Music Opinion: 'After TRNSMT, just let T in the Park die and create something new in its place'
- David Pollock
- 10 July 2017
Stormzy / credit: Ryan Johnston
After hugely successful debut TRNSMT festival on Glasgow Green, it's time to move on from T in the Park, writes David Pollock
I'm writing this piece as the inaugural TRNSMT festival on Glasgow Green draws to a close, so it's possible that events and public statements surrounding the return of T in the Park might have overtaken us by the time it's published (although this interview with DF Concerts' Geoff Ellis from last week suggests not). But I'll just come out and say it, anyway; even a week ago, the big question was how the return of T in the Park would be handled after the smaller, cheaper placeholder TRNSMT was out of the way. We're not saying that any more. Now the question is whether T in the Park is even necessary, and the huge success of this year's first TRNSMT suggests it might have run its course.
In terms of organisation and atmosphere created, everything was perfect about TRNSMT. A large chunk of good weather didn't hurt either, but the whole thing was just a more homely, compact, easy-to-navigate experience than T. Of course, only the main stage was on anything like T's scale, but the three smaller stages were close at hand and easy to move around, and the majority-local roster of artists booked to play them saw generally large crowds; like the huge throng – up on their mates' shoulders, singing along – which pressed in before the King Tut's stage for folksy pub-rocker Gerry Cinnamon, the most definitively Glaswegian singer since Billy Connolly, or the flood of excited fans which caused the mighty Maya 'Nightwave' Medvesek's DJ set to be shut down. Now compare this with some of the lucky winners of T-Break, playing the tent at T to a dozen mates and a dog.
There was good food, generally – but not always – reasonable bar queues, and enough room to find a quietish seat in the sun where necessary (or trees to shelter under on Sunday). Yet it didn't feel like an exclusive event, with people from all walks mixing together; students, regular working folk, a few brave parents with children. It was definitely a festival for predominantly younger fans – a quick visual survey suggested the audience were largely in their twenties and thirties, and the safe reliance on guitar-playing bands belied an absence of older fall-back artists with inter-generational appeal, Friday's Belle & Sebastian and Radiohead double aside. Kasabian and Biffy Clyro have been around for a good few years, but they're hardly heritage acts.
It goes without saying that plenty of alcohol was sunk over the weekend, and it showed in some folk, but it wasn't a festival which carried a lot of obvious casualties by the end of each day. This set it most obviously apart from T, an event which has drawn criticism for letting people enjoy themselves too much (often from observers who read exaggerated horror stories in 'papers and would never conceive of going to a festival themselves), and shifted TRNSMT decisively back to what T in the Park was way back at the start: a music festival for people who simply love music and want to see as much of it as they can.
There were 10 arrests and 92 visits to the onsite hospital, all for 'minor' incidents and complaints, which is great work for an event which saw a cumulative 120,000 people attend over three days. Also, I heard only one wide-eyed casualty demand 'any ectos?' in passing, which was a record low. It was almost as though the prospect of their own beds at night under the same roof as their parents, partners or kids served to police people's behaviour, rather than the numbing prospect of floating on a sticky swamp wrapped in canvas for a few hours. Camping at festivals is grim at the best of times, and if God had meant humans to do it, he wouldn't have invented rain.
Great organisation and atmosphere aside, mind you, TRNSMT wasn't perfect. There was that much commented-upon and frankly abysmal representation – 20 main stage artists, only two of them (Belle & Sebastian and London Grammar) featuring women, only one (Stormzy) BAME – and it's an issue which can't be brought up enough. Look through this year's Glastonbury lineup and you can make a lengthy list of female artists who would have fitted perfectly here, like Warpaint, Lorde, Haim, Goldfrapp, KT Tunstall, The xx, and so on and on. Yet Ellis has been taken to task for this already, and he's agreed with the criticism and pointed to the fact that other female artists were contacted but were unable to attend. All we can do is take him at his word that things will be different next year.
Because TRNSMT will definitely be back next year, and where that leaves T in the Park in the schedule is unclear – to DF, it seems, as well as the fans. Here's my suggestion; just let T in the Park die and create something new in its place. Ellis has expressed a desire to return to larger countryside festivals, but with T's Balado site gone, the new Auchterarder venue looking continually problematic and TRNSMT about to take up a lot of resources, why not look to offer something completely different out of town?
To imagine what that might be, let's cast our minds back a decade to DF's biggest festival triumph since they started T in the Park, that first instalment of Connect in Inveraray, a festival which lasted two years before it was prematurely curtailed after the financial crisis. What a lineup it had, in an incredibly intimate setting, including Bjork, LCD Soundsystem, MIA, the Beastie Boys, the Jesus and Mary Chain... Why not keep TRNSMT for big-name headliners like Radiohead and Kasabian, and find a good site to revive Connect as the boutique festival to end them all? T in the Park could even return as a brand rather than an event, hosting big one-off gigs in places like Bellahouston Park or Ingliston, for example.
It feels like a change is needed, and TRNSMT has made that change viable. Unless you're Glastonbury, the festival market has changed in a great number of ways since T first arrived more than two decades ago. After this weekend DF have proven they can handle a more modest yet still high-profile city festival, with future scope to bolster the lineup and the number of venue afterparties as TRNSMT's reputation grows – next, there's no question they'll be keen to show they can build a music village in the countryside fit for 2018 and beyond.
We sent three of our music critics along to TRNSMT to check out Scotland's newest city music festival. Find out what we thought of Friday, Saturday and Sunday.