Summer festival fun on hold amid lockdown lifting delay

Music festival organisers have been forced to push back events once again due to delays in lifting lockdown.

A relaxed scene at the Black Country Musicom, which was staged at Himley Hall in July 2019
A relaxed scene at the Black Country Musicom, which was staged at Himley Hall in July 2019

Large-scale events that were set to draw thousands of people this summer have been postponed until September.

Organisers say they would prefer to hold the events once all lockdown restrictions are lifted, which the government has said is due to happen on July 19.

Among the music festivals that have been postponed is Staffs Fest, which drew crowds of 3,000 people when it was held last time in 2019.

It was due to take place at Lower Drayton Farm, in Penkridge, Staffordshire – where it took place before – yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Enjoying Staffs Fest, at Lower Drayton Farm, Penkridge

But chief organiser Lorraine Conkey cancelled the event this weekend for a second time since the pandemic began.

She has now rescheduled the event to take place at a new location – one that is bigger to accommodate growing interest – on September 17, 18 and 19.

She said: “I could have tried to hold the festival this weekend.

“But the implications of what I needed to do with the stage three regulations was too much; for one the festival goers, two the bands and all the suppliers, and also just the stress on the staff.

“Everybody would have had to have table service, we would have had to put social distancing in, all the equipment between bands would have had to be wiped down, one-way systems. It just would have been horrendous and no fun for anybody.

“We have had to postpone it, yet again, to September, just hoping everything is fine and everybody would be happy to go to a festival, and we would all be safe. I am just gutted.”

A performance by Sonic Harmony at Staffs Fest

The last time Staffs Fest took place was in May 2019, on a hot spring day, where 3,000 people enjoyed music ranging from reggae to northern soul.

Since then, interest in the festival has grown and Ms Conkey says she will need to find a bigger venue.

When that day comes, it will be a welcome occasion as the months during the coronavirus pandemic have been difficult for the industry.

She said: “It has not just affected the events, it is like the stagehands, the crew, the stage and lighting guys.

“All these other people, even the hiring of toilets and all the people who are printing posters and banners and leaflets.

“The knock-on effect is huge when you talking about events and what it has prevented people from doing.

Black Country Musicom at Himley Hall in July 2019

“It has been devastating. Most of the people are self-employed with no other form of getting income.”

Ms Conkey added: “I don’t think a lot of people realise if you are self-employed, you have got no back-up. It has been difficult for a lot of people, myself included.

“If there is no money coming in, you still have to pay your mortgage. It has been quite stressful, really, because you don’t know, from week to week, what are you going to do, and whether you should pack it up and get a nine to five job, where you have got security.”

Ms Conkey also runs Q In The Park, a festival that takes place in Stafford town centre, which has also been postponed.

She said: “Q In The Park is undecided whether it will go ahead [this year] due to everything going on with Covid. But we will be back for next year.”

But those are not the first festivals to be cancelled in the region.

From July 2019 at Black Country Musicom are the dancing grannies, called the Fizzogs

In the Black Country, organisers last year cancelled Black Country Musicom Festival, at Himley Hall, in Dudley – which had only been held once before, back in 2019.

It was due to take place next month but was pushed back again until September due to delays in ending lockdown.

Councillor Simon Phipps, cabinet member for regeneration, said: “We are looking forward to it finally taking place.

“It is gutting I won’t be able to watch the Euro finals there but it is what it is. We have got to work with the dates that we are given for when social distancing will end.

“But, with it being in September, it has got a chance for a few months from the day, when we finally unlock, for people to get back out there, to get used to being a bit normal again.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to enjoy some sunny weather then.”

Across the Black Country border, organisers of the MADE Festival are still going ahead with the event at Sandwell Valley Country Park, on July 31.

That is 12 days after all coronavirus restrictions are set to end on July 19, although that date is still under review.

A spokesman for the event said: “In light of the Government’s four week delay to stage four reopening, we have considered our plans for MADE Festival 2021.

“We believe that we are still in a good place to deliver an amazing event this year. We remain on.”

Although festivals are gearing up to take place soon, one was recently held as part in a coronavirus pilot scheme.

Earlier this month, Download Festival, which attracts rock fans, took place in Leicestershire. Instead of the usual 111,000 crowd, however, about 10,000 people attended in an event that was scaled back due to the pandemic. Fans did not have to wear face masks or socially distance.

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