Download Pilot Welcomes 10,000 Fans to First U.K. Festival Since Pandemic
Slowly but surely live shows are coming back as the world starts to open up after year-long pandemic lockdown. In the U.K., the first major festival event is taking place this weekend with the Download Pilot Festival, which allowed 10,000 fans to come camp out in Donington Park as part of a government program to research the return of live music events on a large scale.
In the U.K., researchers have been studying how to put on events while negating the spread of the COVID-19 virus, steadily growing the amount of people allowed to attend these events. While Download Festival is expected to return in full in 2022, this "pilot" version of the festival allowed for one of the biggest music event attendances to date in the U.K. as researchers continued to collect data helping to determine when and how the music industry in the country can return at full capacity.
Last night (June 18) was the opening night with Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes leading a bill that included Neck Deep, Sleep Token, Boston Manor, Holding Absence, Hot Milk, Malevolence and Death Blooms. Enter Shikari, While She Sleeps, Creeper, Bullet for My Valentine, Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls, Skindred, The Wildhearts and more will also take the stage this weekend.
For this event, festival goers were required to follow social distancing and facial covering guidelines while traveling to and entering the festival, but were allowed to remove the facial coverings and participate in the concert viewing without social distancing once inside.
The prerequisite for entry into the pilot event was a required lateral flow test taken the morning of arrival with a negative test result needed to enter. They've also been asked to take a PCR test prior to the event and another after to gather further evidence for researchers concerning the guidelines for festival going and camping. Names and contact info were gathered as well in case there is need for follow-up should an outbreak occur.
"The important part of this is to actually do this as realistically as possible," stated Professor Paul Monks, the lead scientist for events research, in a chat with BBC Radio Leicester (as seen below). "Because we couldn't understand that risk and reduce that risk unless we do it by people acting normally."
While a torrential downpour awaited the festival goers, it didn't seem to dampen the spirits. "Despite the weather, it feels joyous," stated organizer Melvin Benn to BBC News. "It's been two years since we stood in this field. We had to cancel Download 2021 [in March]. We didn't think anything could happen. But the government wanted to extend the research program and they wanted a camping festival, so they wanted me to put that together. So here we are, three and a half weeks later, in the rain and happy to be in the rain." Other news reports showed festival goers smiling and posing in ponchos while speaking of the thrill of being able to see live music again.
Holding Absence's Lucas Woodland stated, "We haven't played a show since the 12 December 2019. So yeah, it's been a long time coming." "Live shows are kind of the lifeblood of what we do," added Neck Deep's Ben Barlow. "That's the most sort of alive I've felt in nearly two years. It's just amazing. There's no replacement for it."
See reports from BBC Radio Leicester, BBC News and Leicester Live from Friday's first day below.