Lessons learnt for Parklife as festival fever hits Manchester

By Mike Brunt

For a city with a legendary musical heritage, it seems strange that in the summer months most musical Mancunians tend to vacate their city for pastures new.

Thankfully, there are now more and more reasons for the city’s residents to stay put, as the city continues to devour its own slice of the outdoor festival pie.

Mancunians are now well and truly in the festival mood, and budding party goers are now seeking solace in a world which now isn’t going to meet the rapture, as some devout Christians predicted a few weeks back.

Manchester’s Dpercussion festival is unfortunately now just a happy but distant memory. Autumn’s In The City festival has been postponed till 2012, and Manchester’s Eurocultured festival is now over for another a year.

The answer, thankfully for those who enjoyed its debut last year, could be the return of Parklife, situated in Platt Fields Park in the student-heavy Fallowfield area of South Manchester.

PARKLIFE: Over 15,000 descended on Platt Fields for the festival in 2010

The festival returns on June 11 for a two-day weekend extravaganza, and the festival’s promoters hope artists such as Two Door Cinema Club, Kelis and Mystery Jets will wow the crowds.

“In terms of the artists performing, there are some incredible performers this year from all over the globe coming to play at Platt Fields,” said Jon Drape, Live Director of Ear to the Ground.

“But it’s not just on the stages we have performances, as the whole site will be animated by performers and artists.”

The festival’s debut last year came bang in the middle of the 2010 World Cup, and on the same day as England’s opening fixture against the United States of America, yet still attracted thousands.

The switch this year from a one-day to a two-day festival should also pose no problems to festival organisers for the park, as last year’s festival came just a day after a gig by ex-Stone Roses singer Ian Brown.

The park recovered 24 hours later to host a successful day that was headlined by Friendly Fires, but event organisers are keen to learn some lessons from last year.

“The event went very well on the whole last year with very positive feedback from festival goers, the police and other agencies,” said Jon.

“It wasn’t perfect however with queues being a problem. So we’re addressing that area by having a different entry area which involves building a temporary bridge over the brook as well as increasing numbers of toilets and food concessions.

“We’ve added a stage and extended the site slightly also we’ve increased the size of the big tops so in the unlikely event of rain we can get most of the audience under canvas.”

For Parklife this year, half of the park will be completely closed for public access for nearly three weeks, and Anne Tucker, The Friends of Platt Fields Secretary, says that the organisation of the festival needs to be handled carefully.

Ms Tucker said: “Due to the closure, it means people living at the Platt Lane end have to make a major detour to get kids to school or nursery the other side of the park.

“We love the park to be animated, but not so happy about the huge scale of some of these events.”

“We will see massive lorries churning up the park, and an immense volume of people that is horrible for people living round who don’t like it.”

The current entertainment licence for the park specifies 10 days of major events a year, but it has been pointed out that the ‘disruption’ time for the park is a lot more than 10 days – Parklife will be 18 days alone, of which the concerts will only be recorded as two.

Responding to Ms Tucker’s concerns, Jon said: “We are very conscious of the impact the event has on the local community.

“From meetings and feedback from last year it was clear that although that there is still plenty of parkland available for use, it was the impact of fencing off the North event field that gave most disruption.

“We appreciate this and we’re putting in place an access route through the park from Platt Lane, adjacent to the church, through to the other side of the park.

“It’s a difficult balance to keep the public safe from the construction works and to allow access but we hope that this will be a marked improvement.

“As Parklife is aimed at a local and student audience we found that around 97% of the audience last year either travelled by foot or public transport. We only had 63 cars in the free event car park which is incredible.”

On the other side of the city, North Mancunians can look forward to a festival future of their own, after Manchester City Council were last month granted a licence to turn Heaton Park into a major festival venue for up to 80,000 people.

The Manchester Licensing Committee controversially granted a licence for the council to hold three three-day music festivals every 12 months, and alcohol sales at these festivals are also permitted, despite concerns from residents.

The council hopes to generate more than £250,000-a-year from promoters willing to put festivals on in the park – a venue which saw Oasis play two years ago to thousands of people over three days.

Lucy Griffiths, 28, from Middleton, who attended last year’s Parklife festival, said that she would think twice about attending festivals at Heaton Park.

“I think these festivals attract a lot of idiots who try and spoil it for everyone else, and I’d probably only go to gigs at Heaton Park because it’s near to where I live.

“It’s a big park and a lovely area for children, but where are the kids going to go in the summer holidays when the festivals are on?

”With the sheer size of the park I wouldn’t envy whoever is organising it!”

July will see the park host Sundae in the Park, sponsored by Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and boasts a line-up featuring Maximo Park, Gary Numan and Ocean Colour Scene.

The Manchester International Festival also returns at the end of the month, running till 17 July, with artists including Bjork and Damon Albarn.

For now though, all eyes are on this weekend’s Parklife, and Ear to the Ground envisage a bright future for the festival.

 Asked what he thought the future for Parklife was, Jon claimed the festival intends to stay at its current home.

 “It’s a festival for Manchester and we’re very happy at Platt Fields, it was the home of the Manchester Show for many years and we like to think that although we are very different we are a show for Manchester in the 21st century. “

The Parklife Weekender 2011 takes place on June 11th and June 12th at Platt Fields Park, Fallowfield, and is now completely sold out. For more information please visit

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