Bigfoot Festival review 2021– the bubbles may have burst…

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After so many months without even a sniff of a festival, Bigfoot was a breath of fresh air. A genuine feeling that normality will soon be resumed…as soon as anyone can work out exactly what ‘normal’ is these days.

At only 4,000 capacity it was only four-fifths the audience of a sold-out show at Brixton Academy.

But its importance in the current climate of restrictions and uncertainty cannot be understated.


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Alongside the ‘Download experiment’ it is the first UK festival to take place within COVID restrictions since the pandemic swept the live music industry aside last year…and, maybe without realising it, Bigfoot has become a barometer for change. A yardstick by which future events can be measured.

Before we go forward, let’s roll back the clock a few days to the media reports that explained why it was OK for Bigfoot to go ahead, despite the government’s extension of lockdown restrictions on live events and venue openings.

Full set of pictures available here


Essentially, as an outdoor event of less than 4,000 people, Bigfoot was broadly in the clear.

More specifically it mitigated risks by insisting on all attendees taking a recorded lateral flow test within 48 hours of coming on site.

And even more specifically the event had stated it would run control measures on site that maintained social distancing… e.g. masks and no large groups.

OK – so two out of three isn’t bad…

We missed day one for reasons to boring to go into. But on arrival on day two we were pleased to see most people around arriving in small groups and putting on their masks as they went through the ticket exchange marquee.

Once on site, however, although group sizes seemed consistently low (definitely no clusters of family and friends we could see even approaching 30) the mask-wearing became at best a minority sport.

The signage was clear enough all around the arena… it was simply not being taken notice of.

Before we go on further lets examine this. Was any rule or law being broken because of a lack of face coverings?

The answer is (we are pretty certain) ‘no’.

Here is the Government guidance:

‘Organisers and attendees [must] adhere to all legal requirements, including…mandating face coverings in indoor areas where required.’

So the outdoor wearing of masks in front of outdoor stages was ‘nice-to-have’, not an essential control mechanism.

But now we come to ‘groups of 30’…and things get trickier.

Although we didn’t spot any ‘bubbles’ of 30 or more, the fundamental problem is that once fans begin to migrate to the front of stages to see their favourite bands there is no way of keeping them in segregated packets of fewer than 30.

Despite circles-within-circles of crowd control barriers at the main stage, those within each circle naturally mingled into groups considerably more than were technically permitted.

It could be argued that nobody was in immediate contact with more than 29 other people at any one time – but that’s semantics and not really the spirit of the law.

And this brings us to the aftermath… what happens now?

Do the organisers face a fine?

Well the BBC (believe them if you want) state that ‘organisers and facilitators of larger gatherings of more than 30 people – such as unlicensed music events – can be subject to fines of up to £10,000.’

As Bigfoot was licensed that perhaps gets them off the hook…at least as far as the Beeb is concerned…and hopefully also in the eyes of the local police and council licensing teams.

Festival co-founder Greg Wells, said: “We’ve been so excited to see people back at festivals. With all guests required to present a negative COVID test as a condition of entry, a stringent testing process, big open-air site, limited numbers, one way systems, people asked to mask up and stick to their bubbles, we’re proud to have create a safe event and a vital stepping stone on the road map to reopening festivals and live music. As with any event that’s the first of its kind, there will inevitably be lessons to learn, and we’ll be doing a full assessment now the event is over. We want to thank everyone – the bands, all our vendors and partners, and the public – for being part of it. After 18 long months of hardship, with many festivals on the brink of collapse, we hope to be one of many green shoots of recovery for an industry in dire straits.”

Greg Wells

But much, much more importantly than any possible financial penalty that might be imposed is the question of whether people were put under any undue risk.

Those looking in from outside may say otherwise, and yes, for bands such as Sports Team, the front of the pit barrier was a free-for-all melee of sweaty bodies with no regard for social distance.

But at the same time as Alex Rice was surfing above a sea of adulation, just around the corner at Download exactly the same thing was happening with more than double the crowd numbers and exactly the same levels of checks on entry to ensure as few people on site as possible were Covid positive.

So perhaps only history and some detailed track and trace analysis can judge Bigfoot from a Covid point of view.

But what about a regular event review we hear you cry?

Well that’s pretty easy and we can keep it short, concise, and to the point!

Bigfoot is definitely our idea of a boutique festival – and we’ve been to enough to a know a good one…

The curation of acts was pretty much spot on, and the bookers get top marks for scoring a slew of great names on what must have a been a limited budget given the restricted numbers of punters on site.

We’re gutted we missed Warmduscher on the Friday, and also that we had to leave too early to catch Pigs x7. However the set from Sports Team ranks so highly in our pantheon of all-time amazing live band experiences that it totally made up for what we didn’t get to see. Apologies now to Bobby Gillespie, but Sports Team totally stole the show as far as we were concerned. Whilst Primal Scream may be one of the great indie guitar acts of the last three decades, Sports Team are probably more important and relevant simply because they are the future of the genre, not an echo of its past glories.

The site itself was really neatly formed… a short walk from car parks to tents and the arena, a lovely lake with kayaks and pedalos, no big hills, some shady woodland.

Oh – and the food and, perhaps more importantly the beer, was top-notch (as was the cleanliness of the loos).

Bigfoot’s big USP (unique selling point) was always its craft ale roots… and what a great set of brewers it lined up!

We never thought that a phrase existed in the English language such as ‘I think I may have drunk too much really good IPA…’ but by early evening there was definitely a sense of needing a mojito to cleanse the palate… and luckily enough there were plenty of those available too…

All-in-all Bigfoot us a festival we’d happily recommend and without doubt it’s one we’d go back to year after year.

 

One Response

  1. Ali says:

    We had the best time at bigfoot , great bands , easy site to get around , just enough of everything and small enough to see people you had made friends withthe day before. All the staff were great, a really well run event and yes sports team stole the show.

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