T in the Park 2017: Festivals are hard

Niall Flynn /
Nov 29, 2016 / Opinion

Alas. T in the Park is cancelled for 2017.

Confirming the decision in a statement, the festival’s organisers wrote: “To the best audience in the world…For over 23 years, T in the Park has been at the heart of Scotland’s music scene – with you, by our side. But for now, sadly, we need to take a break.”

While the announcement came as a shock for the British festival circuit, it was far from being out of the blue entirely. In truth, the last few years have been difficult ones for the Scottish festival. 2015’s event managed to garner the most complaints in the festival’s 23-year history, while its new home at Strathallan Castle managed to find itself on the receiving end of stinging criticism due to its size, location and general practicality.

Last year, T in the Park faced its darkest moment, with 2016 being defined by the drug-related deaths of three attendees. Two of those were 17 year-olds who died in the festival’s camping area, while the third was a 29 year-old man found in a Perthshire Farm after exiting the festival site. It led to calls for stricter laws and increased security, thrusting the festival into the spotlight on a stage that no event wants to find itself filling.

Then, there were the ospreys.

In a turn of events that would make for one of the weirder David Attenborough voiceovers, 2017’s festival plans were scuppered by the nesting of ospreys – a protected species – within the festival’s site. It led to a change in planning requirements, and thus, the end of the festival next year. If this was a game of Cluedo, then it woz the birds wot dun it – but they were far from the sole perpetrators.

The multifaceted nature of T in the Park’s problems draw light to a notion that often goes overlooked: festivals are hard. Really hard. Their purpose is a contradiction in itself. On the one hand, they’re these gorgeous, crazy, magical bubbles, where punters can arrive and leave reality behind. They’re bonkers, they’re strange, they’re wonderful – and they come devoid of any grounding in the real, working world. On the other hand, they embody work. Their temporary, seasonal nature dictates that they require an incredible amount of labour, resources and forward-thinking. For something that’s supposed to seem so strange and otherly, they’re entirely man-made. The term red tape doesn’t even come close to covering the difficulties that come with hosting a festival, especially one the size of T in the Park. These things don’t just happen.

T in the Park’s absence will be an aching one. It’s one of the best music festivals in the world and an important part of Scotland’s cultural identity. The summer will feel a little empty without it. However, its failures should not be in vein. If its announcement can help highlight the efforts that festivals go to in order to construct these temporary colonies of hedonistic escapism, then perhaps we’ll stop taking them for granted. Maybe we’ll club together. These things are a volunteer effort. Why not lend a hand?

Festivals are hard. But, they can be a lot easier. T in the Park has earned its break – and don’t think for a second that we’ve seen the last of it. It’ll be back next year, regardless of Ospreys. We’ll be ready for it, too.

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Words by Niall Flynn

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