Download pilot is ‘100% evidence’ festivals can take place safely, says organiser - The Guide Liverpool

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Download pilot is ‘100% evidence’ festivals can take place safely, says organiser

20/06/2021

The organiser of Download Festival says it is “100% evidence” that large-scale music events can take place safely amid the pandemic.

Melvin Benn, managing director of the Festival Republic group, said he had seen an “extraordinary” level of compliance on site across the three-day festival, which has faced heavy rain and showers.

The rock and metal event, which concludes on Sunday night, is taking place as part of a Government live events pilot, meaning fans do not have to wear masks or socially distance – although the capacity has been significantly reduced from 111,000 to around 10,000.

Attendees at Download Festival (Joe Giddens/PA)

Speaking as the festival drew to a close, Mr Benn told the PA news agency: “It’s extraordinary really. It’s really fantastic. I am very heart-warmed by it all.

“What is extraordinary about it is the level of compliance around the testing and requirements we have is absolutely extraordinary.

“In a way that you would expect when you are in the middle or towards the tail end of a pandemic, that level of compliance is extraordinary.

“It is coupled with a level of normality that is equally extraordinary when you have been out of it for so long.”

Asked about the idea it remains impossible for large-scale music events to be Covid-secure, he said: “It is evidence that this is not true. It is 100% evidence that it is not true. This is a very clear demonstration that you can do it.”

Headliners Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes and Enter Shikari are among the acts that performed across Friday and Saturday, with Bullet For My Valentine and Frank Turner due to play on Sunday night.

Mr Benn predicted the data being gathered at the festival would prove similar events can take place.

He said: “In fairness, the DCMS (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.

“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.”

We spoke to Melvin at the Liverpool pilot event in Sefton Park last month:

 

Festival organisers announced in March that they were cancelling the event for a second consecutive year due to the pandemic.

However, the festival was given the green light in May to proceed as a Government test event, following a number of smaller pilots and the Brit Awards in May.

Latitude, which is also run by Festival Republic, announced on Friday it would be going ahead between July 22 and July 25 in Suffolk.

Mr Benn said that following talks with the DCMS over the past week he felt “sufficiently encouraged” to push ahead with the music, comedy and arts festival and suggested the Government planned to launch a limited coronavirus insurance scheme.

He said: “I believe, and again there is no guarantee, but I believe the Government will come forward with a limited Government-backed insurance scheme.

“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.”

A DCMS spokesman said: “We are continuing to work flat out to support festivals and live events including through our ongoing events research programme.

“Festival organisers have received more than £34 million from our unprecedented Culture Recovery Fund, with more financial support on the way after a £300 million boost at budget.

“We are aware of the wider concerns about securing indemnity cover and are exploring what further support may be required when the sector is able to reopen.”

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