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10,000 people attend UK festival pilot without masks or social distancing

The festival's organiser has praised attendees' general compliance with testing requirements following the event

Over the past weekend, 10,000 people attended a UK festival pilot event without masks or social distancing.

The organiser of Download Festival said the event was “100% evidence” that large-scale music events can take place safely amid the pandemic. Melvin Benn, managing director of Festival Republic, which staged the event, hailed the compliance of many of those in attendance with testing requirements, as scientists and the UK government hoped to use data from the event ahead of the planned full relaxation of social distancing measures next month.

In-keeping with the Great British festival summer, the pilot event, which saw Download's usual capacity of 111,000 heavily reduced, was subject to some heavy rain. It took place across Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the past weekend.

Benn is quoted by the PA news agency as saying: "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. 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."

Asked about the idea that it remains impossible for large-scale music events to go ahead and 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.

“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.”

News of the pilot festival first emerged late last month. It followed on from a number of pilot events taking place in Liverpool across April.

Last week, The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) renewed its call for an urgent intervention from the UK government for festivals this summer after the easing of coronavirus restrictions was delayed by a month. It was also announced Notting Hill Carnival would, for the second year in a row, not take place in its traditional format this year. "In making this decision, we have considered our responsibilities to deliver a safe, spectacular, successful and sustainable Carnival," a statement read. "The conclusion is that with so much uncertainty, with time short for Carnivalists to prepare and the risk of eventual cancellation a real possibility, we must refocus our efforts for 2021."