Coronavirus update (17 March)

17 March 2020

You will have seen the latest advice from the Government on social distancing and large-scale events. Accordingly, we believe it is highly likely that the Government will very soon require the Pontins site to close, which will mean that Word Alive 2020 will have to be cancelled in line with these emergency measures. We know this will be a huge sadness for your families as it is for my family and the families of our Trustees and wider team.

Over the past few weeks, the Trustees and organisers of Word Alive have done their best to ensure that everything was ready to enable the event to happen this year. This has meant that most of the overheads relating to the event have already necessarily been incurred. As you can see in the photo, the marquees have started going up. We assure you that this expenditure was not incurred without careful consideration, since as soon as coronavirus became a material issue, we consulted experts in the insurance sector, our accountants, public health etc. and were told to follow government guidance, which we have done each step of the way. However, like many people and governments, we have been surprised by the speed of the developments.

Marquee

These necessary expenditures mean, however, that cancellation at such a late stage will put Word Alive in an untenable position: while we have paid out the majority of the monies received from guests to our suppliers and to cover salaries/speaker/administrative expenses – under the terms of our contract we are obliged to give guests a full refund in the event that Word Alive 2020 is cancelled. This means we simply don’t have the money to cover full refunds and would end up going into a drawn-out Administration process that may not deliver any meaningful refunds to guests at the end of the process.

Many weeks ago, we consulted specialist insurance underwriters who searched for a policy to cover a government cancellation of Word Alive. It soon became apparent that due to the imminent ‘insurance catastrophe’ COVID-19 will cause, no one would insure against this possibility.

Faced with this unfortunate reality, Trustees and staff prayerfully agreed to prepare for the possibility that the Pontins site is required to close to us. We’ve done this by approaching our suppliers to ask whether they would accept a reduction in the monies owed to them. Our largest suppliers agreed to this proposal on Friday. We are therefore now reaching out to our guests to ask that you prayerfully consider how you feel about accepting a partial reimbursement on your Word Alive booking should the event be cancelled.

We do not make this request lightly and are fully aware of the financial sacrifices many of you make to attend the event each year. We are also conscious that a reduced refund will be a more significant financial hardship for some individuals. It may be that some guests are able to accept a smaller reimbursement, enabling others to receive a larger one.

In the meantime, and to help us mitigate the overall losses for Word Alive and individuals, please would you:

  • Check if you have holiday insurance (maybe as a perk of your bank account?), which could help you in the event of the Government closing down Pontins.
  • Refrain from incurring further costs for public transport or paying the balance of off site accommodation before you become obliged to.

I am sorry to have to send a message that conveys both the sad news of a likely cancellation by the Government of Word Alive 2020 plus the request for you to be willing to take a financial loss should that happen.

I am so grateful for the expressions of support many of you have given and we are praying for your safety and witness in the difficult months ahead and pray that you will join us (DV) at Word Alive 2021.

If the event is cancelled, we shall immediately be in touch with more details of how to proceed with the above. But if you have any queries about this please feel free to get in touch with us on mail@wordaliveevent.org. We’ll do what we can to answer and help.

Finally, Ash Cunningham (Head of UCCF’s Theology Network) has composed the following summary of Martin Luther’s advice to Christians during an outbreak of Bubonic plague in 1527, which I hope offers some comfort and encouragement in the days ahead:

  • Employ good hygiene
  • Do not shy from medicine
  • Do not put others at risk
  • Avoid places where you don’t need to be… but if your neighbour is in need – you DO need to be there.
  • Do not fear death, but do not court danger – the Christian is fearless because they follow the death-defeating Christ, not because they follow a cult of fearlessness and folly.

Warmly,

Nigel Beynon

Director of Word Alive
on behalf of Trustees and Team