A Full-Blown Socially Distanced Festival Just Went Down, And Punters Loved It
"A lot of people have said they prefer it like this," said one event organiser.
As industries are forced to adapt and adjust to our new socially distanced reality, eyes this past weekend were on a small two-day music festival in Norwich, England. Here’s what happened at Wild Fields, one of the world’s first multi-day, socially distanced music festivals.
Wild Fields is an adapted version of Wild Paths festival, which puts on a string of sets across venues in Norwich — with the COVID-19 of it all, that was scrapped, and festival organisers put together an outdoors event with a new line-up.
Things looked pretty similar to the UK’s custom-built COVIDsafe ‘arena’ in Newcastle, an outdoor event series held in August with elevated ‘viewing pens’ for groups of people, littered out across a field.
But Wild Fields was even more adventurous, featuring two days of music across three stages: of course, there were no camping grounds, with punters simply coming back for day two. Nearly 4,000 people attended, according to organisers.
Here’s a map of how things were laid out — the main-stage featured ‘pods’ or ‘pens’ restricted to groups of six, while the smaller stages had benches which people could be seated at in groups. Queues for food, merch, bathrooms and drinks were marshalled at all times, to make sure social distancing guidelines were kept up.
By all accounts online, it was a low-key affair, which meant the most obvious issue with festivals in the COVID-era, rowdy punters, weren’t really an issue. In a review for NME, Steven Loftin says that nearby pods were reprimanded when they began to edge closer to his pod, or when a punter tried to dance on a mate’s shoulders.
That was helped by the line-up, which lacked any turbo acts. Saturday featured indie-pop from the likes of Genghair, Another Sky, Lauren Hibberd and Indoor Pets, while Sunday skewed more towards jazz.
— James Hewison-Carter (@jameshenrik) September 12, 2020
— Kate Prout (@KateProutITV) September 12, 2020
“Only slowly does it dawn on you that it’s weird not to see a haggard line of revellers ambling onto the site in a fragile manner, paying the price for the night before,” wrote Loftin of Sunday.
Speaking to Loftin, co-organiser Charlie Miller says that “a lot of people have said they prefer it like this… The attendees love it; the vibe has been great”.
On Twitter, those posting at the festival only raved about the weekend, though admitted things were a bit quiet. According to both NME and social media, there were a lot of empty pods towards the back.
As evidenced by poor attendance at Wild Fields today. Shame as was a great event
— Neil (@neilmorrell) September 12, 2020
— Danielle Booden (@DBoodenMedia) September 13, 2020
Given the UK is now introducing new restrictions around social gatherings amid rising COVID-19 numbers, it’s possible that simply thought it too risky.
Still, Wild Fields’ organisers called the event a success in a chat with a local newspaper, and are pushing ahead with plans for a full-fledged version of Wild Fields in October next year. Find some footage of WIld Fields below via Breaking More Waves blog, who live-tweeted the festival.
Wild Fields is actually very civilised. Civilised Showground doesn’t really work as an indie rock festival title though does it? pic.twitter.com/QmJc4NUASd
— Breaking More Waves (@BMWavesBlog) September 12, 2020
Photo Credit: @BMWavesBlog on Twitter