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As the champagne pops at Wimbeldon, Royal Ascot and The Grand Prix… isn’t it time that warm can of lager cracks again at all of our music festivals?

There’s an unmistakable, brooding sense of ‘de ja vu’ in the air as once again the UK musical festival circuit is forced to its knees by increasingly tiresome and seemingly never-ending restrictions. Only this time, those arguing on the completely misguiding mantra of ‘lives before profit’ are standing on two wooden legs, after the ones they stood on 12 months ago have been blown off by the shotgun of logic and common sense. 700,000 job losses in the sector alone inevitably means that many will have been unable afford to put food on the table for their children, others unable to pay their rent, not to mention the thousands joining the ever-increasing list of those seeking urgent support for mental health issues. If you want to have a paddy and stamp your feet loudly on Twitter about people ‘profiting’ from the crisis, then do not direct your anger at the creative industries, because they have suffered just as much as anyone else. Unlike many other industries based on exploitation and misery, the arts bring a sense of joy and purpose to people’s lives – not just for those employed in it, but the millions attending a wonderful variety of events each year in music, film, theatre and beyond. 

The jubilant scenes at the pilot event held at Sefton Park back in May seem a million miles away from the crushing disappointment of the recent announcements of Kendal Calling and Truck festival once again being forced to cancel. Kendal’s statement read:

“Monday also saw a less publicised delay; the release of the long-awaited research from the Event Research Programme (ERP) and with it, crucially, the publication of safety guidance on how we run events”.

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CREDIT: REUTERS

This displays a startling lack of competence once again from safety-propaganda obssed government officials who oversaw the spending of an eye watering £164 million on advertising in 2020 alone (not including the estimated further £80 million spent on the same thing by Public Health England). Once again the shoe is on the wrong foot – common sense and pragmatism dumped in place of creating hysteria and suspicion. I’m yet to meet a single person who does not know how to walk down a pavement correctly. But I have met many who have spent the last 16 months waiting for a measured and proportionate plan to get their sector back open again so they can feed their families and get back to the jobs they love doing. Alas, one cannot become complacent to the possibility of Reading & Leeds being next, despite confident sentiments from Festival Republic director Melvin Benn, who rightly stated back in February that:

“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’s impossible for any competent individual disagree with what Mr. Benn has to say. The brave contribution of young people during this difficult period cannot be underestimated. Having spent much of the last two years working in the arts department for a fantastic locally run alternate provision called ‘Saddleworth Environmental Education’, I have seen first-hand the challenges this crisis has presented towards these young people and their families. Parents in low paid, insecure work have been left out to dry, whilst the young people are left with no real outlet or career to aspire to; thanks massively in part to having a crucial stage of their development torn away from them. With this in mind, isn’t it only right to now allow those who have done their bit to protect the elderly and vulnerable for 16 months to once again get down to a gig or a festival, meet friends for life and be inspired to become an artist in their own right? Despite the dire situation, I have watched in horror as some many of my fellow artists have committed a disproportionate amount of time to using social media to deliver patronising lectures towards people making sure they follow the rules (as if they *apparently* have done), with absolutely no empathy shown towards those living in poverty amongst cramped conditions with more pressing matters than deciding which colour mask to wear for that days virtue-signalling lecture on Instagram. I’ve never unfollowed more people in my life than I did in 2020, largely in part due to this.

Thanks to a so-called world leading vaccination programme, the UK is now in the driving seat to push on and unleash its flagship cultural export to the world… or at least it should be. As other nations lag behind with their vaccination programmes, but seem puzzlingly miles ahead in terms of reopening, its vital more than ever that we start trusting our own instincts to find out the data for ourselves and start to ask why our freedoms are still being kicked into the long grass. The common counter argument to freedom is that ‘cases are rising fast amongst young people’… indeed they are, quadrupling from 1st May to 7th June nationwide across all age groups.

However, it needs pointing out (for those who somehow haven’t got their heads round this already) that cases don’t automatically mean illness, hospitalisation and death. To put into perspective, SAGE; who’s own data predicated that by the 21st June we would be seeing well over 3000 hospitalisations per day ended up once again with egg on their face, as the actual figure on ‘freedom day’ was 178 (Yes, you read that right). I very much doubt the figures are much worse now at the time of you reading this article now. In fact, I’m fairly confident that even the most ardent of health and safety first boffs amongst you have now decided you don’t like the path we are heading down very much. As the champagne pops at Royal Ascot, Wimbeldon and The Grand Prix… isn’t it time that warm can of lager cracks again at all of our music festivals?

Enough is enough. Let the music play.

HARRY LAVIN 

Header Image: Leeds Festival Press Office

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