ORGANISERS of T in the Park are turning back the clock to with a host of former favourites returning for its relaunch at a controversial new site in Perthshire - as they insisted the event will definitely be going ahead as planned.
Noel Gallagher, The Prodigy, Fatboy Slim, Kasabian, Stereophonics, The Proclaimers and Twin Atlantic are among the first wave of acts confirmed for Scotland’s biggest festival at its new home near Gleneagles.
Among the biggest new acts taking the stage at Strathallan Castle will be multiple Grammy winner Sam Smith, his big Brit Awards rival George Ezra, the two acts to top the BBC Sound of 2015 poll, James Bay and Years and Years, and Mercury Prize winners alt-J.
Dance music superstars Avicii and David Guetta, from Sweden and France respectively, and Irish favourites Hozier and The Script will be among the international stars heading for Perthshire from July 10-12.
Organisers revealed that advance sales for the festival, which will boast its full 85,000 capacity, are the strongest they have been for three years - despite facing what they described as a campaign of “lies, misinformation and misguided opinion” against its forced relocation from Balado, near Kinross, after 18 years.
Geoff Ellis, the man masterminding the festival, which is said to be worth more than £15 million to the economy, insisted the majority of local people were behind the staging of the event.
It will be held in the 1000-acre grounds of the 19th century castle after the Health and Safety Executive insisted on a new home for the event due to long-standing concerns an oil pipeline running underneath the event’s former airfield home.
Mr Ellis, the chief executive of promoters DF Concerts, also launched an outspoken attack against the festival’s critics, accusing them of scare tactics and making “frankly laughable” arguments against the event, which will be held just three miles from the town of Auchterarder. There have been claims from some locals that the event will spark traffic chaos and cause antisocial behaviour problems in the area.
DF, who announced the festival’s new home last June, have been forced to apply for planning permission for the new site, which councillors will not decide on until April at the earliest, even although the next batch of tickets is due to go on sale on 27 February.
Mr Ellis said he had “no concerns” about the on-going planning process, because of his company’s years of experience in staging the event at Balado and the amount of pre-planning that has been undertaken with Police Scotland and Perth and Kinross Council.
Mr Ellis told The Scotsman: “People have a right to object to T in the Park every single year. They have a right to object to any outdoor event in Scotland. We live in a democracy.
“There are a small number of objectors and so-called experts who are coming out with all kinds of comments to try and scaremonger. But the facts are the facts. Even in a minority of one, the truth is still the truth.
“The first year we were at Kinross we had objections. People didn’t know what T in the Park was and they were worried about it. The council weighed up the objections, looked at all the positives and the conditions its officers had put on the entertainment licence. They felt as long as we could meet those the festival could go ahead.
“We don’t have any concerns at the moment because we know what it’s involved. You never get carte blanche in terms of licences or planning consents. There are always conditions attached. You’d be a fool and naive to go into somewhere new and think you might not get planning approval, you just wouldn’t touch it.
“If we didn’t actually know, as opposed to think, that the traffic system would work, if Transport Scotland, the council and the police didn’t know that it would work, they would all have been saying to us: ‘Don’t go there.’
“People are trying to scare folk locally by saying they won’t be able to get in or out their house and ridiculous things like that.
“Yes, there will be road closures, but that doesn’t mean people living on those roads won’t be able to access their homes, of course they can. We issue passes for that to happen. The residents of Kinross would back that up.”
Leaflets circulated by protesters claim the site at Strathallan is “wholly inappropriate” for the event, and say it will have a “devastating” impact on the local environment and “severely” impact on the local tourism industry.
However Mr Ellis said he did not believe anyone had been deterred from buying a ticket for this year’s T in the Park, with many hotels and guest houses in the area already fully booked.
He added: “You’re always going to have some people who don’t want a music festival near them.
“The fact is the majority of people in the Auchterarder, Strathallan and Crieff area do. We’ve held public meetings as part of the planning application consultation process. Only 20 per cent of people had issues with the event. We actually thought we would have more objectors.
“People are telling me the area really needs this event. They don’t have full occupancy in hotels, B&Bs and guest houses. They’ll have 100 per cent occupancy when T in the Park is on. A lot of them are already booked out for the weekend.
“We’re actually seeing more excitement than we first went to Kinross. People didn’t really know what T in the Park was. People know what is coming now, because it was there for 18 years.
“People are either excited because they want to go to the event or because it will bring a massive economic boost to the area.
“We accept there are some objectors, but you’ve got to look at the reasons why people are objecting.
“Some people just don’t want a change or they don’t want something coming to the area. The council then has to look at whether that is a justifiable reason. I don’t think ‘just because’ will be considered a justifiable reason.
“There has been scaremongering by a small number of people. Looking at the objections, there are probably 40 or so.
“I’ve seen some of the leaflets that have been put out. They’re full of complete and utter lies, misinformation or misguided opinion.
“A lot of these people have suddenly become experts. I’ve not heard a comment from anybody with any experience whatsoever about major events. It’s frankly laughable when you see some of what has been put out.
“I know it’s upsetting a lot of the other local residents who are thinking: ‘You don’t represent us, but you have a loud voice, because we’re all busy, working folk.’
“The thing that people have taken offence to is they are trying to portray the T in the Park audience as something that they’re not. They’re forgetting that the children of most people in the area go to the festival anyway and have been doing for many years.
“The over-riding feeling locally is one of great positivity.”
Fiona Shepherd: A different venue but still on safe ground
THE leafy lane to Strathallan Castle has so far been more of a rocky road for the T In The Park team, what with objections from wary locals, concerned mutterings from the turrets of Gleneagles and a couple of pesky nesting ospreys to look out for.
But organisers are at least on firmer territory when it comes to programming content. The line-up announced so far abides by a watertight formula, providing a comforting, consistent blend of mainstream pop, rock and dance acts on a bill that should appeal across a couple of generations and not scare the birds of prey.
Kasabian, who swept all before them at the NME Awards this week, and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds join the previously announced Libertines as this year’s main stage headliners, making Noel and Radio 1 Stage headliners the Prodigy the first acts to play all three T sites – Strathclyde Park, Balado and now Strathallan.
Swedish DJ/producer Avicii and his French counterpart David Guetta will ensure the tunes will be banging, while Sam Smith returns after drawing the audiences from all other stages last year. Smith was accurately heralded by the BBC as the Sound of 2014 – will 2015 poll winners Years and Years live up to their title?
The line-up is liberally littered with other new acts to have broken big in the past 12 months – Hozier, George Ezra and Catfish & the Bottlemen could all give grizzled veterans Stereophonics a run for their money as the most retrograde act on the bill. Meanwhile, in a hospitality area backstage, Fatboy Slim and his fellow former Housemartin Paul Heaton wonder if they are too old for this festival racket.
Perhaps the curveballs or quirky, unexpected bookings (with apologies to quality turns St Vincent, Hot Chip and Jungle) have still to be revealed, but so far the T team are playing it very safe in their new home.
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