Organisers of Solihull Summer Fest say demand for tickets has been higher than ever after last year’s enforced cancellation.
The committee behind the annual festival at Tudor Grange Park was forced to shell out £45,000 in refunds after the pandemic put a stop to 2020’s event – but organisers have bounced back and are spending £650,000 on this year’s extravaganza to make it the best yet.
Headliners include Kool & The Gang, the voice of Wet Wet Wet Marti Pellow and iconic 80s band ABC on the Saturday (July 24), and on Sunday (July 25), Billy Ocean, Tony Hadley, Nik Kershaw and Bad Manners.
As well as two music stages, for the first time this year, there will also be a designated food village with traders selling 20 varieties of festival grub.
With the event running at a third of its usual capacity due to Covid, organisers say demand for tickets has been greater than ever, with the nearby Crowne Plaza hotel already said to be booked up for the Saturday night.
Solihull’s will be one of the first festivals to go ahead in the Midlands following the scheduled relaxation of Covid restrictions on June 21.
Director Ian rogers hopes he can lead by example and show others in the industry it’s possible to hold a festival safely this summer.
He said: “After Boris’ announcement about the roadmap out of lockdown, we’ve proceeded forwards with the attitude that the festival is going to happen.
“Thankfully we’ve got a month of grace time so we should be okay if step four of the roadmap gets pushed back slightly.
“We’re already pretty much sold out in terms of tickets so it’s arguably going to be the busiest year yet because of there being such a huge demand.
“Some festivals have just said they’ll start up again next year but I felt that people in Solihull really needed this. It’s such a huge positive step forwards towards getting back to normal, and for the artists too.
“We’ll be one of the first festivals to go ahead in the Midlands – there’s a few before us but we will certainly be one of the biggest in July in terms of capacity.
“It’s going to be a momentous moment and I’m keen to set a precedent for people and for others in the industry to show that something like this is manageable.
“We are going above and beyond to ensure that Summer Fest 2021 is going to be the best ever.”
Safety measures at Solihull Summer Fest 2021
Despite there being no social distancing requirements in stage four of the government’s roadmap, Solihull Summer Fest will be implementing a number of safety measures to ensure festival-goers’ peace of mind.
There will be hand sanitiser stations throughout the site, socially-distanced seating, more regular toilet cleaning, while the funfair has been removed to create extra space.
Instead of the usual 20,000 guests, organisers are working towards a 7,500-person capacity and are installing further seating at the back of the field for those who want to keep their distance from the crowds.
There will also be a welfare area, with counsellors, Samaritans and wellbeing coaches on hand to support anyone who is feeling overwhelmed.
Ian said: “We’ve looked at as many ways as possible to reassure people. Stage four of the roadmap is about going back to normal but we thought it was important to put some measures in place so everyone can enjoy the festival and not feel overwhelmed.
“We won’t be saying that people must wear masks but they can if they want to.”
This is the fifth Solihull Summer Fest since it launched in 2016 and MP Julian Knight said this year’s festival will be a “landmark event”.
The Conservative MP told BirminghamLive: “It will show everyone that life is getting back to normal and that it’s okay to go outside and have some fun again.
“It attracts a lot of people to the area and they then go out and spend money in Solihull’s restaurants and local businesses.
“This festival will show that Solihull is back in business.”
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Mr Knight is chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, which published a report last week recommending that the Government back insurance for events such as festivals which may have to cancel if Covid restrictions are continued.
He said: “The UK festival industry, whether that be music, arts or any other type of entertainment, is worth £1.7 billion to the UK economy.
“Because of Covid, the vast majority were cancelled last year and a quarter of festivals this year have been cancelled as well.
“This report is designed to be a roadmap for the recovery of the festival industry so that people can get back out and enjoy themselves again.
“It’s really important for there to be a government-backed insurance scheme in place. Often, organisers pay a significant amount of cash quite far in advance so there could be huge financial problems if they’re forced to cancel due to Covid.”
Mr Knight added: “We’re now talking about festivals which are happening in July and August. I think the government has been too slow to act on this.”