T in the Park chief says he wants to take the event back to Strathallan
The boss of T in the Park has broken his silence over the cancellation of next year’s festival to declare he wants to take the event back to Strathallan.
Geoff Ellis said he was “determined” the festival would make a comeback in 2018 and called for council chiefs to relax conditions over its staging at the Perthshire estate.
He promised changes would “definitely” be made to the event, which has been hit by dwindling ticket sales, drug-related deaths and traffic disruption at Strathallan, when it returns “to keep it fresh and improve it”.
Mr Ellis, whose company is said to be planning a new non-camping event on Glasgow Green next summer, admitted T in the Park had suffered “a tough couple of years” at the venue because of the need to protect ospreys at the site, but said the event would never have relocated there had they been known about.
The head of DF Concerts, which has staged the festival since its launch in 1994, said Strathallan was by far the best site for the event after its long-time home at Balado, but admitted it does not work there under the “onerous” restrictions imposed by Perth and Kinross Council.
DF and festival sponsors Tennent’s Lager stunned fans last week with a statement announcing the event needed to “take a break" due to the logistical and financial constraints over the site at Strathallan..
Mr Ellis said: "We are taking a year off to try to get the conditions eased and see if we can make it work on that site at Strathallan.
“We’re determined to come back with a camping festival in 2018. We will definitely make some changes, as you should. You’ve got to keep it fresh and try to improve it. We’ll definitely do that and we’re looking forward to be back with something in 2018. I’d say to people ‘watch this space.’
“But for us to stay at Strathallan something has to change with the conditions. It’s not just about the cost, it is about the impact on our audience. There were so many things that compromised their experience. If we can’t fix those then Strathallan doesn’t work."
Speaking at the Scottish Music Awards in Glasgow, where acts lined up to pay tribute to the event, Mr Ellis launched an outspoken attack on the Health and Safety Executive for forcing the event off the Kinross airfield after 18 years.
He said repeated concerns had been raised about the possibility of a disaster because the festival site ran over an underground oil pipeline.
But Mr Ellis said: “I really just want to get a hold of the Health and Safety Executive and wring their necks.
“It’s ridiculous that we ever had to move in the first place, it really is. I’m still annoyed that we had to move.
“Aberdeen Airport’s runway is on top of the same pipeline and you’ve got schools on top of the same pipeline. The HSE’s argument was not that it wasn’t safe but they said that if something did happen at T in the Park it would be unthinkable. But surely if something happened with a load of schoolkids it would also be be unthinkable.
“The festival only happens once a year. If the pipeline isn’t safe then it should be closing everything down that’s on top of it. But the HSE seemed to redefine the whole laws of probability. They seemed to be saying if it has not failed one year then it was going to fail the next.
“The Scottish Government was put in a very difficult position. They had to knock it back to Perth and Kinross Council and advise them not to grant it after they had originally given it permission at Balado. It was a ridiculous scenario.”
Mr Ellis admitted it would be hard to find a replacement for Strathallan.
He said: “It’s been a really difficult few years because we were battling to stay at Balado for a while and then obviously had to do the search for a new site, which was hard.
“There are not lots of other sites, especially within travelling distance from Glasgow and Edinburgh, and not too far for people from Aberdeen and Dundee as well. It was a real challenge to find one.
“The other thing is Scotland is full of pipelines. There were lots of great sites that we went to look at and then we saw the pipelines. It felt like we’d be going out of the frying pan and into the fire.
“If we’d known that the ospreys were at Strathallan and we’d have to submit a planning application we wouldn’t have gone there.”
He added: “Strathallan was the best site we could find.”