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Organisers celebrate sold-out ‘best Parklife yet’

The 80,000-cap. event had the "biggest line-up" and "slickest production" in its history…as well as continued success for its industry leading drugs awareness initiatives

By Jon Chapple on 12 Jun 2018

The Valley, Parklife 2018

The new Valley stage

image © Parklife

A combination of strong programming, high-quality production and sunny weather meant last weekend’s sold-out Parklife, the UK’s biggest metropolitan music festival, was the best to date, according to organisers.

Parklife – whose Heaton Park site has a daily capacity of 80,000 – drew a capacity crowd to Manchester on 9–10 June for its ninth edition, which was headlined by Liam Gallagher, the XX, Skepta and NERD, and also featured performances from Lorde, Justice, Chvrches, Giggs, ASAP Rocky, Sampha, J Hus, Vince Staples and Tom Misch.

Festival director Jon Drape, of Ground Control Productions, says both he and Parklife co-founder – and recently appointed Manchester night czar – Sacha Lord agree that Parklife 2018 was the “best one yet”.

Drape tells IQ: “It’s the biggest line-up we’ve ever had, the production was the slickest we’ve ever delivered, and the weather was great.

“We also introduced a new stage, the Valley, in partnership with Lucid Illusions – which was spectacular – and the audience feedback so far has been great, too.”

At a time when many festivals are struggling with rising artist fees, Lord and Parklife partner Sam Kandel have continued to secure ever-bigger names for the event, especially since its majority acquisition, along with the Warehouse Project club nights, by Live Nation in 2016 – and audiences have responded, with the festival having sold out every year since 2014.

“It looks like people heeded the warnings”

For the past four years the festival has also been a pioneer in harm reduction, partnering with drugs charity the Loop – the organisation offering front-of-house pill testing festivals like Kendal Calling and the late Secret Garden Party – to test drugs in order to minimise the harm to those who choose to risk taking them.

While Kendal Calling, Boomtown Fair and, most recently, Bestival are currently the only UK events to offer FOH pill testing – ie allowing festivalgoers to test their own drugs to see what’s in them – back-of-house testing (of drugs from amnesty bins, seizures and the like) by the Loop, along with proactive communications about drugs known to be dangerous, is an “absolutely invaluable part of our harm-reduction strategy,” says Drape.

After the deaths at Mutiny Festival, Parklife issued one such communication, warning of a similar “very strong batch of pills”, known as ‘Punishers’, in circulation in the local area.

At Parklife, the Loop also tested a gram of what it discovered to be N-Ethylpentylone, which, despite having the appearance of MDMA, has very different effects, including severe paranoia and temporary psychosis.

Drape says that while the Parklife team are “still sorting through all the statistics and data”, initial feedback suggests the testing programme was a success, with “fewer drug casualties going through medical” than in previous years. “It looks like people heeded the warnings,” he adds.

Parklife will return in 2019.


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