Reading & Leeds boss tells parliament “festivals can go ahead with adequate testing”

"Trying to open without full capacity is just not an option"

Reading & Leeds boss Melvin Benn has told the UK Parliament that “festivals can go ahead safely with adequate testing”.

Benn, the Managing Director of Festival Republic, took part in today’s (September 8) Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (DCMS) hearing, where he was asked whether next summer’s festivals could go ahead with social distancing measures in place.

“The answer is no. You can’t have festivals with social distancing,” he replied. “You mass test.”

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Referencing his Full Capacity Plan campaign, which was published in June, Benn added: “That was based on essentially testing people before they arrive at the festival or event and creating an environment where everybody in the space has been tested and have tested negative, and therefore are unable to transmit the virus to other people.

Leeds Festival
Leeds Festival CREDIT: Andy Ford/NME

“The testing detects people that are asymptomatic so they would show up on the test and the reality is that the data shows that people that have been tested cannot, even if they then contract the virus themselves immediately afterwards, cannot transmit the virus to others for a minimum of 72 of 96 hours – so that is part of that evidence.”

Benn claimed this scheme would effectively “get rid of the need for social distancing” at large-scale events, and that testing is a “real, viable alternative”. “The speed of testing between June and now has been dramatic,” he said.

“I have a plan for up to 600 locations around the UK where we could effectively test people the day before they arrive and the app would effectively give entry.”

He continued: “I think the government has a view about testing that it is a positive way forward. Unfortunately, what they’re not doing is sharing how that testing can work for the live entertainment sector with the live entertainment sector, so that we can begin to plan.

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“Trying to open without full capacity is just not an option.”

This comes after Benn recently spoke to NME about the plans that were in place to assure Reading & Leeds goes ahead next year, saying that festivalgoers would be tested upon entry.

“By the time August 2021 comes around, [testing] will take 10 minutes,” he explained. “You can see the kids outside doing it – who can neck a pint quickest, who can do a test quickest?

“It will all be automated on phones. We’re in a stage where technology can really help, and the Reading & Leeds audience really understand technology. I have no pessimism about it. Of course we’ll overcome it. This year everyone was too scared – but we understand it now.”

Reading & Leeds have since announced the first wave of artists for 2021. The dual August bank holiday event will feature six headliners next year: Stormzy, Catfish And The Bottlemen, Post Malone, Disclosure, Liam Gallagher and Queens Of The Stone Age.

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