Why making T In The Park 18s-and-over only might be the best thing possible

The Strathallan event has been plagued by misfortune since moving from Balado two years ago

Since last November’s announcement that it would be “taking a break” in 2017, we’ve heard relatively little about the long-term future of T in the Park, with the festival’s organisers understandably more focused on TRNSMT, the three-day event that’s set to run in its place at Glasgow Green in July. In an interview given yesterday to BBC Radio Scotland, however, DF Concerts boss Geoff Ellis let slip an interesting, and potentially significant, update on the future of Scotland’s biggest music festival.

“We are confident and hopeful but we are still in the throes of looking at everything,” said Ellis, before going on to add that “what we have seen in recent years is more 16 and 17 year olds going a bit crazy. So let’s make the campsite over 18 going forward. It does mean families can’t come to the event like they have done traditionally since 1994, but that something we have to do.”

That’s a pretty big deal – just as Reading & Leeds is an end-of-summer Mecca for English A-level students, T has long been an equivalent rite of passage for underage fans from all over Scotland. Yet when you consider the numerous misfortunes that have plagued the festival since its move from Balado to Strathallan two years ago – and particularly following the drug-related deaths of two 17 year-olds at last year’s event – it makes an awful lot of sense.

Nobody’s suggesting that pissed teenagers are the only demographic who act like dicks at T in the Park, or that an age-restricted campsite would be a magic bullet for the festival’s problems, but it’s an encouraging sign that the organisers are at least serious about tackling them. While anyone under 18 will, presumably, still be able to attend on a day ticket, the new campsite policy would ensure that younger, more potentially vulnerable fans are kept out of the area where most of the trouble – which last year included drugs, violence and sexual assault – takes place. It may not be an ideal solution, but at this point, it feels like a necessary measure.

Less remarked upon, but equally as revealing, was Ellis’ comment that “EDM dance music, which is something that particularly appeals to a younger audience, [is] something I think we will dial down. We’re seeing a more polarised audience with people into EDM and people into guitar music who are not tolerant of electronic music at all.” I would argue it’s not quite that polarised – there’s no TITP institution more beloved than the Slam Tent, for example, and I can’t imagine anyone would want to see it go. The broader shift in booking policy towards pop and EDM acts has, however, been a source of frustration for many longtime attendees, and doesn’t seem to have yielded much success for the festival itself. If the organisers are looking to appeal to the more traditional T crowd, a return to the festival’s roots would be a good way to start.

The TRNSMT lineup announced so far – including headliners Radiohead, Kasabian and Biffy Clyro – already looks like a move in that direction, and the response to that event (which is non-camping) will likely have some bearing on what becomes of T. Ellis sounds optimistic that it will return – which would surely be the best-case scenario for everyone involved – and these proposed changes are a good place to start, but it seems the question of T in the Park’s future may not be settled for some time yet.