Hundreds of thousands of music fans flocked to open-air venues across the UK last weekend for the country’s first big festival weekend since the summer of 2019.
Festival Republic’s Latitude and Superstruct-backed Tramlines, both 40,000-capacity, Broadwick Live’s Standon Calling (15,000-cap.) and Alexandra Palace’s Kaleidoscope (10,000-cap.) were among the events to take advantage of Covid-status certification – ie requiring proof of vaccine or a negative Covid-19 test from attendees – to do away with social distancing and create the first ‘normal’ festival experiences of the coronavirus era.
While the two biggest events were held as government-backed pilots as part of the Events Research Programme (ERP), all four festivals implemented some form of pre-event screening for Covid-19 status: Latitude, Tramlines and Kaleidoscope used the NHS (National Health Service) Covid Pass app to check festivalgoers were either fully vaccinated or had returned a negative test, while Standon Calling went a step further, requiring a negative test even if attendees had received both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine.
Latitude took place from 22 to 25 July at Henham Park in Suffolk with performers including Bastille, Wolf Alice, the Chemical Brothers and Bombay Bicycle Club.
Festival Republic MD Melvin Benn told local media that the stringent entry requirements meant the Latitude site was “close to being the safest place in England” last weekend, with even performers not able to bypass the checks (two acts, Fontaines DC and Alfie Templeman, were forced to cancel after testing positive and were replaced by Sleaford Mods and Sports Team, respectively).
Staff were “breaking down in tears” over being able to work again
The first festival most of those in attendance had been to since 2019, the same applied to many of the event’s staff; Benn told the BBC he knew of technicians and support staff who had been “breaking down in tears” that they were able to work again after 16 months of minimal event activity.
In addition to the music and comedy programme – other performers included Rudimental, Damon Albarn, Supergrass, Hot Chip, Kaiser Chiefs, Bill Bailey and king of the internet Rick Astley – Latitude also featured a ‘vaccine bus’, staffed by NHS workers, where over-18s could get either their first or second dose of a Covid-19 vaccine on a walk-in basis.
In Hertfordshire, popular boutique event Standon Calling made a welcome return from 22 to 25 July, planning four days of family friendly fun headlined by Bastille, Hot Chip, Primal Scream and Craig David’s TS5.
Though it, too, successfully navigated Covid-19 to go ahead as planned, the festival came to an abrupt end yesterday after organisers were forced to pull the plug due to the flash flooding which had left much of southern England underwater.
Unfortunately due to flooding we will no longer be able to proceed with the festival.
If you can safely leave the site this evening please do so as soon as possible. We are working on getting everyone off site as safely and quickly as possible.
— Standon Calling (@StandonCalling) July 25, 2021
Among the artists booked to play on Sunday were Primal Scream, Craig David, De La Soul and Sophie Ellis-Bextor.
“Hearing the first band ring out over the festival was an emotional moment”
Also taking part in the ERP was Tramlines, which welcomed 40,000 people a day to Hillsborough Park in Sheffield from 23 to 25 July.
Featuring performances from the Streets, Dizzee Rascal, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Little Simz, the Sherlocks and more, the sold-out event grew both its capacity and festival site for 2021, adding 10,000 people, a new cabaret stage, The Open Arms, and a new arena for its second, T’Other stage to become the biggest Tramlines yet.
“After 18 months of strangeness, it was unbelievable to be back in the park again,” says the festival’s operations director, Timm Cleasby. “There have been so many hurdles we’ve had to jump to get here and, honestly, it’s been quite a rollercoaster. It’s been great to see so many happy smiling faces, from crew getting back to the thing they love to revellers having the time of their lives watching the bands they love. Hearing the first band ring out over the festival was an emotional moment.
“I’d really like to thank everyone for playing their part with the NHS Covid Pass system. It ran very smoothly, and by being part of the Events Research Programme together we’re helping to pave the way for festivals and live events to get back to normal. I’m full of gratitude for everyone: our amazing crew and suppliers, the support from the DCMS [Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport], Public Health Sheffield, Sheffield Council and, of course, our fans. Thank you all for helping us do this – we love you all and we can’t wait to see you all next year.”
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