T break: is it the end for T In The Park?

T break: is it the end for T In The Park?

One of the first thoughts that came to mind with the confirmation that T In The Park is “taking a break” in 2017 was, will it ever return?

The Scottish institution could do no wrong in the first 20 years of its existence. While exclusivity deals caused its contemporaries V and Reading & Leeds to share the wealth, T had no such restrictions, leaving it free to assemble arguably the best festival line-ups in the UK on a regular basis. 

As an illustration of its strength, Arctic Monkeys, Coldplay, Foo Fighters, Beyoncé and The Strokes topped its 2011 edition, with Blink-182’s cancelled appearance barely causing a ripple.

Then in 2014, its fortunes changed. Its Balado home, where the event had been held since 1997, was suddenly considered a health hazard. The Health And Safety Executive suggested that an accident at the Forties Pipeline, which part of the festival site ran over, could cause casualties. 

T's subsequent move to Strathallan Castle in Perthshire was beset with problems from the start. In the run-up to the 2015 event, promoter DF Concerts vowed to work with RSPB Scotland to safeguard a protected species of birds – ospreys – found at the site.

Management later became embroiled in a “cronyism” row after it emerged a former SNP advisor working for T In The Park helped the festival secure a £150,000 grant from the Scottish government, although the move was later cleared by a public spending watchdog.

The 2015 event itself saw the highest number of serious assaults reported in the festival's history, alongside complaints about traffic congestion, crowd safety and security concerns, and disruption to the local community, leading T to restructure its operational team and bring Festival Republic's Melvin Benn on board as executive producer for 2016. 

Attendance was also down on previous years: the 85,000-capacity event attracted crowds of 73,200, 83,800 and 80,400 respectively over the three days. The dip can probably be attributed to issues around the site move, but could also hint at a public shift to more niche and boutique events.

This year's headliners included The Stone Roses, Calvin Harris and Red Hot Chili Peppers but the festival was marred by the deaths of three people at the campsite, later all confirmed to be drug-related. 

The decision not to host the event in 2017 was attributed by DF and founding partner Tennent's Lager to site restrictions and the need to apply for full planning permission following the return of those pesky ospreys, but it’s likely that other factors have also come into play.

The T In The Park brand has been battered and bruised by the turbulence of the past two years. Perhaps a year off can make the heart grow fonder (it’s certainly never done Glastonbury any harm), but if a rumoured new DF festival in Glasgow Green takes off, it may be that – as with Scottish festivals in the sky Rockness and Wickerman – its time has been and gone.


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