Saaremaa authorities cancel I Land Sound festival over COVID-19 fears

I Land Sound logo. Organizers say the festival on Saaremaa should go ahead next year.
I Land Sound logo. Organizers say the festival on Saaremaa should go ahead next year. Source: Indrek Kasesalu

Saaremaa rural municipality has rejected permission for a major music festival to take place on the island this summer, citing fears of a resurgence of coronavirus and the danger of breaching the remaining coronavirus restrictions as the main factors. Saaremaa was by far the worst hit region in Estonia during the peak of the pandemic, though numbers of cases flatlined from late April.

Saaremaa rural municipality communications manager Valmar Kass told local daily Saarte Hääl (link in Estonian) that since the company behind the festival, Perekond Piidivabrik MTÜ,had already sold over 1,000 festival passes, it would be difficult to ensure dispersing attendees, many of whom would have traveled from outside Saaremaa and even outside Estonia, could be ensured, along with the risk of the host town of Orissaare, population a little over 800, being overwhelmed by festival-goers.

From July 1, outdoor public events may take place in Estonia with up to 1,000 attendees.

"This certainly means a very difficult decision in order not to get into the same situation which Saaremaa municipality has been in in the spring, and to prevent the worst that such an event could bring," Aarne Põlluäär, head of the culture and sports department at Saaremaa municipality, told the paper.

I Land Sound's organizers announced on Friday that not enough guests had returned their tickets by the deadline required to meet the 1,000-visitor limit rule. Those returning their tickets would have been able to exchange them for passes for a second weekend, and the festival would have been spread over two weekends.

A meeting later on on Friday clarified the situation and led to the municipality's decision to cancel.

The organizers expressed disappointment at the turn of events.

"Certainly a lot of euros have been spent and there is no way we can get it back, there is no way to retrieve that," said chief festival organizer Taavet Bristol.

"We expected support from the municipality, including political responsibility, to move this matter along economically," he added.

The organizers say that passes issued this year will be valid in 2021 and said they were optimistic about the event going ahead next year.

Part of the municipality's main concerns were a lack of clarity about how in practice the organizers would have ensured regulations were adhered to, in addition to concerns about risk outside the public event area – not something which the I Land would have been responsible but still a consideration fro the municipality, which also approached the Health Board for recommendations.

The latter said that ultimately it was up to local authorities whether an event went ahead or not.

I Land Sound would have taken place on the weekends of July 16-19 and July 23-26, with a maximum of 1,000 attendees each.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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