The Mirror has shared an ‘exclusive’ story that the Boardmasters festival was a ‘superspreader’ event. Anyone following the hashtag on TikTok could have told you that. Festivalgoer after festivalgoer has posted about coming home with Covid. The Mirror‘s story also features one attendee who describes the testing system as lax and easy to game.
A parent’s role for Boardmasters
My daughter attended Boardmasters 2021 (and had a marvelous time). She also took the testing seriously. On an earlier visit to the States, we arranged for her to get both jabs of Pfizer. In the run-up to the festival she took four different Covid tests, a further one at the event and another when she arrived home. Thankfully, all have been negative.
She volunteered her story of taking a lateral flow test at Boardmasters which differed from the lax process described in The Mirror. My daughter described getting the NHS test from organisers, taking it and exchanging the small plastic results cartridge for a wristband to show that she’d been tested. She volunteered that staff took her test from her and threw it away — ‘It was good. So people couldn’t reuse it,’ she said.
Is the spread of Covid at festivals a surprise?
To me, as someone who’s simply observed Covid for the past two years, it’s pretty obvious that there are a lot of factors at play. We’ve only recently started providing vaccines for under-18s. (Sixteen and 17-year-olds are only being offered it from later this week.) the unfolding of the Delta variant effects in other countries and the fact that many Boardmasters attendees likely holidayed somewhere else before heading to the Cornish coast (if my daughter’s friends are anything to go by). Given all that, well, it’s not really all that surprising.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take it seriously. We need to concentrate on finding out how many of these attendees – or their contacts – got seriously ill. And there are lessons to be learned.
The shocking toilets at Boardmasters
WARNING: DISGUSTING IMAGES TO FOLLOW
A side story that’s also dominated social media: the shocking state of the loos. You never expect festival toilets to be lovely experiences, but at Boardmasters they were unusable. There are pictures of stall after stall of portable toilets overflowing with paper and waste. This is especially an issue for women and girls, as we know, but it affects everyone and impacts hygiene too. My daughter and her friends regularly went into town to eat and use the restaurants’ proper toilets.
Where toilets and testing converge
On one hand, these might seem like separate issues, but they all speak to logistics. If these festivals are going to go ahead with the nod from the government, then organisers need to take seriously the entire experience — from Covid tests to queues to toilets to trash. Attendees, for their part, need to live up to their obligations and not try to game the system or weasel out of their tests.
Reading Festival is coming up next. Are organisers going to learn from this event?
And in a wider view, as parents and citizens, what are we learning? We need to know the actual impact of these events. Are our teenagers coming down with Covid, experiencing mild symptoms, recovering completely and not passing it on (the best-case scenario). Or will this spread out across the UK and how long-lasting effects?
How can we assess the risk to us as individuals and to…well…everyone?
Is the Government paying attention?
We’re still figuring out to what extent we must ‘live with’ Covid. Is the Mirror article providing first inkling to the Government about a festival being the locus of infection? That’s a disturbing thought.
Beyond festivals, we’re about to hit the back-to-school, back-to-work season. The Government needs to be anticipating the utterly predictable effects of everyone returning from holiday, piling into public transport, then gathering in classrooms and offices. What we can’t allow is for the powers that be to make rules then blame the individuals who get sick.
As for what we can personally do about the toilets? This eye-opening post by Vicky Flip Flop has some suggestions on how women can avoid festival toilets.