The art media’s free pass for the shambles that is T in the Park is extraordinary. Today the Scotsman writes in gushing prose that Geoff Ellis ‘breaks his silence’ over cancelling next years festival, as if he’s Gandhi and the world has been waiting for him to speak. Let’s review what’s actually happened here.
The reality is that this is a dangerous and badly organised commercial event which has been propped up by public funds and is now spinning its way out of another self-inflicted crisis. T in the Park, described as “one of the most crime-ridden major music festivals in Britain” – is now relocating (again) but pretending it isn’t. As it does so it’s lashing out at everyone from the RSPB to Perth and Kinross Council from SEPA to the Health and Safety Executive, all for the simple act of asking them to abide to some fairly basic safety rules. You’d think for an events organisation that is lauded in the Scottish media, and that has experienced major safety problems at its events (including deaths and rape), they might be a bit more contrite. Not a bit of it. Geoff Ellis says he’d like to “wring the necks of the Health and Safety Executive”. It was, apparently, their fault he had to move from Balado, in Kinross-shire to Strathallan, in Perth. Now it’s someone else’s fault that they can’t continue there.
Ellis has said that “T in the Park had suffered “a tough couple of years” at the venue because of the need to protect ospreys at the site” and “onerous” restrictions imposed by Perth and Kinross Council. RSPB Scotland’s Aedán Smith responded saying:
“RSPB Scotland worked hard to help ensure that the event could go ahead in 2015 and 2016, while minimising the impacts the festival would have on the wildlife that the site had been home to for many years. The fact that the osprey nest that had been on the site for a number of years was able to continue to be successful, and fledge chicks, illustrates how nature and development can often successfully coexist where there is a willingness on all sides to carry out activities responsibly. However, it has become clear that there are a wide range of other challenges to running the huge event that T in the Park has become at the Strathallan site. We hope these can be resolved and look forward to working with DF concerts and T in the Park in future wherever opportunities arise.”
That’s a very diplomatic response.
Meanwhile the father of Megan Bell who died at T in The Park has welcomed the cancellation of next year’s event. STV have reported his response to the announcement: “Just cancelling it won’t help unless they overhaul the whole security and medical side of the festival, particularly the security, which clearly couldn’t cope.
“I think the organisers have jumped ship before they sank. They knew they would be encountering problems and questions so they’ve taken the easy way out in my eyes.”
He said the event should not be held again until DF Concerts “can prove they have raised the overall policing and security”. He also criticised the organisers’ explanation of “birds and traffic” being to blame for the cancellation, instead of focusing on safety and the deaths in 2016.
Meanwhile we have DF concerts announcing that they’ll hold a festival in Glasgow Green next year, sponsored by Tennent’s. We’re led to believe this will all go fine, there will be no problems, and it will raise £10 million for Glasgow. Why does a corporate festival with catalogue of heath and safety disasters get such a free pass in the media?
Festivals rarely come back after taking a ‘year off’. The annual spectacle of pissed-up mayhem may be over – but it’s no-one’s fault but the organisers. Svengale figures like Ellis seem to get it easy from the music journalists who, ultimately are looking for a freebie and an interview with the artists. It’s almost as if we should be grateful anything is happening at all, rather than questioning both the programme and the conduct of major events. We shouldn’t be mourning T in the Park, we should be asking some basic questions about cultural funding and arts journalism.
This is Crony Scotland at its worst.