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Lowlands festival site to be used as refugee shelter

The festival site where Dutch festivals Lowlands and Defqon. 1 are held each year will become a shelter for more than 1,000 registered refugees.

The first refugees are expected at Walibi Holland in Biddinghuizen, central Netherlands, in three weeks’ time and will be accommodated in temporary housing units until next spring.

The shelter will be used to relieve the burden on the asylum seekers’ centre in Ter Apel, Groningen, until April 2023 when the site will be available for festivals again.

The mayor of governing providence Dronten, Jean Paul Gebber, tells de Volkskrant that Walibi Holland is a good choice for a temporary shelter because of the festivals that are organised there. “If we can build a village here for 60,000 people three times a year, we can also set up a village for 1,500 asylum seekers if there is a need for it.”

The mayor of Dronten says that Walibi Holland is a good choice because of the festivals that are organised there

Walibi Holland hosts the 55,000-capacity Lowlands (aka A Campingflight to Lowlands Paradise) in August each year, with the 2023 edition set for 18–20 of that month.

The festival’s promoter, Live Nation-backed Mojo Concerts, recently opened the world’s largest solar carport in Walibi Holland’s on-site car park.

The site is shared by Defqon. 1 which is promoted by Q-dance, part of the Superstruct-backed ID&T group.

The electronic dance music festival is due to return to the site between 22–25 June, 2023.

 


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Lowlands opens world’s largest solar carport

Organisers of Lowlands festival in the Netherlands have opened the world’s largest solar carport in the event’s on-site car park.

A collaboration between promoter Mojo Concerts and renewable energy producer Solarfields, the car park opened on 3 May and covers 35 hectares.

Providing space for 15,000 cars, its 90,000 solar panels produce an annual capacity of 35 MWp of electricity, meaning around 10,000 households can be supplied with green energy – equivalent to the power consumption of roughly 100 Lowlands weekends.

“It is essential for our company that we commit ourselves to a sustainable society”

“We are proud of the realisation of Solar Carport,” says Mojo Concerts director Ruben Brouwer. “It is essential for our company that we commit ourselves to a sustainable society and with this initiative we ensure that more sustainable, green energy is generated. In our transition to using only renewable energy, this is a huge step.”

Held in Walibi Holland in Biddinghuizen, the 55,000-cap Lowlands (aka A Campingflight to Lowlands Paradise) returns from 19-21 August, when it will welcome acts such as Arctic Monkeys, Bring Me The Horizon, Glass Animals, Sam Fender and Arlo Parks.

“We are proud that this solar carport has been opened in collaboration with Solarfields after many years of development,” says Lowlands director Eric van Eerdenburg. “As a festival organisation we want to propagate an optimistic vision of the future and play a role in solving climate problems. We hope in this way to be a source of inspiration for our visitors to contribute – no matter how small – to making the world more sustainable.”

“We want to be part of the solution, not the problem”

Van Eerdenburg added to Dutch publication Omroep Flevoland the festival wants to run on green energy within two years.

“We are going to connect to the Smart Grid of Flevoland,” he said. “This consists of seven wind farms, solar farms and a number of large batteries. The dream is to connect to those batteries so that we can reduce aggregate use and diesel to zero. We want to be part of the solution, not the problem. It is super-important for our young audience, for the future of the Netherlands, for green energy and a better future.”

 


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70,000 take part in ‘Unmute Us’ protest march

Tens of thousands of people took part in the ‘Unmute Us’ protest march in cities across the Netherlands on Saturday (21 August).

The march, spearheaded by the Dutch event industry and attended by festivalgoers, called on the Dutch government to end the ‘arbitrary’ restrictions that have effectively written off the festival summer.

Around 70,000 people attended the marches in Eindhoven, Groningen, Nijmegen, Utrecht, Rotterdam and Amsterdam, including more than 2,000 parties from the Dutch event industry.

Ziggo Dome, Awakenings, Down The Rabbit Hole, Soenda, Apenkooi Events, Vunzige Deuntjes, and Kultlab were among the event companies that hosted floats in their home cities.

The event also drew support from the likes of DGTL, A State of Trance Festival, Amsterdam Open Air, Best Kept Secret, Defqon, Dekmantel Festival, Lowlands, Mysteryland and Paaspop.

The protest marches were reinforced by performances from DJs and artists such as Ryan Marciano, Joris Voorn, Goldband, Bizzey, Sandrien and Joost van Bellen and speeches by Kluun, Tim van Delft (De Staat), Lusanne Bouwmans (D66) and Michiel Veenstra (3FM).

“The fact that an ambitious idea can grow into a real movement in such a short time is typical of our field”

“I had so many goosebumps all day. This is our scene, this is what we live for. Happy people, music and positivity. I only now realise how terribly I missed this,” says Bram Merkx, initiator of Unmute Us.

Jasper Goossen, co-owner of Apenkooi Events (DGTL, Amsterdam Open Air, Elrow Amsterdam), says: “Today we issued the best possible business card. The fact that an ambitious idea can grow into a real movement in such a short time is typical of our field. I am very proud of our entire industry. We now expect a quick response from The Hague.”

The protest comes after the Dutch government banned large-scale events such as festivals until at least 19 September amid fears over the spread of the highly infectious delta variant.

One-day events with a maximum of 750 visitors are allowed for people with a Covid-19 app showing they have been vaccinated, have recently tested negative or have recovered from a case in the past six months.

The organisers of Unmute Us want the ban lifted by 1 September, which would still come too late for festivals such as Down the Rabbit Hole (27–29 August), A Campingflight to Lowlands Paradise (20–22 August) and Mysteryland (27–29 August).

 


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Dutch gov delivers death knell for summer festivals

Dutch festivals such as Lowlands, Down the Rabbit Hole and Mysteryland, will not be permitted to take place this summer after the government extended its ban on multi-day events until September.

The ban on non-seated public events and multi-day festivals with more than 1,000 attendees came into effect on 10 July and was set to remain until 14 August, when the government would decide whether festivals after that date could go ahead.

However, the cabinet has sealed the fate of the summer season sooner than expected, ruling out multi-day festivals until at least 1 September due to uncertainties surrounding the Delta variant of Covid.

Following the news, Mojo-promoted event A Campingflight to Lowlands Paradise (aka Lowlands), which would have taken place between 20–22 August, has been called off for a second consecutive year.

“This is a very bitter pill because the developments surrounding corona have clearly gone in the right direction in recent months,” says Mojo. “Based on that, we started the preparations for Lowlands full of enthusiasm and all artists, suppliers and especially you were ready for a fantastic weekend in the polder. While this is a major setback, we understand and respect [the government’s] decision.”

“This is a very bitter pill because the developments surrounding corona have clearly gone in the right direction”

All Lowlands ticket buyers will automatically receive a refund for tickets purchased in 2020 and 2021. The next edition of the festival is set for 19–21 August 2022.

The organisers thanked the government for setting up the €385 million insurance fund, which they say would guarantee the survival of the sector, as well as Lowlands itself.

Mojo has also been forced to cancel Down the Rabbit Hole, which had already moved from July to the weekend of 27–29 August for a one-off visit to the Biddinghuizen (home of Lowlands).

“No matter how big that setback is, we respect that decision and are happy with the life preservation buoy in the form of a guarantee fund that allows us to support artists, suppliers, caterers, and all the other thousands of hands that make Down The Rabbit Hole,” says Mojo.

All ticket buyers will automatically receive a refund for tickets purchased in 2020 and 2021. Down the Rabbit Hole will return to its usual home of Groene Huvels in Beuningen between 1–3 July 2022.

“No matter how big that setback is, we respect that decision and are happy with the guarantee fund – a life preservation buoy”

Mysteryland (cap. 60,000), the Netherlands’ oldest and most famous electronic music festival, will also forego 2021 due to the extension of the ban.

This year’s sold-out edition was due to take place between 27–29 August in Haarlemmermeerse Bos in north Amsterdam.

The festival’s promoter ID&T, along with a raft of Dutch event organisers, recently initiated summary proceedings against the government over the initial ban on multi-day festivals.

“We understand that this isn’t the news you were hoping for, and it breaks our heart to share it with you,” ID&T wrote.

“During the last months, our whole team has been pushing the limit, working day and night to create what would’ve been the most magical weekend of the year, while also complying with the changing regulations set by the Dutch government. With only a month to go till a sold-out Mysteryland would’ve taken place, all stages and shows were ready for our festival adventure, but unfortunately, it seems it wasn’t meant to be this year.”

“Unfortunately, the Alliance jointly with the government had to conclude that [multi-day festivals] are an unfeasible scenario”

Elsewhere, the Alliance of Event Builders says that it understands the cabinet decision: “Over the past few weeks, we have had intensive consultations with the government about the conditions under which multi-day camping festivals such as Lowlands and Mysteryland can continue.

“Unfortunately, the Alliance jointly with the government had to conclude that we have now been overtaken by reality and that this has become an unfeasible scenario. The quality and responsible festival experience for visitors, employees and artists cannot be sufficiently guaranteed.”

Organisers of one-day festivals will have to wait until August before the government decides whether or not they can continue with their event. The same applies to other one-day events without overnight stays.

The government’s tightening of restrictions comes in spite of Fieldlab’s findings from three months’ worth of pilot events in the Netherlands show that the risk of Covid-19 infection, when following certain hygiene and testing protocols, is about the same as being at home.

Fieldlab is an initiative of the Dutch government and several trade bodies, including the Alliance of Event Builders.

 


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ID&T to sue Dutch gov over “disproportionate” restrictions

ID&T, the promoter behind festivals including Mysteryland and Awakenings, has announced it is taking the Dutch government to court over new Covid restrictions, which have been reimposed just weeks after they were lifted.

Prime minister Mark Rutte held a press conference last Friday (9 July), in which he announced that restrictions would renew on 10 July and remain until 14 August, in an effort to halt a sudden surge in Covid-19 restrictions.

Under the new measures, multi-day events will be banned and only one-day festivals will be permitted until 14 August, provided visitors are given a seat and no more than a thousand people attend.

In the press conference, Rutte said the government won’t give any more clarity until 14 August for events after that date – leaving organisers in a stalemate situation.

ID&T called the measures “disproportionate” and announced that the company would be filing a draft subpoena with the court today (12 July).

“It is our expertise to organise events well and safely and we know that our audience has the discipline,” says said Ritty van Straalen, CEO of ID&T.

“It feels like a death knell for our industry”

“We are now the good who suffer from the bad and it seems that the government prefers holidays over festivals. You can’t go into recess at a crucial moment like this and leave the industry dangling. Young people are disproportionately affected by these measures. The social importance of our industry is enormous.”

Mojo-promoted event A Campingflight to Lowlands Paradise (aka Lowlands) is due to take place on 20–22 August but festival director Eric van Eerdenburg tells IQ that the Dutch government has created an “unworkable situation”.

“For our festivals, Lowlands (20–22 August) and Down The Rabbit Hole (27–29 Aug), as well as suppliers and artists, this has created a lot of uncertainty. We are already building the infrastructure as we speak, and will continue to do so as we believe it should be possible to let them happen,” says Eerdenburg.

“Our belief is based on a constructive relationship between Mojo and the ministries of health and economic affairs, as well as the Outbreak Management Team that advises the government, we will get more clarity on how we can move on after close consultation in the next few days,” he added.

The Association of Dutch Poppodia and Festivals (VNPF) and the Association of Event Makers (VVEM) are also hoping to sit down with ministers to get a perspective on the summer season and discuss extra support measures.

In January, the government announced a €385 million insurance fund which would compensate organisers 80% of the costs of their event if it is cancelled due to state-enforced coronavirus measures.

“You can’t go into recess at a crucial moment like this and leave the industry dangling”

However, VNPF and VVEM are calling for the compensation to be increased to 100% and extended to organisers who have to cancel within an “unreasonably short period of time” but can’t claim under the scheme.

Eerdenburg says that Mojo is also pushing for the scheme to cover fees for UK artists, as well as those of Dutch and EU artists.

In a joint statement, the VNPF and VVEM wrote: “It feels like a death knell for our industry. Of course, it is understandable that measures are taken when the infection rate increases. However, within those measures, the industry that has not contributed to that higher infection rate at all is being hit hard. It was precisely our industry – the only industry in the Netherlands – that has actively sought solutions in recent months in collaboration with science and ministries.”

Fieldlab Evenementen – an initiative of the Dutch government and several trade bodies – recently revealed findings from three months’ worth of pilot events in the Netherlands show that the risk of Covid-19 infection, when following certain hygiene and testing protocols, is about the same as being at home.

According to OurWorldinData, daily cases in the Netherlands have risen almost sevenfold, from a rolling seven-day average of 49.2 per million people on 4 July to 328.7 on Sunday (11 July).

The Dutch prime minister today (12 July) acknowledged that the cabinet made an error of judgment with the rapid relaxation at the end of June. “What we thought was possible, was not possible.”

 


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Lowlands 2021 adds BMTH, Rag’n’Bone Man and more

A Campingflight to Lowlands Paradise, one of the few major festivals in continental Europe still going ahead on its original dates this summer, has added a host of new international acts for the August event.

Promoted by Live Nation’s Mojo, Lowlands 2021 takes place from 20 to 22 August at the festival’s traditional home near the village of Biddinghuizen in the central Netherlands. The festival typically has a daily capacity of 60,000, and organisers are expecting to be able to go ahead without social distancing by the end of the summer.

The new names include British rock act Bring Me the Horizon, American rapper Machine Gun Kelly, UK singer-songwriter Rag’n’Bone Man and British neo-psychedelic act Django Django, as well as Sam Fender, Metronomy, Mahalia, Black Country New Road and drill act Headie One. They join previously announced confirmations including Liam Gallagher, the Chemical Brothers, Slowthai and Arlo Parks.

The latest Dutch government guidance says festivals and other large events should be able to go ahead from 1 July, depending on the pace of the Netherlands’ Covid-19 vaccination programme. The country also has a €300m cancellation fund designed to underwrite the costs of festival organisers, though some of its provisions – particularly a clause that could require promoters/organisers to assume sole responsibility for the loan portion (20%) of the fund, despite it benefitting the entire industry – are proving controversial.

Other Dutch festivals aiming for a relatively normal summer in 2021 include ID&T’s Mysteryland and Decibel Outdoor (both of which have a capacity of 60,000), whose COO, Rosanne Janmaat, told IQ last week the company is aiming for a similarly international DJ line-up this year.

Rosanne Janmaat: “People can’t wait to go to a party again”


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Lowlands forges ahead with international line-up

The Netherlands’ Lowlands festival has unveiled the first slate of artists for its 2021 edition, which is currently scheduled to take place between 20 and 22 August at Biddinghuizen.

The first 54 confirmations for the Mojo-promoted festival include a number of international artists including Arlo Parks, The Chemical Brothers, Liam Gallagher, Jack Garratt, Kaytranada and Slowthai, with more to be confirmed.

Though the organisers say the attendance of international artists is dependant on restrictions, they add that “the most important thing at the moment is that all these acts have wholeheartedly indicated that they will be there when the circumstances permit”.

“All these acts have wholeheartedly indicated that they will be there when the circumstances permit”

In a statement, the organisers have also said they assume the 60,000-capacity festival will be able to go ahead without social distancing measures but are working on ‘various scenarios to organise Lowlands safely, which could include quick tests’.

Last year, tickets for Lowlands 2020 sold out in five hours but due to a number of refund requests, a small number of tickets will be available for this year’s edition. A three-day festival and camping ticket costs €230. See the full line-up below.

Lowlands 2021 line-up

The Netherlands has made a number of preparations to ensure its 2021 festival season has the best chance of going ahead including a series of test events, a €300 million event cancellation fund and the introduction of 100 new test rapid test centres for gig-goers.

And, while other major European markets, including France and Germany, are seeing the dissolution of their 2021 festival season, a raft of major Dutch festivals have already announced plans for this summer season.

Paaspop, DGTL, Dauwpop, Awakenings, Utrecht Central Park Festival and Zwarte Cross have all revealed details on their 2021 editions – though all have pushed back their spring editions until the autumn in order to be covered by the government’s event cancellation insurance scheme.

 


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Dutch government to trial Covid app at test festivals

The Dutch government will trial a new app that displays the results of Covid-19 tests at the Back to Live pilot festivals this weekend.

The two music festivals – a dance music event and a rock/pop festival – will take place on Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 March, respectively, on the Lowlands site in Biddinghuizen, in the central Netherlands, admitting 1,500 participants each.

At the previous events in the Back to Live test series, participants showed their test result via a digital or paper PDF document in combination with ID. The CoronaCheck app will corroborate both of the documents.

The health minister also said that, in the long term, CoronaCheck could also integrate proof of vaccination

Fieldlab, which is responsible for organising the Back to Live pilots, will investigate whether using the app will accelerate the admittance process, though participants can choose to show test results via email if they prefer.

Minister for health, Hugo De Jonge, previously emphasised that the CoronaCheck app will only be used in non-essential places, such as festivals.

In response to concerns about data privacy, De Jonge said that, initially, the app will not contain any personal information, but that this will be the case after an amendment to the law.

The health minister also said that, in the long term, CoronaCheck could also integrate proof of vaccination, which follows his announcement that the cabinet is working on making vaccine passports “technically possible”.

 


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Over 60,000 people apply for test festival tickets

More than 60,000 people have applied for the 1,500 tickets available for the two experimental festivals being organised as part of the Netherlands’ Back to Live initiative.

Two music festivals – a dance music event and a rock/pop festival – will take place on Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 March, respectively, on the Lowlands site in Biddinghuizen, in the central Netherlands, as part of a wide-ranging, government-backed study that aims to show how live events may be restarted safely.

Pieter Lubberts, programme manager at Fieldlab, which is organising the trial shows, told Dutch TV presenter Eva Jinek that around 63,000 people had applied to attend the festivals, which each have a capacity of 1,500.

“It is clear that people really need this”

“It is clear that people really need this. It really exploded,” said Lubberts. Successful applicants will be selected by a lottery draw, he added.

The first Back to Live event, Back to Live Business, which simulated a conference environment, took place at Utrecht’s Beatrix Theatre on Monday (15 February) with 500 people. Future shows include a dance event and concert at the Ziggo Dome arena on 6 and 7 March and the two festivals.

Participants in Back to Business, which was attended by Mona Keijzer, the Netherlands’ minister for economic affairs and climate policy, were required to test negative for the coronavirus in advance, with some also undergoing rapid tests on the door along with temperature checks. During the event, contact between attendees was measured by motion sensors, and all are required to have another test five days after the conference.

 


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Dutch gov gives green light for January pilot events

The Dutch government has approved several pilot shows for January 2021 to determine how events with an increased visitor capacity can take place safely and responsibly during the pandemic.

The test events, organised under the umbrella of ‘Back to Live’, will include a concert and a dance event at Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam and two open-air festivals at the Lowlands and Defqon Biddinghuizen festival site, all of which will be organised by Mojo and ID&T.


‘Back to Live’ pilot shows that have already been announced include a cabaret performance by Guido Weijers to 500 guests at the Beatrix Theater in Utrecht, a business conference at the Jaarbeurs in Utrecht and football matches with 1,500 supporters at the home grounds of NEC and Almere City FC.

The events, which are organised by FieldLab Events, a joint initiative with Event Platform, the Alliance of Event Builders and the government, have been divided up into four categories in order to draw up effective measures for each type: inside passive, active indoors; active outdoors; and outside active festival.

“This is confirmation of the fact that we have presented a solid plan of action”

Participants of all events will have to meet a number of requirements in order to gain entry including submitting a negative Covid test, completing a health declaration within 24 hours before the event, participating in a temperature measurement or rapid test at the entrance of the event upon request and avoiding contact with vulnerable groups in the two weeks after the pilot event.

At each event, Fieldlab will study several ‘building blocks‘ that contribute to prevention and reduction of the risk of spreading the Covid-19 virus including behaviour; triage, tracking and tracing; rapid tests; visitor dynamics; air quality; personal protection; cleaning and disinfection of surfaces and materials; vulnerable groups.

Previously, the government said the pilot shows could only take place in regions that are in the ‘vigilant’ stage but that condition has now been abandoned.

Marcel Elbertse, chairman of the Fieldlab Events Steering Group: “This is confirmation of the fact that we have presented a solid plan of action. It shows the government’s guts that they are now giving us permission to organise the pilot events. We have always emphasised that these can take place safely and are essential for the entire industry. In principle, every visitor to a pilot event has been tested negative, thus avoiding risk.”

Similar studies have been organised in Spain and Germany.

 


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