The Download Pilot festival has come to a conclusion with one of its promoters proclaiming that the event's success is "100 percent evidence" that festivals can return this summer.

The music weekend was the first mass gathering festival event to take place in the U.K. since the pandemic, organized to help government health officials to study how the protocols set in place could help negate the spread of the COVID-19 virus within a large setting and potentially pave the way for the full-scale return of music festivals in the U.K.

Taking place over three days that allowed music fans to camp out on the Donington Park grounds, a capacity crowd of 10,000 were allowed to attend after having taken a lateral flow test the morning prior to entry and agreeing to PCR tests prior to and after the event to continue the study of effects of being at a festival without facial coverings and social distancing guidelines in effect.

The weekend featured sets from Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes, Enter Shikari, Bullet for My Valentine and a wealth of other acts, with promoter Melvin Benn sharing his excitement over how the whole event was able to be pulled off.

Benn, the director of Download promoter Festival Republic, called the event “extraordinary” in an interview with PA (as transcribed by NME), adding, “It’s really fantastic. I am very heart-warmed by it all.”

He continued, “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 asked if it was impossible for more festivals to return this year as the U.K. has delayed the lessening of COVID-19 restrictions, he stated, “It is evidence that this is not true. It is 100 percent evidence that it is not true. This is a very clear demonstration that you can do it.”

Download chief Andy Copping also spoke with NME about the event and its safety protocols, adding, “It’s looking amazing. Just coming on site and seeing everything set up is so cool. Obviously it’s like a miniature version of Download because we’re used to operating to 100,000 people every year and this year it’s only 10,000 – but it just feels so good to be seeing everybody.”

Of the safety of the event, he added, “The fact is that from those other pilot events that have taken place, there has been little or no sign of any infection. That shows that this is working. Whether that’s down to people having their jabs, the way that people have been behaving during lockdown, the safety of the testing – it all adds up.”

He continued, “We’ve been saying it for a while, but you’re actually safer at a festival than not being at a festival.”

"The important part of this is to actually do this as realistically as possible," stated Professor Paul Monks, the lead scientist for events research, in a chat with BBC Radio Leicester. "Because we couldn't understand that risk and reduce that risk unless we do it by people acting normally."

The Download Pilot followed two smaller music gatherings in which 5,000 people were allowed to attend an outdoor concert and Fatboy Slim played to an audience of club night goers with no COVID restrictions in place. Plus there have been several other events including the BRIT Awards and the FA Cup final and semi-final that have served as testing events. According to NME, so far only 15 people have tested positive following the government-run live events.

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