United Kingdom

Reading Festival may NOT go ahead this summer despite tickets selling out

Reading Festival may not go ahead this summer despite tickets selling out hours after Boris Johnson revealed his road map out of lockdown, with local councillors warning 'nothing is agreed'.

Organisers declared the three-day music event, which is due to be headlined by Liam Gallagher and Stormzy, would take place after the Prime Minister's statement last week. 

Festival Republic director Melvin Benn said at the time: 'We're enthusiastic, we're excited, and we're certain that it's going to go ahead.'

Up to 100,000 tickets sold out within hours of going on sale last Wednesday following the announcement.

However, a councillor in the Berkshire town has now claimed the festival may not happen on the weekend of August 27 to 29 after all.

Councillor Graeme Hoskin said: 'What's become apparent from comments on social media and people contacting the council is that some people are under the impression that the council has approved Reading Festival taking place this summer.'

Speaking at Reading's Covid-19 Outbreak Engagement Board meeting last Friday, he added: 'That is not the case. Reading has not, and nor has anyone else, agreed anything.'

Cllr Hoskin said Reading Borough Council said a decision would have to be approved by its licensing department and other national bodies.

Festival bosses, who will have raked in millions selling weekend tickets at more than £200 a head, have been approached for comment. It is not yet clear whether they would look to postpone the event or refund customers if it the council stops it from going ahead.

Organisers have also said recently insurance for the event was 'impossible to buy', but are believed to be hopeful of some kind of package in tomorrow's budget. 

Reading Festival, pictured in 2009, may not go ahead this summer despite tickets selling out hours after Boris Johnson revealed his road map out of lockdown, with local councillors warning 'nothing is agreed'

Liam Gallagher (left) and Stormzy (right) are among the big names on the bill for this year's festival

The festival is set to take place at Little John's Farm in Reading and Bramham Park in Leeds. Pictured: Organisers' tweet last week

How Reading and Leeds could operate at 13% and 23% capacity with social distancing 

Reading could operate at 13 per cent of capacity while Leeds would be at 23 per cent if the festivals followed social distancing guidelines, a study found.

Geospatial analysis company Esri UK looked at how many people could hypothetically attend the festivals if they had to space out.

It found 13,970 festival-goers could fit within Reading's festival site compared to its 105,000 capacity, while at Leeds, 17,120 could attend instead of 75,000, or 23 per cent of the normal volume.

Reading could operate at 13 per cent of capacity - 13,970 instead of 105,000 - if all attendees following social distancing rules

The company also determined that if Glastonbury had gone ahead, only 5 per cent (4,967) of the Pyramid Stage's estimated 100,000 capacity would have been possible under the same social distancing formula.

The method used placed a single person inside a two-metre diameter circle, following the usual two-metre social distancing guidelines.

But this was with an additional two metres of space between each circle, allowing some space for people to move around, to represent a hypothetical estimation of festival capacity.

Leeds Festival could operate at 23 per cent of capacity- 17,120 fans instead of 75,000

Sam Bark, cartographer at Esri UK, said: 'We wanted to examine how many people could hypothetically fit within a festival site ahead of the summer festival season.

'Spatial analysis can help give event organisers an indication of capacity for any type of event, either outdoors or indoors.

'Obviously, the figures come with some caveats, as most festival goers are in groups of more than one and people don't remain stationary, but the criteria can be easily adjusted.

'For example, the size of bubbles can be increased, or additional space could be added between each bubble, which would reduce capacity further.'

After the tickets sold out last Thursday, Reading Festival organisers said in a statement: 'After the year we had, it was always going to happen.

'We never lost faith, and today we're excited to say that - thanks to everyone who managed to purchase a ticket - Reading Festival 2021 is now officially SOLD OUT.

'It's going to be a summer to remember, and we can't wait to welcome you back into the fields.'

Reading, and its sister festival in Leeds, was the first major summer event in Britain to be confirmed after the Prime Minister said that all Covid-19 rules are set to be dropped on June 21. 

But major questions remain over whether those attending would need to have a Covid-19 test or show proof of vaccination before walking through the gate.

Festival Republic has previously spoken of the importance of people getting tested - but also that enough people at the event would have to be vaccinated.

The prospect of vaccination passports has also already been floated, although it is unlikely that the majority of revellers attending Reading and Leeds - who are mostly young adults and teenagers - will have had both jabs by the end of August.

Other acts on the line-up include Lewis Capaldi, Post Malone, Queens of the Stone Age and Disclosure.

Weekend tickets for Reading were available through the official website for £232 each face value, but have also been resold by the likes of Viagogo for up to £542.

The UK festival circuit has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic with its 2020 season mostly wiped out, and the Government launching an inquiry into their future.

And it comes as football supporters and sports fans could be back in stadiums within weeks under Government plans to test how coronavirus spreads in crowds. 

However, organisers of Glastonbury Festival, the largest greenfield music festival in the world, have cancelled the event for a second year running. 

Likewise, Britain's biggest rock and heavy metal festival Download was aslo cancelled yesterday after organisers said it would be 'impossible' to hold.

The event, which is held at Donington Park in Leicestershire, was due to take place between June 4 and 6 with headliners Kiss, Biffy Clyro and System Of A Down.

But organisers said it had become clear they could not go ahead after the Prime Minister said Covid-19 rules would not be removed until after it is due to take place.

However, Download will return from June 10 to 12 in 2022 with veteran heavy metal band Iron Maiden replacing System Of A Down as headliners at the same site.

News is still awaited on other music festivals due to take place after June 21, including BST Hyde Park and Camp Bestival - as well as the Notting Hill Carnival. 

By May 17 larger performances and sporting events in indoor venues, with a capacity of 1,000 people or half-full, whichever is lower, will be allowed. 

Greg Parmley, chief executive of Live - a trade body for the live music industry - said last week: 'Confirmation that Reading and Leeds music festivals will be taking place in August is a great moment that will give people hope of better times to come.

The line-up for this year includes Stormzy, Liam Gallagher, Post Malone and Lewis Capaldi

Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled his lockdown exit strategy on Monday

'The Prime Minister's announcement on Monday has given some organisers confidence but there is still a large amount of uncertainty ahead of us. With the Government only committing to provide a week's notice on the lifting of all restrictions, this will mean for many it will just be too late and we will see further cancellations.

'This is why, despite the good news today, the Government must commit to further sector-specific support for our industry in the Budget as we start our long road to recovery.'

Festival Republic boss Melvin Benn told NME last month that the plans for Reading and Leeds were 'based on the vaccine first and testing second', adding: 'It could be a mix of both.' 

He told how 'we can get away with shows purely on testing', continuing: 'It's immensely hard work, but operationally doable and hopefully unnecessary.'

Mr Benn said of their full capacity plan: 'The vaccination and verification that you've had it would give you that safety of knowing that you're not going to get super ill.'  

The Prime Minister said yesterday he was 'very optimistic' that he will be able to fully remove all of the rules on June 21 but warned 'nothing can be guaranteed'. 

And Mr Johnson urged the nation to be 'prudent' by continuing to follow the rules after publishing his road map to gradually lift the third national lockdown. 

Meanwhile Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has been tasked with leading a review into the possible use of vaccine passports for people attending events. 

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