2007 - 2021

T Break

park collage.png.galleryThe 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.


Comments (19)

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  1. Darby O'Gill says:

    Hear, hear.

  2. Dr Paul says:

    I’ve never been to T – its not my cup of – but I noticed a friend who been on the backstage side of music events for many, many years was saying the other day that in reality T in The Park is exceptionally WELL run.

    With events of a large size there are always going to be crimes.

    I don’t know the truth (is it well-run or is it a catastrophe) but this piece seems to have made up its mind before it was written.

    Where’s the balance?

    There are at least two different points of view here.

    1. For ‘balance’ read any newspaper Dr

      1. David Caulder says:

        That’s a cop out and also not true.
        Where are your facts and stats Mike? We’d expect them from a real journalist

  3. Mach1 says:

    The media free ticket jamboree will continue with T’s move to Glasgow. That a drinks company should be the sponsor of an event targeted at the young music fan is itself a question no newspaper seems to have had the cojones to explore. The public health issues around all large scale music events are also poorly explored. Perhaps it is time to insist reviewers buy a ticket and provide unsullied coverage. Though if we look to our sports desks we can see the craven lack of objective rigour applied to scandals such as the mismanagement of Rangers. The media stable needs cleaning. But who will dare make a start?

  4. DialMforMurdo says:

    Vague memories of attending when it was hosted outside Hamilton at Strathclyde Country park. A smaller venue, smaller crowd, better organised from car parks to security. Although my abiding memory is of the hail of Buckie bottles sailing over the perimeter fence from the disgruntled tanked up local youth who couldn’t get find a free way in…

    Support your local festival rather than this Glastonbury wannabe…

    1. Craig says:

      To be fair I don’t think T In The Park wants to be Glastonbury. It is its own thing and very popular with many young Scots and people from further afield. Not my cup of T but many folk seem to enjoy it. Festivals all over the world have issues with drugs etc.

  5. Wulls says:

    Well as a 58 yo who has attended this mayhem twice I agree with every word.
    The music is fantastic with something for everyone.
    The catering is more than adequate.
    The oversight of the neds and nedettes is utterly astounding as is their lack of respect for other festival goers.

  6. William says:

    Is it true it was moved because of an underground pipe from its original site

    And same said pipe is under Aberdeen airport runway

    Something smells here

  7. Liam says:

    I am curious as to what Mike is basing his assessment of T in the Park as a crime ridden hellscape on? Has he attended in recent years? Or is it purely based on the sensational coverage of T over the last couple of years in the er… same Scottish media that he claims never criticises its organisers?

    Most mass culture in Scotland is under profit making, corporate control and T is no different. There’s plenty to criticise about that, but it doesn’t change the fact that T is enormously popular and one of Scotland’s biggest cultural events. The justification for closing it down because of “health and safety disasters” is much the same as the hysterical campaign by the police against The Arches, which I seem to recall Scotland’s cultural elite rallying around.

    The fact is that T worked pretty well at Balado, and doesn’t seem to work very well at Strathallan. The move was made on the basis of the HSE refusing to allow it to be held at the former – which this article seems to dismiss.

    1. Gordon McAdam says:

      If you read the article you’ll notice that it is not in the gift of the HSE to refuse to let the event go ahead. It is the local authority which says yes or no. Also, if you had read through the link supplied to the Herald article, you might have noticed that the HSE did not say the pipeline situation was unsafe. And, in addition, the RSPB has no powers to impose onerous conditions. I have little knowledge (or interest) in the whys and wherefores of T in the Park but, nonetheless, it is helpful when discussing these issues to be clear who has what responsibilities and powers.

  8. David Whitelock says:

    What a lot of BS this article is. First of all Geoff Ellis and his team are known throughout the industry as consummate professionals winning numerous awards for their attention to detail and Health and Safety provision. Its is without doubt one of the best run festivals of its type in Europe. Deaths are hugely unfortunate and they do all that is within their power to stop drugs getting onto the site. If someone dies then that is not their fault, Geoff was distraught after the recent deaths. When compared to other festivals such as Glastonbury and Reading, their casualty rate is quite low in comparison. A person that takes drugs does so knowing the risks and DF have first class medics and Drs on site to deal with anyone that is brought to their attention. Its is not under corporate control in the slightest, they are an independant organisation who are sponsored by a corporate.

  9. John says:

    The most troubling thing to me is the violation of the Trades Description Act. This underwhelming festival hasn’t even been held in a park since the 1990s. It could be more accurately titled Neds in a Field.

  10. Charlie says:

    They had to cancel the festival as they would never have sold enough tickets for 2017. I went this year and when the Stone Roses were on, everyone at the whole festival was watching, that crowd wasn’t even very big and all the other areas were dead. I counted 35 people at the Introducing stage, 64 in the comedy tent, the Slam tent was 2/3 empty and everything stopped altogether after the SR set. The bars were empty and the stall holders were giving food away at the end of the night, rather than let it go to waste. I’ve never been so bored at a festival in my life – it’s no wonder everyone gets off their faces.

  11. Marcia Blaine says:

    Was this he event that our culture minister handed over GBP150,000 of public money under the table? Well, I do declare it is. It’s reprehensible that a drinks company sponsors this event yet the organizers lean in for more cash. The true story will never be known as our government and its quango lackeys play their cards close to their chests. If ever there was a case of cronyism this was it.

    1. David Whitelock says:

      The 150,000 GBP of Public Money came from Creative Scotland and not “under the table”, and for the first time, I may add. The support to DF, an organisation that do more than any other organisation in Scotland to support musicians by helping 1000’s of emerging loss-making acts by providing a platform for them to hone their skills. The monies in part contribute to assisting emerging acts and other strands that qualify for such support. Governments support 1000’s of for-profit organisations where key investment helps to sustain or incubate key elements of said business. In its 20 years, this event has generated 100’s of millions for the Scottish Economy; the investment has integrity and meaning and results in a fantastic ROI for the musicians, the local hosting authorities and the Scottish Economy as a whole. Without events such as this acts like Biffy Clyro, Travis and Franz Ferdinand would have had considerably fewer opportunities from which to be exposed, grow and establish a fan base.

      The investment pales into insignificance when compared to the 8m GBP received by for instance Scottish Opera where such ROI comes nowhere near meeting that of “T”. By this event not happening music fans, musicians, the general public, vendors, paid contractors and the host economies are considerably worse off. Yes, the organisers and key stakeholders have some ongoing challenges to address regarding traffic management and public behavioural issues ( which is from a minuscule minority of attendees), but that is no reason for such negative criticism against an organisation that has done so much for so many.

      How is “a drinks company” sponsoring viewed as negative. Drinks companies sponsor festivals (both for profit and not for) all the time throughout the UK and the world. A festival such as this has three main selling points; “the gathering of people,” “the alcohol” (Yes, they benefit by selling lots of product, but someone has to) and “the entertainment.”

      Scotland needs to protect leading cultural assets for the interests of all. In the eyes of many of T-in-the-Park patrons, Scotland’s cultural landscape is far poorer for not having this event.

        1. David Whitelock says:

          No I do not and never have, but I am a professional festival producer working in the not for profit sector, I live in Canada now and have done so for 8 years. I left Scotland in 2003, I do know DF and some of the staff.

  12. Marcia Blaine says:

    I wouldn’t use CS as anything to shout about. It’s hardly a centre of excellence and innovation.

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