‘Boris’ lab rats’ at Download Festival given glance at post-Covid life

This weekend 10,000 people attended a festival in the UK, something which hasn’t happened in nearly 18 months.

In conjunction with Public Health England and the government, Download Festival was allowed to welcome just 10% of its usual attendance back through the gates of Donington Park for a truly historic event.

To gain access, everyone, including staff, press and band members had to prove they were negative for Covid-19, before festival-goers were allowed to ditch their masks, social distancing and mosh, drink and sing together to their heart’s content.

Our reporter Scott Edwards was there the entire weekend and had this to say:

“In the words of Ben Barlow of Neck Deep, ‘If we’re going to be Boris’ lab rats, then we best make it count!’

“10,000 people, camping side by side, singing side by side, dancing side by side and possibly most British of all, queuing close together in massive lines.



A general view of the Main Stage at Download Pilot. — Download Pilot Festival at Donington Park, Castle Donington. Download Pilot is a three day (18th-20th June) test event music festival held as part of the second phase of the Governments Event Research Programme. Photo: Sunday 20th June 2021. (Photo: Joseph Raynor/ Nottingham Post) *MUST BYLINE*

“The first thing I noticed as I looked at the merch stands on Friday and the mammoth line for the tattoo studio was how quickly society will snap back to normal after all this is over with.

“There was little to no hesitancy, no anxiety about bumping into someone else or standing shoulder to shoulder with them as you prepared to launch yourself into a circle pit and let go 18 months of pent up stress and anger and turn it into pure joy and happiness.

“We’ve all been warned about a “new normal”, a new set of unwritten rules we’ll have to adhere to in society once ‘Freedom Day’ finally arrives on July 19.

“I personally think we will all be fine once it does – and that’s because of how everyone at Download reacted this weekend.

“I spoke to colleagues, shook their hands, high fived and fist bumped band members and hugged a Kerrang! Radio DJ and not one of them had any worry about anything – the fear of Covid had gone.



A crowd surfer pictured at Download Pilot. — Download Pilot Festival at Donington Park, Castle Donington. Download Pilot is a three day (18th-20th June) test event music festival held as part of the second phase of the Governments Event Research Programme. Photo: Sunday 20th June 2021. (Photo: Joseph Raynor/ Nottingham Post) *MUST BYLINE*

“Not the fear of the deadly virus, I mean the fear it will impact society anymore than it already has and the way we live day to day – we will bounce back and I’ve had a preview of exactly how it will!

“The Download Pilot gave myself and 9,999 others a glimpse at post-Covid life, and it’s bright, normal and full of extremely talented British bands!

“Due to travel restrictions, only British bands were on the bill – and if I’m honest, I didn’t know half of them.

“But if one thing good comes of this pandemic, it’s that 10,000 people got to watch bands like The Hara, Hot Milk, Loathe, Holding Absence and Boston Manor.

“Some of these bands are relatively new on the scene and on a “normal” year at Download, they’d either be on too early or possibly clash with other bands to draw the crowds they did – and honestly deserve!



Hot Milk perform on the main stage on the first day of Download Festival at Donington Park in Leicestershire. Picture date: Friday June 18, 2021. PA Photo. The three-day festival is being held as a test event to examine how Covid-19 transmission takes place in crowds, with the the capacity significantly reduced from 111,000 to just 10,000. See PA story SHOWBIZ Download. Photo credit should read: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

“Hopefully the Download Pilot will help get festivals back on track – but if by some chance it doesn’t, at least it has given a platform to prove British rock and metal is well and truly alive and you need to listen to them!

“Another thing I noticed is how important music is both to fans and bands. Will Gould of Creeper was as, if not more, overwhelmed by the huge crowd his band drew to the tent ahead of Enter Shikari on Saturday.

“He sank to his knees and burst into tears mid-set before members of the crowd cheered him back to his feet – and that pretty much summed up how we’ve all felt over the last 18 months.

Skindred’s Benji Webbe dedicated their arguably-headline worthy set to everyone who attended the festival and to those we’ve lost over the last year due to the virus – this festival was for them as much as it was for us.

“And that leads me onto the best thing this festival did – to allow us to forget about the virus.

“Covid? What Covid? Apart from a few mentions by bands, the thought and the worry of coronavirus was nearly non-existant.

“It could have been the Donington Park sized petri-dish we were in, allowing everyone to do what they want, but there were moments, long moments, where everything was “old-normal”, it almost felt like nothing had happened – and that was bliss!

“We may have been ‘Boris’ lab rats’, but it was worth every second and if I could do it all over again today, I would in a heartbeat.

“From the organisers to the bands, from the emergency services and welfare staff on site to the sound techs and food vendors, this was a historic event for many many reasons, and hopefully rock and metal music will help live music be reborn this summer!”