Return of festivals: What you should expect this summer

Many festivals are set to restart June 21. Pic: Hanny Naibaho

South East Londoners can expect a very different festival experience this summer, as festivals prep for their return on June 21 following months of uncertainty.

Many festivals across the borough are set to return this summer after being forced to take a year off due to the pandemic. The South Norwood Festival in Croydon is just one of many festivals preparing for a summer of live music after the Government announced its ‘roadmap’ to ease the country out of month-long restrictions. 

John Rother, who started the Croydon-based festival nine years ago confirmed that the festival is on track to open in late July: “Our festival is usually the first week of July but we have moved this back a couple of weeks as we are organising everything at shorter notice.”

When asked if Rother believed restrictions would affect the running of the festival, he responded: “We cannot be 100% sure at the moment and being in July we are hoping all restrictions will be lifted. We have discussed ideas of only allowing locals, marking out two-meter spaces, asking people to pre-book and negative test results”. 

Rother concluded: “Nevertheless, one health and safety advisor advised that hopefully none of these precautions will be needed by July.”

Temperature checks will be required prior to festival entry. Pic: Aranxa Esteve

However, with rising cases and new variants appearing across the boroughs, many festivalgoers have begun questioning if restriction easing may slow down. 

One festivalgoer from Tower Hamlets said he was worried that new Covid variants may prevent festivals from going ahead this summer. Alex Marston, 20, student said: “I bought tickets for Wireless festival but I’m concerned the Government may delay the June 21 date after all the new variants. I’m trying to remain hopeful as it would be a shame to see so many cancelled but also, I really wouldn’t be surprised. If festivals did get cancelled it would be the second year running that me and my friends have missed out on a festival.”

Over the past few months, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson has continued to enforce the message that the easing of restrictions relies on “data not dates” to avoid overrunning the NHS and spreading the risk of infection.

However, with 7 in 10 adults vaccinated and a currently unchanged ‘roadmap’ in place, this is what you can expect to experience this summer under Government guidelines:

Social distancing:

The governments four step plan hopes to remove all social distancing restrictions by June 21. This will allow large gigs and festivals to return to a regulated normal. However, with rising cases and new variants this idea may be shelved. 

Festival goers should expect to see: timed entries, online tickets, contact tracing and marshalling to manage customer flow.

Capacity Limits:

There are capacity limits for indoor and outdoor events until June 21 suggesting why festivals have chosen to delay opening until late summer. However, even if the June date is deferred by Government, organisers believe festivals will still go ahead due to picking later than usual start dates.

To help the Government determine the best way to carry out large events such as festivals, pilot events have been successfully taking place across the country. The Government hope that the findings of these events will help secure the safest way to run festivals.

However, with ongoing pandemic uncertainty, cancellations are still a lingering possibility leaving many festival organisers asking the Government for insurance in case such events are cancelled again.

The Government have outlined that if festivals go ahead sooner than June 21 then capacity restrictions are as followed (according to Eventbrite): “Capacity for events is limited to 1,000 people indoors (or 50% of the venue’s capacity if lower), 4,000 outdoors (or 50% of the site’s capacity if lower), and 10,000 (or 25% of the venue’s seated capacity if lower) for large spaces like stadiums.”

Vaccine passports:

Little has been confirmed when it comes to vaccine passports but yet, over the past few months they have been a much spoken about topic. With the government conducting a review over its uses we will soon discover the potential effects on festivals and whether they will be optional or compulsory.

The Government confirmed in its roadmap review that trialling a “Covid-status certificate” will begin shortly: “COVID-status certification could potentially play a role in settings such as theatres, nightclubs, and mass events such as festivals to help manage risks where large numbers of people are brought together in close proximity. The Government will begin to trial COVID-status certification in certain settings, including large events, through the Events Research Programme”.

Health and safety checks:

The World Health Organisation haven outlined further changes that you will see at festivals this summer to reduce Covid transmission rates, including

  • Temperature checks on arrival
  • Cashless payment systems
  • Screens between the public and festival staff
  • Removal of touch points such as furniture 
  • Removal of public showers for camping festivals
  • Straight line queuing with increased space 
  • Increased entrance gates
  • Dedicated Covid staff to monitor that Government guidelines are being followed

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