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Thousands pack music festival without masks or distancing in Covid test event

Around 5,000 fans packed into a sold-out music festival that was the first live gig in front of a large audience since England went into lockdown 14 months ago.

It was just like old times as festivalgoers did not have to wear face masks or social distance during Sunday’s Covid test event at Sefton Park in Liverpool

Everyone had to produce negative coronavirus tests to enter the outdoor gig, which was hailed as a milestone towards getting live events running as England’s coronavirus lockdown is eased.

The six-hour festival includes performances from indie bands Blossoms and The Lathums, as well as local singer-songwriter Zuzu.

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Concert-goers enjoy a non-socially distanced outdoor live music event at Sefton Park
It was just like old times as thousands of revellers packed into the outdoor festival

When the gates to the one-day festival opened at 4.30pm, there were no queues to get in and revellers told of feeling exciting and nervous, the Liverpool Echo

reported.

Festivalgoer Jack Robertson, 25, said: “I feel nostalgic being here but also a bit apprehensive.”

Vinny Riozzi, 25, added: “I’m proud of my city for trying to bring a bit of normality to our lives.”

A group of women hug while attending a music festival in Liverpool during a Covid test event
Women hug as they attend the six-hour music festival at Sefton Park in Liverpool

Members of the public participate in a part of a national research programme assessing the risk of the coronavirus disease whilst attending a pilot festival headlined by The Blossoms
Revellers did not have to wear face masks and they were not required to social distance

And Mollie Edwards, 25, said: “I’m so excited to be out and put a cute outfit on and to hear live music again. It’s my favourite thing ever.”

Researchers at the event will examine the movements and behaviour of the crowd as part of the programme.

Ticket-holders were required to take a rapid lateral flow test before entry.

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Photos show fans wearing face masks as they were screened by security guards and used hand sanitiser at a station just inside the gates.

Staff wore face masks and clear plastic shields as they sold drinks to revellers.

Revellers were packed in tightly in front of the stage as the festival got underway with a performance by Zuzu.

A concert-goer enjoys a non-socially distanced outdoor live music event at Sefton Park
Ticket-holders were required to take a rapid lateral flow test before entry

Concert-goers enjoy a non-socially distanced outdoor live music event at Sefton Park
Researchers at the event will examine the movements and behaviour of the crowd

They will be asked to take a test after the event to gather further evidence on the safety of outdoor settings, reduced social distancing and the removal of non-pharmaceutical mitigations like face coverings, the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said.

They will also have to provide contact details for NHS Test and Trace to ensure everyone can be traced in the event of a positive test, it added.

Culture minister Caroline Dinenage said: “Today is a momentous occasion to celebrate as fans get their first taste of a music festival for more than a year – and all in the name of science.

Revellers at a music festival in Sefton Park in Liverpool as part of the national Events Research Programme
Revellers told of feeling excited and nervous as the event began

Concert-goers wait to dance to music at the venue for the latest event in the government's Events Research programme
Everyone had to produce negative coronavirus tests to enter the outdoor gig

“There is nothing quite like the collective experience of hearing your favourite act live in the atmosphere of a festival and I hope everyone has a fantastic day.

“We’ve supported the live music sector through the pandemic with £250 million in grants from our Culture Recovery Fund going to more than 2,000 organisations.

“Now we want to get audiences back to the events they love and see the live music industry rebooted.

Concertgoers are checked through security as they enjoy a non-socially distanced outdoor live music event at Sefton Park
Festivalgoers are checked by security as they arrive at Sunday’s outdoor gig

Revellers buying drinks at a music festival in Sefton Park in Liverpool as part of the national Events Research Programme
Revellers buy drinks from staff wearing face masks and clear plastic shields

“Today’s event is a milestone with thousands of people coming together to test how we can kickstart things safely through the Government’s Events Research Programme (ERP).”

Before the gig, Blossoms singer Tom Ogden told the BBC: “We’re really excited just to play live.”

Drummer Joe Donovan added: “Especially if we can get our industry back open.

Revellers use hand sanitisers as they arrive for a music festival in Sefton Park in Liverpool as part of the national Events Research Programme (ERP)
Revellers use hand sanitisers as they arrive at Sefton Park

“It’s been closed for so long with very little support, if any support, so it will be nice to get back and kickstart it again. Get it back on track.”

The event was put on by Reading and Leeds festival promoters Festival Republic.

The ERP is looking at a range of settings and events including a business forum in Liverpool, club nights and the World Snooker Championship.

It will explore how different approaches to social distancing, ventilation and test-on-entry protocols could ease opening and maximise participation, the department said.

The ERP events will provide evidence to inform decisions around the removal of social distancing at stage four of the Government’s road map, it added.



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