T in the Park confirmed for 2016 despite ‘problems’

Festival director Geoff Ellis has apologised to fans. Picture: Jane Barlow
Festival director Geoff Ellis has apologised to fans. Picture: Jane Barlow
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ORGANISERS of Scotland’s biggest music festival have apologised over the handling of the running of the first event at its new home as they confirmed it would be heading back there next year.

Promoters DF Concerts today said they were “genuinely sorry” about problems experienced by fans at the event this July and pledged wholescale changes will be made in time for next year.

They also apologised to the local community for the level of disruption caused by the staging of T in the Park at the Strathallan Estate. It was relocated there from Balado, in Kinross-shire, after long-standing concerns about the safety of an underground pipeline.

The festival, which is said to be worth £15 million to the local economy, was inundated with hundreds of complaints over traffic chaos, the festival’s shuttle bus services, levels of congestion inside the arena and poor security at the campsite.

Lengthy queues were reported getting to and from the new festival site, as well as entering the main arena, while there were complaints that festival-goers were left waiting in the dark for hours to get picked up.

Organisers admitted this year’s festival, which was hit by heavy rain, was affected by “challenges that we know impacted upon the weekend for some of our loyal fans.”

Promised changes include a revamped site for the festival itself, new “pick up and drop off” points, better communication with public transport operators and new hub closer to the arena, the introduction of “volunteer help teams” at the campsite, and an overhaul of entry points to the festival.

The festival is also to explore setting up a dedicated park and ride site for the event and improving links to Gleneagles railway station.

The first plans for the 2016 festival - which will be staged from 8-10 July - have been announced in the wake of huge controversy over the Scottish Government’s “state aid” for the event.

Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop has claimed the event could have been moved out of Scotland by DF Concerts had it not received £150,000 from the government.

Festival director Geoff Ellis, the chief executive of DF Concerts, has denied threatening to relocate the festival, which was first staged at Strathclyde Park in Hamilton in 1994.

It emerged at the weekend that it had caused DF Concerts almost £3 million to move the event to Strathallan.

However in a lengthy statement issued today, Mr Ellis said: “We all love and care about T in the Park and we’re genuinely sorry that the first year at our new site didn’t go as well as we hoped for some of you.

“We always strive to create a fun-filled, enjoyable, safe weekend for everyone and my whole team is focused on making the changes needed to fix the issues and to ensure that T in the Park is a festival that we can all be proud of once again in 2016 and beyond.

“We are confident that T in the Park will work well at Strathallan Castle for many years to come, but the lessons we’ve learned during this difficult transitional year alongside your valued and constructive feedback will make sure that we do much better in 2016.”

Mr Ellis said the festival had spent months analysing audience feedback and social media comments about this year’s event and carried out an “intense debrief” in order to make improvements in 2016.

He added: “Although there were no delays on the main trunk roads network across the weekend, the traffic didn’t work well on or around the site itself, causing some significant but localised traffic issues. We apologise for the long delays that many people experienced entering and exiting the site and we’re working on fixing this through a combination of solutions.

“We’re talking to additional transport consultants along with all partner agencies involved to ensure that access in and out is improved, with particular emphasis on a new plan for the official shuttle buses.

They will have an enhanced hub facility to allow closer access to the event as well as improved facilities, management and significantly shorter queuing times.

“Improvements will be made to the management and structure of the car parks to ease the flow of cars in and out.

“The ‘pick up and drop off’ points into the site did not work. The volume of people using them was much higher than we had at Balado and we now need to separate them completely from buses and coaches. This might involve using a more remote location with enhanced facilities and a shuttle service to take fans the short distance to and from the site.”

Mr Ellis said special T in the Park focus groups would be set up in the next few months to help address many of last year’s difficulties.

He added: “It is clear from your comments that many staff at the event were not as well briefed as they should have been. We will fix that. It was a new site for everyone and we need to improve their briefings and orientation to ensure they have the information they need to assist you better.

“We will be introducing volunteer help teams back into the campsite, arena and the areas surrounding the site. They will support our stewards and welfare teams at key times throughout the weekend and provide you with information and assistance when you need it.

“We’ll extend our welfare services to provide support and assistance to customers at key locations surrounding the event externally too.

We will make changes to the site layout now that we have seen it in operation. In hindsight, there were some things that we could and should have planned better in the design and you have pointed this out to us very clearly in your feedback. This is being taken on board.”

There was huge uncertainty over whether T in the Park could be staged at Strathallan this summer as Perth and Kinross Council did not give the green light to the event until mid-May, just two months before the event was due to be held.

More than 1,600 letters of objection were lodged amid concerns over the level of disruption the event would cause local residents and businesses, as well as the potential impact on nesting ospreys. The Woodland Trust and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds had been among the leading opponents of the festival’s relocation.

Mr Ellis added: “We sincerely apologise to any members of the surrounding local community that were adversely affected by the traffic and pedestrian issues at this year’s festival. We will be working hard to make sure that we keep our promises to you for next year, and indeed the long term.

“We will build upon the work we did last year with community councils and develop further local engagement.

“We’re delighted that T in the Park was able to co-exist in harmony with the ospreys at Strathallan. The protected birds successfully raised two chicks with no disturbance from the event whatsoever. We will continue to work closely with the relevant environmental organisations in our planning for 2016.”