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Swiss music festivals throw in the towel – again – due to Covid

The 2019 edition of the Paléo music fesival near Nyon in western Switzerland attracted 230,000 people over six days. Keystone / Martial Trezzini

Paléo, Switzerland’s largest outdoor music festival, has been cancelled for the second year in a row due to the Covid-19 pandemic, organisers confirmed on Tuesday. The list of cancelled summer rock festivals in Switzerland continues to grow.

This content was published on March 30, 2021 - 12:09
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“The Paléo team must unfortunately face the facts. A festival, even a scaled-down event […], will be impossible this summer,” the organisers wrote on their websiteExternal link on Tuesday.

The team had planned a smaller version (5,000 tickets per night and two stages) of their traditional annual event near Nyon in western Switzerland in July/August. The 2019 edition attracted 230,000 festival-goers over six nights.

But organisers were forced to cancel again as they say they find themselves in a “Kafkaesque situation” due to the pandemic.

“Even if the authorities were to announce good news regarding capacity for example, we can’t know if, nor when, such an authorisation will be granted. If we were to start working on the event and it ended up being unauthorised, the risk of financial losses could be unsustainable,” said Daniel Rossellat, president of the Paléo Association.

A last-minute cancellation would cost CHF8.4 million ($8.9 million), he said. Tickets already sold for the two cancelled editions will be valid for 2022 when the festival hopes to return “with a bang”, it said.

The Paléo cancellation follows similar bad news from major outdoor summer music festivals in German-speaking regions of Switzerland.

The Greenfield Festival in Interlaken was cancelled on March 10, while the Gurten festival in Bern – which draws 80,000 people – and the St Gallen Open-Air, which sells 120,000 tickets, followed on March 22 with news of their cancellations. They are all planning 2022 editions.

The Swiss government has eased several Covid-19 restrictions, including the re-opening of shops, museums and outdoor leisure facilities, but a ban on outdoor events like music festivals remains in place.

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