This weekend’s Download pilot is “100% evidence” that festivals can go ahead

"This is a very clear demonstration that you can do it," said Melvin Benn

This weekend’s Download pilot event is “100 per cent” evidence that festivals can go ahead this summer, according to organiser Melvin Benn.

The 10,000-capacity event held over the weekend (June 18-20), saw Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, Bullet For My Valentine and Enter Shikari headline as the legendary rock festival made a small-scale return for a three-day camping pilot as part of ongoing research into the safe return of live music.

Benn, director of Download promoter Festival Republic, called the event “extraordinary” in an interview with PA. “It’s really fantastic. I am very heart-warmed by it all,” he added.

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“What is extraordinary about it is the level of compliance around the testing and requirements we have is absolutely extraordinary. In a way that you would expect when you are in the middle or towards the tail end of a pandemic, that level of compliance is extraordinary.

Benn, whose Latitude Festival last week confirmed its plans to go ahead in late July, went on: “It is coupled with a level of normality that is equally extraordinary when you have been out of it for so long.”

Asked whether it was impossible for more festivals to take place this summer as the removal COVID-19 restrictions are being delayed, he replied: “It is evidence that this is not true. It is 100% evidence that it is not true. This is a very clear demonstration that you can do it.”

Download Pilot
Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes perform during the Download Pilot Festival at Donington Park on June 18, 2021 in Donington, England. Download Pilot is a 10,000 capacity festival part of a UK government test event to examine how COVID-19 transmission takes place in crowds. Credit: Katja Ogrin/Getty Images.

At the festival on Friday (June 18), Download boss Andy Copping spoke to NME about the event and its level of safety. He said: “It’s looking amazing. Just coming on site and seeing everything set up is so cool. Obviously it’s like a miniature version of Download because we’re used to operating to 100,000 people every year and this year it’s only 10,000 – but it just feels so good to be seeing everybody.”

Of the safety of the event, he added: “The fact is that from those other pilot events that have taken place, there has been little or no sign of any infection. That shows that this is working. Whether that’s down to people having their jabs, the way that people have been behaving during lockdown, the safety of the testing – it all adds up.”

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He continued: “We’ve been saying it for a while, but you’re actually safer at a festival than not being at a festival.”

The Download pilot followed last month’s pilot events in Liverpool, with Blossoms performing to 5,000 people at Sefton Park and the likes of Fatboy Slim entertaining revellers at a club night test – all with testing in place and no COVID restrictions.

Results showed that just 15 people have tested positive for COVID-19 following government-run live event trials including the Liverpool events, the BRIT awards at London’s O2 arena and the FA Cup final and a semi-final at Wembley Stadium.

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