Festivals to go ahead…?

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According to Boris Johnson’s four-step plan out of lockdown, festivals (and nightclubs) can return from June 21st.

The potential return of festivals is a little dizzying; exciting because after being cooped up inside for practically a year to be under the sun and singing alongside a crowd sounds like the dream, but also nerve-wracking because even the sight of a crowd on TV makes me double-take after a year of trained social-distancing.

Of course, not all festivals are planning to go ahead in-person this year, with some remaining online. This includes Glastonbury, a behemoth of a festival which in 2019 had a capacity of around 203,000 people, making it unfeasible and too risky to allow in-person this year. Instead, Glastonbury plans to live-stream acts, with the line-up including Coldplay, Wolf Alice and Michael Kiwanuka.

However, another biggie – Reading and Leeds Festival – announced on Twitter after Boris’ plan was revealed in February that: “Following the government’s recent announcement, we can’t wait to get back to the fields this summer. LET’S GO”, setting the joint-festivals date for August’s bank holiday weekend. The organisers claim they are ‘very confident’ that the festival will happen, however, replies to the tweet show a huge range of opinions, including those doubtful that the festival will be allowed to run or that it is dangerous and irresponsible for the organisers to have given it the green light already.  

Talking to the Guardian, Festival Republic director Melvin Benn said that: “We’re enthusiastic, we’re excited, and we’re certain that it’s going to go ahead…Young people are so desperate to be released among their peers, without parents and Zoom and school and college overseeing every minute of every day. They are a coiled spring and we have to do everything to get this on the road for them.”

It remains to be seen whether or not scheduled festivals for this summer will actually go ahead, but Reading and Leeds festival are clearly feeling optimistic, releasing another 90+ names to the festival line-up on the 23rd April. Most people are craving normality, and a chance to be outside, in a crowd or with their friends, is incredibly tempting. Although, the backlash from the festival announcements also points out an anxious consideration on whether things are moving too quickly, with detractors hoping that having fun in the sun at crowd-heavy festivals won’t mean we are shacked up in Winter if it causes another wave of the pandemic to hit. Organisers, such as those planning the Reading and Leeds festival, have defended themselves by arguing that most people will have been vaccinated by August, and that it is currently in Boris Johnson’s plan to allow these events to go ahead.

In the face of the mixed return of the bigger, well-known festivals, a range of smaller festivals also say they are hoping to run as soon as June, giving chance for people to embrace smaller artists and venues. Lancaster’s own medium-sized festival ‘Highest Point’ in Williamson Park is planning on happening this September, with the line-up including Rag’n’Bone Man and Ella Eyre.

Swaying on the grass with a drink in hand and a chorus of voices singing, talking and squealing around me sounds amazing after being stuck inside the same four walls most of the year. I’m sure most of us yearn for this freedom. Although, after a year where things can change for the worst at the last minute, I am trying not to get my hopes up too high.

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