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10,000 to attend rock festival in latest pilot – but it comes too late for many other live events

Written by on June 17, 2021

A live rock festival seems at odds with the government’s decision to delay lifting restrictions, but that’s exactly what’s happening from today as Download Pilot takes place in Donington Park.

It is the latest test aimed at gathering data on how live events impact the spread of coronavirus.

But for some it will be too late – figures from the Association of Independent Festivals show a third of the UK’s festivals have already been cancelled this year.

Melvin Benn, managing director of Festival Republic
Image: Melvin Benn, managing director of Festival Republic

More are considering their position after the proposed date for the lifting of restrictions was pushed back to 19 July.

Melvin Benn, managing director of Festival Republic – which also runs other events including Reading and Leeds and Latitude – said this weekend’s event is an important step in keeping the season alive.

He added: “I think it’ll reinforce and build on the data that we’ve already got from the Liverpool events in particular.

“I know the data from that was really terrific, really strong.

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“We wouldn’t have been going ahead this weekend if the data hadn’t have been strong. They would have stopped us, instead they gave us permission.

“The data that we get from here [Download Pilot] I think will just build and build so that everything from 19 July can genuinely be open without restriction.”

Download Pilot is one of the test events given the green light by the government
Image: Around 10,000 people are expected at the Donington Park event

Some 10,000 people will be at Donington Park to see bands including Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes, and Bullet For My Valentine.

Ticketholders are being asked to provide evidence that they have tested negative for the virus before they are allowed on site.

For most of the bands on the line-up, it is the first time they will have played in front of a live audience in more than a year.

“Not being able to do the touring side of things has felt like half of our life has just disappeared,” said Chris Batten, the bassist of Saturday night’s headliners Enter Shikari.

“This big thing that we did on a daily basis had just been taken from us.

“So I think just being out there, being up on stage and feeling that adrenaline again is going to be really good.”

Singer Rou Reynolds added: “It’s the human connection aspects as well.

“Just like, you know, sort of singing as one and feeling that kind of cyclical flow of energy, there’s nothing like it.”

Enter Shikari are Saturday night's headliners
Image: Enter Shikari are Saturday night’s headliners

With the clock ticking on this summer’s festival season, there are calls for the government to give more support to the live music and theatre industries by backing an insurance scheme.

“There’s every chance that we’re going to see a lot of festivals go under and not come back,” Naomi Pohl, deputy general secretary at the Musicians Union said.

“They’re all crying out for extended government support.”

“So another four-week delay, another cancellation, potentially looking at carrying tickets over to next year is completely disastrous for the sector, and we’re really worried that a lot of festivals just won’t recover.”


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