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Primavera reflects on challenging post-pandemic comeback

Primavera Sound has closed the biggest edition in its 20-year history, having welcomed nearly half a million people to the Spanish city of Barcelona.

The 20th-anniversary event saw more than 400 artists perform across two weekends (2–4 June and 9–11 June) for what was a bumper edition of the festival.

According to the organisers, the extended edition will have an economic impact in Barcelona of €349 million after bringing together nearly half a million attendees.

After two relatively festival-free summers, Primavera is one of the first major European live music events to take place in the first ‘post-pandemic’ festival season.

“I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed so much love from the artists – everyone was thrilled,” Primavera Sound’s Marta Pallarès told IQ. “Everyone was saying this was the best show they’ve played.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed so much love from the artists”

But being first out of the gates was both rewarding and exhausting, says Pallarès, who recounts a raft of post-pandemic teething problems ranging from illnesses to overcrowding and licencing to staff shortages.

The Strokes, Bleachers, Bikini Kill, Clairo, Holly Humberstone, Pink Pantheress and Massive Attack were among the acts forced to pull out of performances due to illnesses – Covid and otherwise.

“Musicians are athletes and they have been out of training,” says Pallarès. “Ours was the first festival of the whole season after three years of not playing so it’s understandable that teams are rusty and health is not up to scratch. Artists are trying to run a marathon when they haven’t even lifted five kilos.”

Covid also struck down a large chunk of Primavera’s hospitality team which, in turn, caused a whole host of issues during weekend one, predominantly large queues for bars.

Attendees of that weekend also complained of lack of access to water in high temperatures as well as overcrowded stages. Pallarès explained that the latter was due to licencing issues, which impacted the festival’s site layout.

“I think that we just forgot how music festivals used to be”

“The festival is split across two towns, Barcelona and Sant Adrià, where the beach area is,” says Pallarès. “We were going to have a very big stage in the beach area that would help spread people throughout the venue but two months before the festival, Sant Adrià town hall said that they wouldn’t give us a licence for 30,000 people and they reduced it to just 15,000. Then we weren’t able to put the big stage with the big acts in that area, so people really didn’t go to that area of the festival much.

“That meant that the beach was empty and you could get a beer just like that while the main site was completely full. So we moved waiters from that area to the main area, we hired more people, and we restructured a little bit.”

As for the issue with water, the festival added three stations where staff distributed water for free, which also helped ease queues at the bars.

While the festival apologised for the issues caused, Pallarès wonders if festivalgoers are simply not used to the festival experience after two years of enforced downtime.

“I think that we just forgot how music festivals used to be,” she says. “We’ve had two years of being at home, where you could go to your fridge and get a beer and your toilet is your own and you don’t have anyone around you.

“I think that other festivals will face the same challenges we faced”

“I understand the frustration of people saying I’ve been looking forward to this for three years and I lost one hour of my life for a beer but it’s about overcoming that and I think that in the end, everyone was so happy.

“We are always the first festival of the season so I’m curious to see how this season evolves because I think that other festivals will face the same challenges we faced – it’s a difficult season,” she says.

One issue that many other festivals are sure to face is the cost of labour and materials, which Pallarès says are “crazy high” this year. As Primavera was sold out last year, the organisers were not able to boost ticket prices in line with inflation, nor did the event receive any kind of financial help from the town hall in Barcelona.

However, with the help of branding and sponsorship, along with audience loyalty, Pallarès says the festival is doing better than ever.

In fact, this year Primavera will launch new editions in Los Angeles, São Paulo, Santiago de Chile and Buenos Aires. And, next year, the flagship festival will continue with a two-weekend format, with the first in Barcelona and the second in Madrid.

When IQ asks Pallarès what the secret to Primavera’s audience loyalty is, she replies “a consistent booking philosophy”. “The perfect day at Primavera would include seeing: an act that you’ve always loved and you’ve never been able to see, an act that becomes your new favourite band, an act that challenges you, and an act which delivers a massive amount of fun,” she says.

That booking philosophy is bolstered by a commitment to gender-balanced lineups, with this year’s headliners including Dua Lipa, Megan Thee Stallion, Lorde, Jorja Smith and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

 


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Primavera Sound 2023 to be held in Barca and Madrid

The 2023 instalment of Primavera Sound will be held in two different Spanish cities across two weekends.

Next year’s festival will take place at its usual location of Parc Del Fòrum, Barcelona, on the first weekend (1–3 June).

On the second weekend (8–10 June), the festival will take place in the Ciudad de Rock (City of Rock) in Arganda del Rey, Madrid, for the first time ever.

The site, which has the capacity to hold up to 96,000 people, has hosted all three editions (2008, 2010, 2012) of the Rock in Rio Festival Madrid.

“Double site – double excitement”

Primavera has a longstanding affinity with Madrid, having hosted autumn festival Primavera Club – as well as countless international tours – in the city.

“The landing in Madrid is just the latest chapter in our long and close relationship with the city, and also the first for everything to come: for communication and connections, for the history of a Primavera Sound that in 2023 will start in Barcelona and end in Madrid that can only benefit our audience. Double site – double excitement,” said the festival organisers.

Primavera Sound has taken place in Barcelona for 20 years and has recently expanded internationally with sister events in Los AngelesChile, Argentina and Brazil.

The 20th-anniversary edition of the Barcelona event will take place this year in a special expanded format.

 


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European Festival Conference returns to Barcelona

Yourope’s annual European Festival Conference (EFC) will return to Barcelona this November after two years off due to the pandemic.

The delayed fourth edition is set to take place between 23 and 26 November at Mas Salagros EcoResort in Vallromanes, 25 kilometres outside of Barcelona in Catalunya, Spain.

The two-day event comprises workshops, outdoor activity, networking excursions and seminars that will address issues such as post-pandemic challenges, health and safety, diversity and inclusion, sustainability, weather and insurance.

This year’s speaker line-up includes Claire O’Neill (A Greener Festival), Marta Pallares (Primavera Sound), Mikko Niemelä (Ruisrock Festival), Henrik Nielsen (Roskilde Festival & YES Group), Andreas Groth Clausen (Roskilde Festival) and Johannes Jacobi (Für Festivals).

The two-day event will address issues such as post-pandemic challenges, health and safety, diversity and inclusion

Participating industry associations are the Green Operations Group (GO Group), Yourope Event Safety Group (YES Group) and the European Marketing and Communications Group (EMAC), which was formed at the first EFC.

Michael Fritz (co-founder of Viva con Agua de St.Pauli) will deliver the EFC keynote speech, discussing 15 years of social activism at festivals (and beyond) that helped provide fresh drinking water for more than 3.5 million people in need.

Elsewhere, Johannes Jacobi (Höme – für Festivals) will present the results of Europe’s biggest festival survey so far and Prof. Dr Ralf Kitzberger, Yourope’s lawyer on standard terms, will answer questions on annexes, clauses and insurances.

Since launching, the festival has moved from Austria to Norway to Barcelona, hosting around 100 delegates at each conference.

Conference tickets are priced at €800 for a single room or €700 for a shared double room, with a €100 discount for Yourope members, and are available from www.europeanfestivalconference.com.

 


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Barcelona’s Cruïlla buoyed by test results

Cruïlla Festival organisers say Covid-secure live events should be permitted to go ahead “even in the worst pandemic conditions”, in response to data gleaned from its 2021 edition.

The Barcelona event took place from 8-10 July, with Catalonia in the midst of a fifth coronavirus wave triggered by the Delta variant. Masks were mandatory for attendees, but no social distancing was required, with entry dependent on a negative rapid Covid-19 test.

Cruïlla, headlined by Two Door Cinema Club, Editors, Morcheeba, Of Monsters and Men, went ahead using recommendations from the Love of Lesbian test concert.

Speaking at this week’s BIME PRO conference in Bilbao, Spain, festival director Jordi Herreruela said that while the study indicated the festival was responsible for 360 new cases of Covid, it had not been a super-spreader event.

“When the festival was held, the fifth wave began to decrease in impact and continued to decline after the festival,” said Herreruela. “We have had an impact, but we have not been the cause of a super transmission event.”

We did not generate the fifth wave, just as no musical event was the cause of the previous four waves

Moreover, 14% of the 40,340 ticket-holders no-showed the event and 292 were denied entry after testing positive during the screening process.

Data released by the Institut Català de Salut revealed 23.3% of attendees were fully vaccinated, 43.8% had a single dose and 22.4% were not yet vaccinated. In addition, 78% of infections occurred among unvaccinated festival-goers.

In conclusion, Herreruela said the findings highlighted that being vaccinated and wearing a mask were key factors in reducing the risk of transmission.

“We did not generate the fifth wave, [just] as no musical event was the cause of the four previous waves,” he added. “The health passport protocol, added to the use of the mask, must allow cultural, leisure and entertainment activities to remain alive even in the worst pandemic conditions.”

 


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Catalonia welcomes back three major festivals

Catalonia has hosted a triple whammy of festivals in the past fortnight, which will help determine the blueprint for how major events could take place in Spain going forward.

Cruïlla, Vida and Canet Rock took inspiration from 27 March’s Love of Lesbian test concert at the Palau Sant Jordi arena which they helped to organise, along with Primavera Sound (which organised the Primacov test), Sónar and Festival de Jazz de Barcelona.

In line with the recommendations from the test concert, all three festivals took place without social distancing and with attendees wearing mandatory FFP2 masks. Entry to the festivals was dependent on a negative result from a Covid-19 rapid test.

The festivals worked with the same medical partners behind the Love of Lesbian concert – the Germans Trias Hospital and Fight Aids and Infectious Diseases Foundation – and gained the approval of Catalonia’s Ministries of Health, Culture and Home Affairs.

Vida festival kicked off the week’s festivities with a three-day event in Vilanova de la Geltrú between 1–3 July that attracted a total of 27,200 attendees.

Typically, 30–40% of Vida’s line-up is international artists but this year the festival opted for an entirely domestic bill, with headline performances from Vetusta Morla, Nathy Peluso and Love of Lesbian.

“I believe that Barcelona is once again the centre of the world in terms of organising events and live music”

Catalonia’s festival frenzy continued with Canet Rock on 3 July, held from 6 pm to nearly 6 am, with an audience of 22,200 people.

The Canet de Mar-based festival also opted for a domestic-only line-up, featuring Doctor Prats, Oques Grasses, and Itaca Band.

Cruïlla rounded off the week with more than 50,000 attendees at the Parc del Fórum (also home to Primavera Barcelona).

The three-dayer took place between 8–10 July and was the only festival that opted for an international bill which including the Irish indie band Two Door Cinema Club.

“We have the feeling of total success, we can feel proud and happy, and we can get our chest out. I believe that Barcelona is once again the centre of the world in terms of organising events and live music,” says Jordi Herreula, Cruïlla.

“[Rapid Covid-19 screening] could become a solution that can be extended to the rest of society, however, the model is subject to improvements that we will outline in collaboration with the scientific community.”

 


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Spanish developers bring Covid-safe app to market

A new ticketing services operation based in Barcelona claims to be attracting interest from some of the world’s biggest live event companies, thanks to its ability to include health record details of fans as part of their pass to attend shows.

Barcelona-based TiketBlok says it has developed an app that makes it possible to identify everyone who attends a major event through their mobile phones. The app also allows event organisers to establish a communications channel with those attendees, as well as including identity and health certification within the ticket itself.

TiketBlok has already trialled its system successfully at a Manel concert on 21 May in Gerona, where 1,000 people gathered without social distancing after passing an antigen test. The company also says it has attracted the attention of Live Nation, the WiZink Center in Madrid and opera houses in Vienna.

“Our tool allows venues and event organisers to identify every single attendee, communicate with them and certify their identity and health status, says TiketBlok managing director Javier de Esteban, adding that for the Manel concert in Gerona’s Sala La Mirona venue, more than 5,000 notifications were sent to attendees via SMS, email or through the app itself.

TiketBlok trialled its system successfully at a concert with 1,000 people without social distancing

He continues, “Our app works as a ‘smart wallet’ so all attendees have to enter the venue with their own app: One phone, one ticket. This is how we identify the whole audience, and how we are able to communicate with them anytime in real time. We also include the identity certification through a biometric analysis of the attendee ID or passport and the health status.”

TiketBlok can integrate the AOKpass health certificate – a Covid-free certification project backed by the International Chamber of Commerce, International SOS and SGS Group – into its tickets. The company says it connects with official health certificate issuers to include on the ticket itself whether the ticket holder has passed a pre-event antigen test or has had a certified vaccination.

Company MD de Esteban adds, “The best part is that we are system agnostic. It doesn’t matter who sold the tickets, you can use TiketBlok to manage the tickets and the access.”

 


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Primavera to return in 2022 with bumper event

Primavera Sound Festival has announced the programme for 2022, confirming previously reported rumours of a new expanded format.

Next year’s 20th-anniversary edition will take place across two weekends, 2–4 June and 9–11 June, with more than 400 artists and 150 shows.

The festival will primarily be held at the Parc del Fòrum in Barcelona but this year, more than 150 shows will also take place across the city’s music venues between 5–8 June. Primavera 2022 will then close with the ‘Brunch On The Beach’ party on 12 June.

The line-up for Primavera Sound Festival 2022 was announced this morning (25 May), with more artists to be added soon.

The first weekend of Primavera 2022 (2-4 June) will feature a large number of the artists who were booked to play in 2020 and 2021, including The Strokes, Tyler, the Creator, Pavement, Tame Impala, Massive Attack, Gorillaz, The National, Charli XCX, Beck and Jorja Smith.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds will also perform during the first weekend, as will Caribou, Kim Gordon, Jamie xx, Fontaines D.C., Earl Sweatshirt, Parquet Courts, Beach House, Disclosure, Idles, King Krule and Slowthai.

The Strokes, Tyler, The Creator, Tame Impala, Gorillaz, Massive Attack and Jorja Smith will also return for weekend two of Primavera 2022 (9-11 June).

The festival will primarily be held at the Parc del Fòrum but this year, more than 150 shows will also take place across Barcelona

The likes of Lorde, Dua Lipa, Megan Thee Stallion, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Interpol, Run The Jewels, M.I.A., Playboi Carti, Holly Humberstone and Burna Boy will also perform on the second weekend of Primavera 2022. You can find more information on the Primavera Sounds 2020 line-up here.

Once again, the festival has achieved a gender-balanced bill, reinforcing the festival’s public commitment. Read more about Primavera’s pledge to maintain gender parity here.

Tickets for Primavera 2022 will go on sale on 1 June via DICE. Ticketholders for the cancelled 2020 and 2021 editions of Primavera will be able to attend one weekend of Primavera 2022 of their choosing, or they can upgrade their tickets in order to attend both weekends.

Refunds will also be available for any 2020 or 2021 ticketholders who do not wish to attend Primavera 2022. You can find out more information here.

Ahead of the 2022 event, Primavera Pro, the music industry conference, will take place in a ‘hybrid’ format (part physical, part online) from 2 to 4 June 2021.

Primavera Sound’s Primavera Weekender will also return, welcoming some 30 artists and around 1,000 attendees for the second edition of the resort festival in Benidorm, this November.

 


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Primavera Sound expected to expand for 2022 edition

Barcelona’s Primavera Sound is set to dramatically expand for its 20th-anniversary celebration in 2022, according to Reuters.

Reportedly, the festival will take place between 2–5 June and 9–12 June next year – double its usual length – and will host around 400 shows across two line-ups.

No decision has been made yet on whether to keep the new two-weekend format beyond 2022, according to Reuters sources.

Primavera organisers told IQ that they ‘could neither confirm nor deny’ the information.

In March, the flagship festival was cancelled for a second consecutive year due to the pandemic, shortly after the cancellation of sister festival NOS Primavera Sound, in Oporto, Portugal.

Primavera organisers told IQ that they ‘could neither confirm nor deny’ the information

As in 2020, all tickets remain valid for the delayed Primavera Sound 20 in June 2022. Ticketholders who would prefer a refund will be able to make a request from 2 June, when the 2022 line-up will be revealed.

Headliners for Primavera Sound 2021, which sold out in record time, were Gorillaz, the Strokes and Tame Impala, with FKA Twigs, Tyler the Creator, Iggy Pop and Disclosure also set to perform from 2 to 6 June.

Ahead of the 2022 event, Primavera Pro, the music industry conference, will take place in a ‘hybrid’ format (part physical, part online) from 2 to 4 June 2021.

Primavera Sound’s Primavera Weekender will also return, welcoming some 30 artists and around 1,000 attendees for the second edition of the resort festival in Benidorm, this November.

 


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Road to recovery: A timeline of pilot projects

In August 2020, Germany paved the way for live music pilot projects with Restart-19, an experiment which saw thousands of volunteers to take part in a concert at the Quarterback Immobilien Arena in Leipzig with singer Tim Bendzko.

Since then, similar experiments have popped up across the globe. From Spain to Singapore, test events with as few as 50 participants and as many as 5,000 have taken place to prove to authorities (and the world) that when it comes to safety and security, the live music industry knows what it’s doing.

Below is a timeline of the pilot projects that have taken place since late summer 2020 – all of which have proved, in one way or another, that the live entertainment sector can reopen safely under certain measures – as well as the tests that are on the horizon in 2021.

August 2020

Restart-19
When: 22 August 2020
Where: Quarterback Immobilien Arena, Leipzig, Germany
Who: University Medical Center of Halle
What they said: “[T]he contacts that do occur at an event do not involve all participants. Therefore, events could take place under specific conditions during a pandemic.”
Participants: 1,500

November 2020

Konzerthaus Dortmund (study)
When: 2–3, 20 November 2020
Where: Konzerthaus Dortmund, Germany
Who: Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute Goslar, ParteQ
What they said: “Concert halls and theatres are not places of infection. […] With our study, we want to ensure that concert halls and theatres may again admit sufficient audiences when they reopen.”

December 2020

Primacov
When: 12 December 2020
Where: Apolo, Barcelona, Spain
Who: Primavera Sound, Germans Trias Hospital, the Fight Aids and Infectious Diseases Foundation
What they said: “A live music concert, staged with a series of security measures that included a negative antigen test for Sars- CoV-2 done on the same day, was not associated with an increase in Covid-19 infections.”
Participants: 1,047

Philharmonie de Paris (study)
When: 16 December 2020
Where: Philharmonie de Paris, France
Who: Dassault Systèmes
What they said: “The combination of face masks with a fresh-air supply built into every seat gives the indoor Philharmonie a similar profile to that of an outdoor space, with a very limited risk of spread from one side [of the venue] to the other.”

Back to Live (SG)
When: 18–19 December 2020 Where: Sands Theatre, Marina Bay, Singapore
Who: AEG Presents, Collective Minds
What they said: “[T]he outcome of such pilots will be critical to our ongoing efforts to allow events of a larger scale to resume in a safe and sustainable manner.”
Participants: 500

February 2021

Because Music Matters
When: 10–14 February
Where: Rockhal, Luxembourg
Who: Rockhal
What they said: “Building confidence among all our stakeholders that live events are a safe environment is so important.”
Participants: 100 per night

Back to Live (NL)
When: 15, 20, 21, 28 February & 6, 7, 20, 21 March 2021
Where: The Netherlands
Who: Fieldlab Evenementen
What they said: “We can now show that we can organise events in a very safe way. […] We hope this can lead to a tailor- made reopening of venues.”
Participants: Varies between events

March 2021

Love of Lesbian
When: 27 March 2021
Where: Palau Sant Jordi, Barcelona
Who: Festivals per la Cultura Segura
What they said: The event had no impact on Covid-19 transmission among attendees, despite the lack of social distancing observed.
Participants: 5,000

The Berlin Philharmonic
When: 20 March 2021
Where: Chamber Music Hall, Berlin
Who: Pilotprojekt, Berlin department of culture
What they said: ‘Zero infections among the 1,000 people who attended the show is further proof that events can be organised safely during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.’
Participants: 680

April 2021

Jonathan theatre performance
When: 26 April–9 May 2021
Where: Koninklijke Vlaamse Schouwburg (KVS), Belgium
Who: KVS and Belgium’s Ministry of Culture
What they said: “An important observation is that the CO2 value and the relative humidity have barely increased. We saw the figure increase from 500 ppm to 600 ppm, while the maximum permitted value is 1200 ppm. This is of course only a first indication.”
Participants: 50–250

May 2021

Events Research Programme
When: April/May 2021
Where: Sefton Park and Bramley-Moore Dock in Liverpool, Brit Awards in London, The Crucible Theatre in Sheffield and more
Who: Festival Republic, Circus, BPI, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and more
What they said: “These test events will be crucial in finding ways to get fans and audiences back in safely without social distancing. We will be guided by the science and medical experts but will work flat out to make that happen.”
Participants: 300–21,000

TBC 2021

Denmark Trials
When: TBC 2021
Where: Denmark
Who: Dansk Live, Divisionsforeningen
What they said: “This should very much lead to a much-needed festival summer and many great concert experiences across the country in 2021.”

Paris test
When: TBC 2021
Where: Accor Arena, Paris
Who: Ministry of Health, Ministry of Culture, St Louis Hospital, Prodiss
Participants: 5,000

Marseille test
When: TBC 2021
Where: Dôme, Marseille
Who: The city of Marseille, Inserm, Béatrice Desgranges (Marsatac, SMA)
Participants: 1,000

 


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Spain pilot shows no impact on Covid-19 spread

Festivals per la Cultura Segura, the organiser of the recent pilot concert in Barcelona on 27 March, today announced that the event had no impact on Covid-19 transmission among attendees, despite the lack of social distancing observed at the 5,000-person show.

Having analysed the data, doctors from the show’s medical partners (the Germans Trias Hospital and Fight Aids and Infectious Diseases Foundation), who observed the event, have concluded that the indoor concert setting did not increase the coronavirus risk – with concertgoers exhibiting a lower incidence of Covid-19 than the general population in Barcelona at the time.

Taking place at the 17,000-capacity Palau Sant Jordi Arena, the event saw popular local rock act Love of Lesbian perform to an audience of 4,994 fans, all of whom had tested negative for Covid-19 on the day (six people were turned away after testing positive). While the use of a medical-grade FFP2 mask was mandatory, there was no social distancing among fans, who were separated into three areas, once the show got underway.

Compliance with the measures that were in place – such as the mask mandate, the three concert zones and a regulated flow of people around common areas such as bars and the toilets – was “scrupulous”, say organisers.

Of the 4,592 concert attendees who gave consent for the doctors to analyse Covid-19 tests taken after the event, six people tested positive for Covid-19 within 14 days of the show. All six cases had mild symptoms, or were asymptomatic, and no secondary transmission was observed; additionally, analysis suggests that four of the cases originated outside the concert.

“We will continue to work under the guidance of the scientific community to make further progress”

The six cases, say the scientists, represent a cumulative incidence (at 14 days after the show) of 130.7 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 inhabitants. Compared to Barcelona as a whole, this is lower than the 259.5 cases/100,000 people in the city’s population at the time.

In a statement, Festivals per la Cultura Segura – comprising Primavera Sound, Sónar, Cruïlla, Canet Rock, TheProject and Vida Festival – say they view the experiment “very positively”, stating their intention to use the lessons of the Love of Lesbian show to push for the safe return of full-capacity live concerts.

“We will continue to work under the guidance of the scientific community in order to make further progress,” they say. “The aim is for this established model to generate new proposals within the framework of a strategic plan of pilot studies, such as the one carried out on 27 March at the Palau Sant Jordi.”

The Palau St Jordi show is the latest scientifically monitored pilot show to conclude concerts do not increase the rate of Covid-19 transmission, following similar events in Germany (Restart-19 in Leipzig and a test show at Dortmund’s Konzerthaus) and elsewhere in Barcelona (Primacov at Sala Apolo).

Watch the the event’s aftermovie, which includes on-the-day interviews with the organisers and fans (with English subtitles), below:


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

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