Download Pilot Festival: Rock and metal event returns post-Covid

By Sandish Shoker & Alex Regan
BBC News Online

image captionUp to 10,000 people are attending the first major camping festival since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic

The festival season is finally back - and so is the rain. As a dripping-wet Download gets under way, BBC News Online meets the hardy but happy ticket-holders.

Having been cancelled twice due to Covid, the country's most popular rock and metal event - Download - was resurrected after the government gave organisers the go-ahead for it to be a test event.

And in classic Download style, the three-day festival at Castle Donington, Leicestershire, kicked off with torrential downpours on Friday.

image captionLiz Kinnish, James Hughes and Tom Bromley travelled from the South West to attend this year's Download Pilot Festival

"It's not Download without rain," Tom Bromley, from Plymouth, said.

In previous years, the festival has been nicknamed Drownload, due to its appalling weather, but for Tom - who was at his 11th Download - being back was "just so nice".

"I might bring myself out of mosh retirement," he added.

image captionAmy Ford and Tom Dunning have pitched their tent within viewing distance of the main stage

Download devotee Amy Ford has been coming to the festival since 2014.

"I've only missed the Covid year, 2020," she said.

"We needed to be back on the holy ground; it's where we belong."

image sourcePA Media
image captionNo social distancing or masks are required at the government test event

The capacity of the festival has been significantly reduced to 10,000 from 111,000 in 2019.

But that has its benefits for those who have been lucky enough to snap up a ticket.

media captionMosh pits and no masks at Download Festival pilot

"This year we've been able to pitch so we can literally see the stage," Amy said.

"If we get too hungover, we don't have to go anywhere."

image captionJames, Luke and Jack are excited about the British bands headlining the festival

Festival goers are allowed to mix freely without masks or social distancing, although they have to provide proof of a negative test to gain entry.

Luke, who travelled from South Wales to be at the festival, said: "Doing the testing and stuff, I feel really safe."

The limitations on bands travelling to the festival from abroad has also been a boon for British rock bands, he said.

"It's nice that they've taken these British rock bands, that we've been following since the early 2000s, that are finally being put up as headliners," he added.

image sourcePA Media
image captionThe three-day festival was put together rapidly, after the government gave organisers the go-ahead

Enter Shikari are one of the headliners at the three-day event.

The slimmed-down festival was rapidly brought together after the government go-ahead.

image sourcePA Media
image captionFestival-goers say are happy to be back, despite the weather

Organiser Melvin Benn said: "Despite the weather, it feels joyous.

"It's been two years since we stood in this field.

"We had to cancel Download 2021 [in March]. We didn't think anything could happen.

"But the government wanted to extend the research programme and they wanted a camping festival, so they wanted me to put that together.

"So here we are, three-and-a-half weeks later, in the rain and happy to be in the rain."

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