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UK gears up for Country to Country festival return

The Country to Country (C2C) festival is set to make its grand return to the UK and Ireland this weekend for the first time since 2019.

Luke Combs, Darius Rucker and Miranda Lambert headline the event, Europe’s biggest country music festival, which will be held at The O2 in London, 3Arena in Dublin and Glasgow’s OVO Hydro from 11-13 March.

C2C’s was one of the first music events to fall victim to the pandemic in March 2020, while last year’s festival was also cancelled for the same reason.

“We’re really excited about C2C, it’s one of the favourite events of the year for our staff,” The O2’s GM and VP Steve Sayer tells IQ. “It’s built over many years now to be the premier country music event in the UK and outside the US, frankly. And having lost it just before Covid was breaking way back in March 2020, and then not being able to get it on last year, to get that one away this year is a major plus for everybody.”

Promoted by SJM Concerts, AEG Presents and DF Concerts in association with the Country Music Association, the event launched in London in 2013 and has showcased country stars such as Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, Carrie Underwood, Dierks Bentley, Kacey Musgraves and Chris Stapleton, as well as emerging talent.

In addition to its Scotland and Ireland legs, the festival brand has expanded to other European countries over the years, with additional dates in Sweden and Norway in 2015, and the Netherlands, Germany and Australia in 2019.

“Some of the onsales for later this year have just started to get back to normal levels”

The O2 will host more than 100 performances over the weekend, with C2C ticket holders able to access The Town Square, The Big Entrance, BBC Radio 2 Stage (at Indigo at The O2), Country Music Week Hub and The Saloon (All Bar One), The Icon Stage and The Garden Stage, while all visitors to the venue can access the free stages.

“Fortunately, the event will happen,” adds Sayer. “We’ve had to pivot slightly, but all of the stages are going to be in place and all the programming outside of the arena is in place. We’ve got three near sell-out crowds and it’s going to be a brilliant atmosphere.”

Sayer also reports that no-show rates – a hot topic for venues since reopening last year – were improving at the arena.

“We’re still seeing some no shows, more than we would see in a non-Covid year, but that’s definitely coming back round,” he says. “Fans are coming back in and they’re really up for a big night. They have pent up energy that they want to release. We’re still seeing quite strong numbers on F&B sales, stronger than pre-pandemic and that seems to be continuing for now.

“You will still see some fans wearing face coverings, but I think the majority feel much more comfortable and much safer now. We’re definitely seeing consumer confidence starting to return. Some of the onsales for later this year have just started to get back to normal levels, so it’s starting to return to normality.”


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