Download '100% evidence' that festivals can operate safely, says organiser

Download has been used as a pilot to test the safety of large-scale events.

The capacity of the festival was reduced this year.
The capacity of the festival was reduced this year.

The organiser of Download Festival has said the event serves as “100% evidence” that large musical events can run safely during the pandemic.

Melvin Benn, managing director of the Festival Republic group, said he had seen an “extraordinary” level of compliance on site across the three-day festival, which has faced heavy rain and showers.

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The rock and metal event, which concludes on Sunday night, has formed part of a government pilot testing the safety of events without social distancing or masks – though capacity was reduced from 111,000 to 10,000.

Speaking as the festival drew to a close, Mr Benn told the PA news agency: “It’s extraordinary really. It’s really fantastic. I am very heart-warmed by it all.

“What is extraordinary about it is the level of compliance around the testing and requirements we have is absolutely extraordinary.

“In a way that you would expect when you are in the middle or towards the tail end of a pandemic, that level of compliance is extraordinary.

“It is coupled with a level of normality that is equally extraordinary when you have been out of it for so long.”

When questioned on the idea that large-scale events can’t be Covid secure, he said:

“It is evidence that this is not true. It is 100% evidence that it is not true. This is a very clear demonstration that you can do it.”

Headliners Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes and Enter Shikari are among the acts that performed across Friday and Saturday, with Bullet For My Valentine and Frank Turner due to play on Sunday night.

Mr Benn predicted the data being gathered at the festival would prove similar events can take place.

He said: “In fairness, the DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) are on board with the message which is that these things can happen and they can happen safely.

“What we want from Download is data that scientists can analyse that will effectively reinforce that position, and that data is being gathered and I am certain it will do just that.”

Additional reporting by PA.