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Boardmasters return brought ‘a lot of joy to people’

Surf and music festival, Boardmasters, returned to the Cornish town of Newquay this month for the first time since 2018.

Last year’s edition was called off due to coronavirus restrictions, while the 2019 event was cancelled due to severe weather warnings in the UK.

The festival’s return saw 50,000 attendees flock to Watergate Bay in Newquay between 11–15 August for performances from the likes of Gorillaz, Jorja Smith and Foals.

Despite subsequent reports that the festival may be linked to 4,700 Covid cases, Cornwall council’s portfolio holder for public health told a press briefing that cases were expected but that he was “reassured” they were not “translating into a serious life-threatening illness”.

The health official, Andy Virr, was also keen to emphasise the benefits of holding Boardmasters, adding: “Covid will have lots of impacts ongoing, and one of them is around loneliness and isolation and mental health problems.

“That festival brought a lot of joy to people. And, yes, there are some things we are having to deal with, but that was part of the judgement.”

“That festival brought a lot of joy. There are some things we are having to deal with, but that was part of the judgement.”

Recent data from the government’s Events Research Programme (ERP) – which included Blossoms’ Liverpool show, the BRIT Awards ceremony, Download Festival and Latitude –  shows that “mass events can be conducted safely”, but caution must still be taken around specific aspects of event participation.

Cornwall’s public health team said they won’t know the complete picture of the infections for another few days, though it is clear that about 800 of the positive cases are people who live in Cornwall.

“Since the government allowed live events to return, we have worked closely with Cornwall council’s public health team, putting in place risk management measures above and beyond national guidelines,” say festival organisers.

“These included use of the NHS Covid Pass as a condition of entry, which was introduced during the government Events Research Programme earlier this year and is being recommended as best-practice at other large events. The system detected over 450 people who would otherwise have been at risk of passing on the virus and as a result did not attend our Watergate Bay site or left the festival early. We are grateful to them and everyone else who took the extra steps this year.

“No event is able to eliminate risk entirely and the latest Test & Trace data includes reported infections among the 76,000 people who visited the festival or related activities at Fistral Beach, in Newquay and the wider area during the week of Boardmasters.

“We will continue to work with our public health partners to understand the extent to which attendance at the festival has contributed to the figures. We look forward to sharing our experience with our local authority partners and other large events so we can all continue to provide much needed economic benefit to our communities and entertainment to our loyal audiences.”

All attendees over 11 years old were required to prove their Covid-19 status through the NHS Covid app before entering. Face masks were not compulsory but were encouraged.

People who camped at the festival had to take a second NHS lateral flow test during the event and log their results in the app.

 


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Results from Spain’s festival study published

The Catalan government says it has gleaned “valuable information” about how major events could take place in the future from a study of three festivals that took place in early July.

The three festivals – Cruïlla, Vida and Canet Rock – went ahead using recommendations from the Love of Lesbian test concert which they co-organised along with Primavera Sound (which organised the Primacov test), Sónar and Festival de Jazz de Barcelona.

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.

Despite finding a high number of infections among concertgoers, the department of culture says its study will prove highly beneficial when it comes to improving protocols and security measures for festivals.

The department’s study found that 2,279 attendees of the festivals contracted Covid-19 – 76% more than the cases recorded in a control group.

The department’s study found that 2,279 attendees of the festivals contracted Covid-19

The nearly 50,000 people who attended the events were compared to a control group with the same breakdown of age, sex, residence and immunity during the days the events took place.

The study found that 466 attendees of Vida, 956 of Canet Rock and 857 of Cruïlla tested positive for the coronavirus in the two weeks following the concerts.

In the control group, the number of cases detected on the same dates of the events was 197, 525 and 571, respectively.

The study expected that a maximum of 1,437 infections would be recorded after the festivals, but this was exceeded by 842, bringing the total number of cases to 2,279.

The government says a small percentage of the festivalgoers – 271 people – attended one of the events despite testing positive for the coronavirus beforehand, though it’s unclear how they were admitted.

The department also pointed out that previous pilots took place when there was a “much less transmissible variant” of Covid

The secretary of public health, Carmen Cabezas, defended the number of infections, explaining that in early July – and in a context of 8,000 cases a day – the festivals “were just one more factor among all those that occurred at that moment”.

In early July, Catalonia was grappling with the fifth coronavirus wave and contagion rates were already at high-risk levels.

The department also pointed out that previous pilots took place when there was a “much less transmissible variant” of Covid.

Currently, in Catalonia, concerts are allowed to take place with up to 1,000 people indoors and 3,000 outdoors or indoor spaces with enhanced ventilation, access control and prior seat allocation.

 


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Lessons learnt from ‘super-spreader’ festival

Verknipt, an outdoor festival in the Netherlands, has become a cautionary tale for the sector after it recorded more than 1,000 Covid infections among 20,000 attendees.

The two-day event took place in Utrecht in early July and all attendees were required to show a QR code that demonstrated that they were either vaccinated, had recently had a Covid infection, or had a negative Covid test.

Despite the festival’s entry requirements, the event recorded 1,100 infections among the attendees, prompting the municipal health service (GGD) of Utrecht to investigate the origin of the infections, as well as suspected large-scale fraud with test tickets.

The GGD checked the pathways of nearly 400 infected Verknipt visitors from the province of Utrecht and concluded that at least 34% of those surveyed were likely Covid-positive even before they arrived at the site, it was reported by de Volkskrant.

The festival accepted negative rapid tests taken up to 40 hours prior to the event, meaning attendees had a significant window in which they could become unknowingly infected. Experts said the timeframe was ‘far too long’.

“We should have had a 24 hour [period], that would be a lot better because in 40 hours people can do a lot of things”

Lennart van Trigt, a spokesman for the Utrecht health board, or GGD, previously said: “This period is too long. We should have had a 24 hour [period], that would be a lot better because in 40 hours people can do a lot of things like visiting friends and going to bars and clubs.”

According to the GGD’s research, about 90% of the infected festivalgoers surveyed had attended multiple other social events earlier that week at which they may have become infected – following the relaxation of nightlife restrictions on 26 June.

The GGD was not able to trace the other infected festivalgoers from other regions and stressed that the research is not complete. The health service found no indications of large-scale fraud involving test tickets.

Another issue was that residents in the Netherlands could get a Covid pass for the festival immediately after being vaccinated and didn’t have to show a negative Covid test, though research shows it takes several weeks for immunity to build following a Covid vaccine.

“It is striking that 34% of the infected festival-goers we examined were already infected,” says the spokesperson for the GGD region of Utrecht. You can’t blame the youngsters, she thinks. “They had heard from the government that they were allowed to party.”

Just over two weeks after the Netherlands’ rollback of restrictions, Covid cases increased exponentially and the Dutch prime minister acknowledged that the cabinet made an error of judgment.

The easing has largely been reversed in the weeks following as the government this week extended its ban on multi-day events until September, resulting in the cancellation of major events such as Lowlands, Down the Rabbit Hole and Mysteryland.

More than 30 other event organisations including Event Warehouse/Paaspop, DGTL and F1 Dutch Grand Prix Zandvoort joined ID&T as co-plaintiffs in its legal proceedings against the Dutch government over the “carelessly prepared” restrictions.

 


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No infections recorded at Pohoda on the Ground

Slovakia’s Pohoda on the Ground did not record a single positive Covid-19 result throughout the “extraordinary” five days it took place, according to organisers.

The festival mini-series took place between 7–11 July 2021 at Trenčín Airport in western Slovakia instead of the flagship event, which was cancelled for a second consecutive year.

A maximum of 1,000 people were permitted on each of the five days, including campers who had their own designated space.

According to the organisers, nearly three-quarters of the visitors were vaccinated (twice as much as the national average), for whom pre-testing was not mandatory.

All non-vaccinated people (including crew) were tested at one of the festival’s seven test sites and not a single positive Covid-19 result was recorded in more than 2,200 tests, prompting the organisers to declare that “well-established cultural events can be even safer from the epidemiological point of view than the streets of our cities”.

“The Pohoda on the Ground Festival started as a concept full of uncertainty but all obstacles are negligible in terms of its outcome. The measures were worth it; I feel that we have managed to create a space full of freedom, a celebration of art, tolerance, and the joy of meeting,” says Pohoda’s Michal Kaščák.

“[The festival] started as a concept full of uncertainty but all obstacles are negligible in terms of its outcome”

“I would like to thank everyone who contributed to its implementation—the commitment of many was huge and admirable, and visitors made sense of all our efforts. Also, this Pohoda has shown the importance of live art. We keep our fingers crossed for the other organisers of live culture events; we wish them to experience similar feelings of joy as we are experiencing now, so that they can realise their events in the freest possible format.”

Among the artists that performed at Pohoda on the Ground were Jewish DJ Ramzy Al Spinoza, Palestinian rapper MC Safaa Hathot, Korean-British duo Wooze, British band Dry Cleaning and Kinshasa-hailing collective Fulu Miziki.

Performances could be watched virtually on the festival’s 16-hour live stream which was viewed more than 3,000 times on the festival’s website, watched on YouTube more than 2,000 times, and Facebook videos were watched more than 18,000 times.

Marquee event Pohoda (cap. 30,000), which is the biggest festival in Slovakia, is due to return to Trenčín Airport between 7–9 July 2022.

Confirmed names for Pohoda 2022 include Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Libertines, Richie Hawtin, Black Pumas, Metronomy, Wolf Alice, slowthai.

 


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