The organisers of Red Rooster Festival are pressing ahead with the event, making it one of the very few multi-day, multi-stage music festivals to take place this year. Festival director & production manager James Brennan tells Christopher Barrett about the challenges involved and how he hopes it will inspire other event owners to follow suit.

Held on 4-6 September in the grounds of the Euston Hall estate in Suffolk, Red Rooster was originally due to take place in May with a 10,000 capacity. The new-look event will have a reduced capacity of 5,000 to allow for social distancing, and unlike previous years all stages will be outdoors. Other measures include staggered arrival times, one-way systems and enhanced cleaning of toilets and facilities.

Brennan says he has assembled a crack team of production personnel and suppliers (see below) who are orchestrating a safe environment for attendees that adheres to the recently announced outdoor event government guidelines but also maintains the spirit of the event.

It is a very beautiful site and there is a lot of available space that we don’t usually use that we can utilise to give people the distance they need,” says Brennan.

He says that while the movement and behaviour of the festival audience will be closely monitored, members of the public should take responsibility for themselves and those around them: “The only way that our event and others like it will be able to open is if we take the available advice and attendees use common sense and look after themselves and those around them.

“We are creating a controlled environment that can be monitored, it is much safer to go to a festival than spending a weekend visiting the beach, pubs and supermarkets.”

“We are creating a controlled environment that can be monitored, it is much safer to go to a festival than spending a weekend visiting the beach, pubs and supermarkets.”

The festival, which was launched in 2014 with an attendance of 800, and focuses on Cajun, soul, rock’n’roll, blues and country music, was due to feature a line-up this year including Richard Hawley, Asleep at the Wheel and Chuck Prophet & The Mission Express. The line-up for the rescheduled event is yet to be announced.

Despite attracting a very different audience to Glyndebourne, which was mentioned by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden when he announced the July 11 return of outdoor events, Brennan says there are obvious similarities.

“The government urged people to go out and buy tickets for events such as Glyndebourne, they are not seated events, they are picnic events,” he says. “Red Rooster has a mature responsible crowd of primarily 35-55-year-olds; the only difference to Glyndebourne is that it is rhythm and blues music and not opera, and our audience rock up in dungarees and not tuxedos.”

According to Brennan, more than 60% of Red Rooster attendees stay in camper vans and that with campsites open around the country, camping is permissible under government guidelines.

He says, “It is possible to create an event that adheres with the guidelines, proceeding with Red Rooster is about hopefully helping other event producers and the government to see how we can open safely and show that safely going to a concert doesn’t have to be limited to sitting in a car or confined space.

“More event organisers should look at what they can do and take the jump because if we just sit back and wait for the government to tell us exactly how we should be doing things, we will not get very far.”

“More event organisers should look at what they can do and take the jump because if we just sit back and wait for the government to tell us exactly how we should be doing things, we will not get very far.

“Our industry involves us building temporary cities that are constructed in a matter of weeks and we de-rig them in days; we have some of the finest logistical minds in the world and our industry can really help the government and country start reintroducing events.

“The creative industries were one of the few industries that saw growth in the last recession, and the UK will need our industry more than ever on the road to recovery.”

Brennan says that the festival has already lost money due to not being able to go ahead as originally planned, and as a result of the requirement to adhere to government guidelines the September festival will cost more than usual to stage. Regardless, he is determined to press ahead.

“We are aware of the loss that we will have this year and have planned for it but this is more than an exercise of trying to make the books work, it is about trying to get things going and enable not just us but other events to go ahead under the guidelines,” he says.

The Red Rooster team

Festival Director & Production Manager – James Brennan

Health and Safety Manager – Michael Herbert , Showsmiths

Operations Manager – Maddie Harris

Creative Production Manager – Jamie Howard

Audio – Creative Technologies

Lighting – Coloursound

Backline – Music Bank

Staging – Pro Productions

Tents – Yes Tents

Security – SB Security Solutions

Infrastructure – A-Plant

Showers – Poshwash

Premier Toilet Hire – Toilets