Featured News

Download ‘evidence’ of safety of large-scale music events

Organisers of Download Festival, which welcomed 10,000 fans over the weekend, said it is “100-per-cent evidence” that large-scale music events can take place safely in the current climate.

Fans exhibited an “extraordinary” level of compliance on site across the three-day festival, according to Melvin Benn, managing director of the Festival Republic group.

The rock and metal festival at Donnington Park in Derbyshire joined the UK government’s Events Research Programme (ERP) in May after originally cancelling for the second year in a row in March due to COVID-19.

As part of the ERP, attendees were not required to wear face masks or socially distance from each other, though the festival’s capacity was reduced from its usual 111,000 people to around 10,000. Fans were also required to provide proof of a negative test to gain entry.

Benn told PA News: “What is extraordinary about it is the level of compliance around the testing and requirements we have is absolutely extraordinary. In a way that you would expect when you are in the middle or towards the tail end of a pandemic, that level of compliance is extraordinary. It is coupled with a level of normality that is equally extraordinary when you have been out of it for so long.”

When asked about the idea it remains impossible for large-scale music events to be COVID secure, he said: “It is evidence that this is not true. It is 100-per-cent evidence that it is not true. This is a very clear demonstration that you can do it.”

Benn hopes that Download can provide scientists with the relevant data to reinforce his position that large events can go ahead safely.

Latitude, which is also run by Festival Republic, announced on Friday it would be going ahead between July 22 and 25 in Suffolk.

A DCMS spokesman said: “We are continuing to work flat out to support festivals and live events including through our ongoing events research programme.

“Festival organisers have received more than £34m from our unprecedented Culture Recovery Fund, with more financial support on the way after a £300m boost in budget.

“We are aware of the wider concerns about securing indemnity cover and are exploring what further support may be required when the sector is able to reopen.”

Meanwhile, music festival Kendal Calling has cancelled its 2021 edition. Organisers of the popular Lake District events have blamed the lack of guidance from the Government, delayed results from the ERP pilot events and no insurance scheme.

According to PA, organisers have called on the Government to “reappraise its approach” and “listen to the recommendations of its own reports”.

Kendal Calling said in a statement: “Without this safety guidance, there are numerous aspects of the festival we cannot plan, and which could lay us wide open to last minute unforeseen regulations or requirements we may be required to adhere to, any of which could scupper an already built festival.”

Image: Andy Harbach / CC BY 2.0 / Edited for size