.” Notwithstanding the aforementioned 75,000-attendee cap for Tomorrowland, the mayors in their six-page-long order relayed: “A statement made by the participants of the Consultative Committee, however, does not have the force of law.”
Without a legal framework in place for large events, the mayors “cannot grant permission for the Tomorrowland event,” according to the document, which also highlights the situation’s perceived logistical hurdles (including administering many tests and removing any infected persons), the transmission risk associated with COVID-19 variants, and the international nature of Tomorrowland.
Tomorrowland organizers said today that they are “very surprised and puzzled by these contradictory messages from our governments,” and that they intend over the coming days to “explore all possible options and try to obtain some clarity for our visitors and suppliers.
“No Tomorrowland for the second year in a row would in any case be [a] huge disaster for our company, but also for the more than 1500 suppliers involved, many freelancers and our thousands of employees,” festival higher-ups proceeded. “After 15 years of intensive cooperation, this feels very grim and we find it very unfortunate after the many constructive preparations and conversations and federal commitments that it has come to this point, where we struggle to comprehend what just happened to us and still have to let it sink in a bit.”