You’ll have had your T: big music festivals on verge of extinction

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GIANT music festivals such as T in the Park could be on the brink of extinction, a top academic has suggested.

Professor Jane Ali-Knight, an expert in festival and event management at Edinburgh Napier University, has said that big festivals could be going “out of fashion”.

Organisers of T in the Park announced last month that the festival would not take place in 2017, after increasing pressure from authorities.

The event came under fire in summer after three festival-goers died due to drug-related incidents.

Prof Ali-Knight says that the closure of Rockness Festival in Inverness back in 2013 and the Big Chill in Herefordshire two years earlier are further evidence for the decline of big UK festivals.

Photo: Wullie Marr

She argues that a combination of bad drug-related publicity, competition from foreign events and tighter public finances have contributed to their demise.

Writing in an academic magazine, Prof Ali-Knight said: “T in the Park has been in transition since it left Balado last year – and finding a way back over the next two years will arguably be the greatest challenge it has ever faced.

“Coming on the back of recent UK festival collapses such as RockNess and The Big Chill, you might wonder whether something is changing. Are huge festivals going out of fashion in the face of the explosion of boutique events in recent years – or is something else at play?”

In her article, titled ‘Are giant music festivals at the end of the road?’ she adds: “So what started to go wrong? T in the Park was forced to leave Balado last year after the Health and Safety Executive decided an oil pipeline that ran under the site made it dangerous.

“Tighter public finances mean that all festivals in Scotland now have to pay for their own policing, which in the case of T in the Park will be a formidable amount of money.

“Three drug-related deaths at the 2016 event brought bad publicity. Then there is heightened competition, from the broad range of UK festivals but particularly from overseas events such as EXIT Festival in Serbia and Festival Internacional de Benicàssim in Spain.”

Maximo Park. Pic: Wullie Marr

She concludes by explaining that the death of big music festivals is not necessarily negative, writing: “The changing face of that demand has not made it easy for big festivals, but this is not necessarily something to mourn.

“If T in the Park ends up going out to pasture, like The Big Chill, RockNess, Oxegen, ATP, Cloud 9 and all the rest, promoters will always find other vehicles for live music.”

The number of festivals listed on festival website eFestivals jumped from 496 in 2007 to 1,070 in 2015.

But most of these new festivals are smaller, intimate events.

At its peak, T in the Park was one of just two UK music festivals, along with Glastonbury, to have a daily attendance of over 80,000.

Speaking earlier this year, Steve Heap, general secretary of the Association of Festival Organisers said: “More and more people are realising that, if they want to go to festivals, they can go to one relatively near to home.”

He added: “More and more festivals don’t depend on the big act.”

The biggest remaining festivals in the UK are Glastonbury, which is attended by around 175,000 people, and Reading and Leeds Festivals, which have around 90,000.

 
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