Reading and Leeds festival go-ahead lifts hopes for large summer events despite coronavirus

‘The acts are desperate to play, the kids are desperate to come,’ says organiser

Roisin O'Connor,Kate Ng
Thursday 25 February 2021 09:58
Panic! At The Disco at Reading festival

Reading and Leeds music festival will go ahead in August, organisers have announced — becoming the first mass-scale summer events to signal a return following the prime minister’s post-lockdown roadmap.

The twin-site event, which runs from 27 to 29 August, could attract up to 200,000 fans in total and could be an early test for how large crowds can be held against a backdrop of coronavirus.

The bullish announcement came less than 48 hours after Boris Johnson unveiled his plan for easing restrictions in England, including the final removal of limits on social contact on 21 June.

“Reading and Leeds 2021,” the festival’s official Twitter account said on Wednesday. “Following the government’s recent announcement, we can’t wait to get back to the fields this summer. LET’S GO.”

The event website crashed within minutes of the announcement as excited fans rushed to get more information or try to buy passes, but it came back online later.

Read more: When will lockdown end?

This year’s Reading and Leeds line-up will be rolled over from the cancelled 2020 events, with Stormzy, Post Malone and Liam Gallagher set to headline. Artists including Mabel, AJ Tracey and Doja Cat are also set to appear.

It is unclear if those attending will be required to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test or vaccination before being allowed onto festival grounds.

The government is considering “Covid status certificates” to help certain venues open safely. Mr Johnson on Tuesday announced a review into the policy, which had been previously dismissed by a number of senior ministers.

Melvin Benn, managing director of Festival Republic, which runs the events, told BBC Radio 1’s Newsbeat he is “very confident” the festivals will be able to go ahead after being cancelled ion 2021.

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“The acts are desperate to play, the kids are desperate to come. I can feel that,” he said.

Mr Benn believes all adults would be offered a second vaccine by mid-August, with two or three weeks to spare before the festivals, and he praised the vaccine rollout as “one thing” the prime minister “has got right”.

“I applaud him for that, and I am going to hold his feet to the fire on it. And I think there’s going to be 200,000 young people holding his feet to the fire on that position as well,” Mr Benn added.

Liam Gallagher was among those excited by the news, tweeting: “READING n LEEDS c’mon you f***ers.”

Festival-goers flocked to social media to express their excitement — but others were more sceptical and worried it would become a super-spreading event.

The Secret DJ, an anonymous British DJ, said: “Reading and Leeds are a bit overconfident. Have they even seen what the Conservatives have been like for the past year? I’ll believe 21 June happens on the morning of 22 June cheers.”

Another user tweeted: “Reading and Leeds is going to have its own variant by September.”

Another lamented: “How can the Reading and Leeds festivals go ahead and I can’t even get confirmation I can have more than five people at my wedding in July? Lol.”

The news is positive not just for festival goers but also musicians who have been unable to work for almost a full year. Elsewhere, there are hopes that sporting events and other big-crowd occasions such as the Notting Hill Carnival could also return after a one-year absence.

A number of high-profile figures in music, including Radiohead, Dua Lipa, Sir Paul McCartney, Liam Gallagher, Ed Sheeran and the Rolling Stones have called on the government to offer more support to the industry.

Organisers of an open letter signed by the above said there had been “hundreds of redundancies” since the pandemic began.

Mr Benn is optimistic the government’s timetable for the roadmap will not change, telling Newsbeat: “Why would it? We have to, at some point, start planning for life to go back [to normal].”

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