Festival Republic planning 10,000 capacity camping festival as part of government’s COVID research programme next month


May 17, 2021

Festival Republic boss Melvin Benn last week revealed plans to stage a mini-festival with camping next month as part of the UK government’s ongoing Events Research Programme, which is testing how to safely get higher capacity events back up and running as COVID regulations relax.

The Live Nation division previously staged a big show at Sefton Park in Liverpool as part of that programme, while the Circus nightclub also ran a full capacity club night and last week’s BRIT Awards were also part of the research initiative. Benn discussed the planned mini-festival during a series of debates on the revival of the live sector that are being hosted by trade magazine IQ.

According to IQ, he said: “While the Circus club shows and the Sefton Park pilot were effectively events that were designed to ensure the enablement of reopening on 21 Jun, the camping event – because its three or four days – will actually be about testing the protocol of how to deal with anyone that might have COVID at the event”.

“It’s about testing the protocols around using COVID certification on the NHS app”, he went on, “and it’s also around testing the protocols of what the SAGE [Scientific Advisory Group For Emergencies] scientists here in the UK want, which is at-home testing for all attendees that don’t have the vaccination and that are not immune”.

The event will have a capacity of 10,000 people, double the audience of the Sefton Park show. “It’s not like Reading or Lollapalooza Chicago or anything like that”, he added, “but it’s a decent number, and certainly a number that they can adequately take data from and multiply”.

Benn also said that he thought the bigger concern for the UK government at the moment as COVID rules relax is possible transmission on public transport, including as people travel to events, rather than in venues where promoters and venue management teams will instigate any measures required to ensure audience safety.

Live events with social distancing can resume in England from today, with 21 Jun currently the target date for getting higher capacity events back up and running.

At last week’s Great Escape Conference, a panel of live sector experts expressed cautious optimism that that target will be met, though noted that insurance issues and international travel restrictions meant that it will take longer to get many larger-scale shows and tours back up and running, even in markets – like the UK – where the vaccine roll out is going well.

Nevertheless, it was hoped that we were now in the final phase of the COVID shutdown – especially in the UK and the US – though, of course, everyone will be watching carefully what happens as those regulations lift, especially in the context of the new variant of the virus that has grabbed headlines in recent days.

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