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Tramlines to go ahead in July with 40,000 fans

Sheffield’s Tramlines festival has announced it will go ahead at its full capacity of 40,000 next month after joining the third phase of the UK’s pilot events initiative, the Events Research Programme (ERP).

Tramlines, majority owned by Superstruct Entertainment, is the latest festival to join the next round of ERP pilots, following news late last week that Festival Republic’s Latitude will also be held as a clinically controlled ERP event. Tramlines 2021 will take place in Hillsborough Park in Sheffield from 23 to 25 July, with headliners the Streets, Royal Blood and Richard Ashcroft.

Tramlines’ participation in the programme means the festival can go ahead independently of national reopening dates (provisionally scheduled for 19 July) with fans not expected to socially distance or wear masks. All attendees will be required to have had two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine or submitted a negative lateral-flow test in the previous 48 hours.

The good news for Tramlines comes as Womad, the festival of world music held annually in the Wiltshire countryside, cancels its 2021 edition (which was scheduled for 22–25 July) citing ongoing uncertainty around the reopening date and the continued lack of government-backed event cancellation insurance for large events.

“We have not been asking for financial support; all we have wanted is certainty in the form of insurance against cancellation (that we’d be happy to pay for),” reads a statement from the festival, which which was to have featured performances by Anoushka Shankar, Nitin Sawhney, Greentea Peng and more. Referring to the ‘test event’ status granted to some events, organisers add: “The industry should see equal access to support and a much less opaque way of deciding who gets help.”

Elsewhere, as Womad cancelled Standon Calling in Hertfordshire confirmed it would “go for it” with its 15th-anniversary event, held over the same dates.“The government’s impressive vaccination record, the Event Research Programme data published at the end of last week (which showed there were no substantial outbreaks at phase one of the test events) and yesterday’s comments made by the new secretary of state for health and social Care that 19 June will be the ‘end of the line’ for Covid restrictions have encouraged us to go for it,” explains founder Alex Trenchard.

“It is very important to us that clear guidance is made available quickly to the entire event community”

Commenting on Tramlines being awarded ERP status, the festival’s operations director, Timm Cleasby, says: “We are absolutely delighted to be able to confirm that Tramlines 2021 is going ahead, having accepted the government’s invitation to join the Events Research Programme. This means we have a proven framework to follow, which at previous events has shown that festivals can be enjoyed at no more risk than other activities. Once inside, there will be no need for social distancing and no one will have to wear a mask if they don’t want to.

“We would like to express our solidarity with those festivals which have not been able to go ahead this year and those which are still seeking clarity. It is very important to us that clear guidance is made available quickly to the entire event community so that as many festivals as possible can go ahead with confidence this summer. Huge ticket sales across the sector show how keen fans are to come to our events and we want to help reassure them that we can welcome them back safely.”

UK culture minister Caroline Dinenage adds: “I know how desperately people want to get back to festivals, which is why they’re a hugely important part of our Events Research Programme.

“As we continue to work towards live events reopening fully on 19 July, this year’s Tramlines festival will provide more vital scientific evidence and allow us to trial Covid certification, building on what we’ve learnt from our successful Sefton Park [Pilot] and Download [Pilot] events.”

All ticketholders for the sold-out festival will be contacted by Tramlines’ ticketing partner, Gigantic, by email on 1 July with further details. Anyone who does not want to take part in the Tramlines pilot may roll over their ticket to Tramlines 2022 at no extra cost.


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10,000 enjoy moshing without masks at Download Pilot

The organisers of Download Pilot – the UK’s first major camping festival of its kind since lockdown – are hailing it a resounding success and are confident that the test will encourage government to green-light other summer events.

The specially created three-day festival took place over the 18–20 June weekend as part of the second phase of the UK government’s scientific Events Research Programme (ERP). The Download Pilot involved 10,000 metal fans welcomed to the hallowed grounds of rock in Donington Park to enjoy a fully-fledged festival experience with no social distancing, no masks and moshing allowed.

All attendees were required to take both a PCR and lateral-flow test prior to the event, sharing details with the NHS contact-tracing system. Attendees had to show proof of a negative result to enter the festival gates and have committed to submitting a second PCR test five days post-event to help scientists monitor any Covid-19 infection activity.

Headlined by Enter Shikari, Bullet for My Valentine and Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes, 40 acts in total from the UK’s world-leading rock scene waived their fees, united by the prospect of moving the live events industry forward and playing in front of an audience for the first time in over a year.

As the last of the fans left the venue today, promoter Festival Republic dismissed any notion that live events are not possible while the Covid-19 pandemic continues. “[This] is 100% evidence that this is not true,” stated managing director Melvyn Benn. “This is a very clear demonstration that you can do it.”

“This is a very clear demonstration that you can do it”

He continued, “It’s really fantastic. I am very heart-warmed by it all. The level of compliance around the testing and requirements we have is absolutely extraordinary. It is coupled with a level of normality that is equally extraordinary when you have been out of it for so long.”

Benn believes the data gathered through the festival will prove similar events can take place this summer. “In fairness, the [Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport] are on board with the message which is that these things can happen and they can happen safely,” he told reporters.

“What we want from Download is data that scientists can analyse that will effectively reinforce that position, and that data is being gathered and I am certain it will do just that.”

Indeed, another Festival Republic gathering, Latitude, has confirmed it will go ahead for its 22–25 July event, while it’s expected that the Reading and Leeds festivals in August will also proceed as planned.

Benn added that following talks with the DCMS in recent days, he felt “sufficiently encouraged” to push ahead with Latitude and he suggested the UK government is finalising plans to launch a limited coronavirus insurance scheme that will allow other festivals to push ahead with their 2021 editions.

“There is no guarantee, but I believe the government will come forward with a limited government-backed insurance scheme,” he commented. “It wouldn’t be everything that we want, by any means, but it would certainly be enough to encourage us to all get going again.”

“We urge the government to reappraise its approach and to listen to the recommendations of its own reports”

However, while that optimism will buoy the UK business, any government backing has come too late for Kendal Calling festival, which today criticised the government for delaying the publication of ERP report, as it outlined the decision to shelve its festival for the second year running.

“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 which could scupper an already built festival,” reads a statement on the Kendal Calling website. “Capacity or density restrictions, track and trace protocol, testing regime, Covid certification – a host of unknown actions required, yet potentially requested too late to be implemented.

“Our understanding is that the DCMS are keen to publish the ERP findings and guidance, but that it now does not fit around [the British government’s] communications plan. This is insulting to our entire industry, who have been awaiting the results of a pilot event that took place almost two months ago to inform our approach to staging events safely this summer.

“This has been a frankly devastating 16 months for our industry. If calls for a government-backed insurance scheme had been heeded – as recommended by the DCMS, emulating successful schemes now up and running in other countries – we could have potentially continued to plan and invest in the coming weeks. We take this opportunity to urge the government to reappraise its approach and to listen to the recommendations of its own reports, as the continued lack of leadership hampers the recovery of our live event industry.”

Meanwhile, the iconic Notting Hill Carnival will also not go ahead in 2021, it has been confirmed, for similar pandemic concerns.


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“A real success”: 0.03% of fans infected at UK pilots

The British culture secretary has hailed as “a real success” recent UK pilot events after just 15 positive cases of Covid-19 – equivalent to 0.026% of attendees – were recorded among 58,000 people.

Speaking to the Evening Standard, Oliver Dowden says he is “very hopeful” the UK will meet its 21 June target for a full reopening of venues, theatres and clubs without social distancing, following encouraging results from recent Event Research Programme (ERP) test events, which included the Brit Awards, the Sefton Park Pilot music festival, The First Dance club shows and sports fixtures including the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley Stadium.

According to Dowden, there were no positive cases from the Brits, which took place with an audience of 4,000 at London’s O2 earlier this month, and two from Sefton Park Pilot, a one-day music festival in Liverpool.

Nine cases, meanwhile, were detected among the 6,000 clubbers who attended the two The First Dance events, held in Liverpool ahead of Sefton Park pilot, and no cases were reported from Wembley. The final four infections were detected at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, which hosted 17 days of the World Snooker Championship.

Oliver Dowden says he is “very hopeful” the UK will meet its 21 June target for a full reopening

No social distancing was in place at any of the ERP events, which used lateral-flow tests (LFTs) to check attendees for the coronavirus prior to entry.

A spokesperson for Dowden’s ministry, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, tells the Standard the figures are based on what has been seen “so far”, and that further data needs to be collected on other events. A full report will be presented to the prime minister at a later date.

The provisional findings from the ERP events come as Festival Republic, the organiser of Sefton Park Pilot, announces a second music festival, this time with camping, which will form part of the second phase of the programme.

As IQ reported earlier this month, the three-day event will be held in June and aims to build on the previous pilot by simulating the full, multi-day festival experience familiar to attendees of FR events including Reading Festival and Download.

“Following the huge success of our Sefton Park event, we are delighted to contribute to phase two of the government’s Events Research Programme with the creation of the first three-day camping festival, which will be the Download Pilot at Donington Park,” explains FR managing director Melvin Benn.

“This massive next step will help us understand and study the safe return of large-scale festivals with no social distancing or face masks over a full weekend. [It is] the return of the full festival experience we have all been waiting for, and a much needed return to work for musicians, backstage crew, caterers and many more that form part of the UK’s exemplary live music industry.”

“This massive next step will help us understand and study the safe return of large-scale festivals”

Download Pilot will have a capacity of 10,000 and take place from 18 to 20 June at the long-time home of Download, Donington Park in Leicestershire. Tickets are priced at £120 and go on sale on 1 June for Download 2022 ticket holders (the festival was cancelled for a second year in a row earlier this month), with general sale starting on 3 June. No day tickets will be available, with all attendees expected to camp on site.

As with Sefton Park Pilot, all festivalgoers will be required to produce proof of a negative LFT for entry, and also encouraged to take a more accurate PCR test before or after the event. Once in, no social distancing or mask wearing will be required: Download’s “loyal community of rock fans will be rewarded with the closest [thing] to a festival experience possible, with no social distancing, no masks, camping and the return of moshing”, according to Festival Republic.

The Download Pilot line-up will be announced this Friday (28 May).


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