Richard Ashcroft pulls out of Tramlines Festival due to it becoming government test event

Ashcroft says he refuses to play "concerts with restrictions"

Richard Ashcroft has announced he will pull out of a headline set at Sheffield’s Tramlines Festival after being informed that the event will form part of the government’s Events Research Programme (ERP).

It comes after Tramlines organisers confirmed last week that a full capacity crowd will descend on Sheffield’s Hillsborough Park from July 23-25 as part of ongoing research into the return of live music.

Earlier stages of the ERP have seen audiences attend a weekend of events in Liverpool, the BRIT Awards and Download Festival to investigate the safety of large crowds returning to events after the coronavirus pandemic.

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Posting on Instagram, Ashcroft wrote: “Apologies to my fans for any disappointment but the festival was informed over 10 days ago that I wouldn’t be playing once it had become part of a government testing programme.

“I had informed my agent months ago I wouldn’t be playing concerts with restrictions, the status of the festival was one thing when I signed up for it, but , sadly was forced to become something else.”

“It must be an age thing but the words Government Experiment and Festival,” Ashcroft added alongside three laughing face emojis.

“#naturalrebel #theydontownme,” he captioned the post.

However, one fan subsequently questioned Ashcroft’s apparent reluctance to play a concert with restrictions when, as part of the testing, the crowd will not be required to socially distance.

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“Is the test part not that they will allow no restrictions to see how it goes?,” they asked.

Others, however, said that Ashcroft was “a true rock and roll star”.

Despite Ashcroft’s departure from the event, Tramlines attendees will stay take in sets from the likes of The Streets and Royal Blood.

NME has contacted Tramlines for comment.

The Tramlines announcement comes after it was confirmed last month that Latitude Festival will also go ahead at full capacity at the end of July as part of the ERP.

Data from the first stage of the ERP was published recently and confirmed that just 28 people who attended pilot events researching the impact of large-scale gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic tested positive for the virus.

Taken from a weekend of events in Liverpool, the BRIT Awards and sporting events such as the FA Cup final, it is in addition to initial results first shared in May.

It followed industry figures criticising the government for failing to publish the full results of more recent COVID event pilots, such as Download Festival and Ascot, or providing festivals with insurance, which would help get live entertainment back on its feet safely.

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