Our theme for ALSO this year is "A Place in the Country" and we mean this in every way. As we continue to live through one of the strangest, discomforting and most stressful experiences in our collective and personal lives, we want to offer people an oasis from it all, where nature can do its job rejuvenating us and we can do our job providing mental stimulation, comfort and all-round joy in one of Britain's most beautiful spots. All, of course, at an acceptable social distance. It really is about making the most delicious lemonade out of these lemons we've been handed.
There are many changes we have had to make in order to put on the world's first socially distanced festival. The points listed below should give you a comprehensive overview of the difference between ALSO in the past and ALSO at a social distance.
To clarify from the beginning, all of the COVID-related protocols we have in place on-site have been approved by the NHS, the local authorities, and the fire and police depts. We are in constant contact with them throughout the planning process to ensure that they have all the information they might need to ensure every one is as safe as possible. One of the stipulations is to reduce the number of attendees to ensure social distancing rules can be maintained. For us, that means reducing numbers to 600 from our usual 1,800.
And in terms of digital blending, this simply means providing some of the festival content online for those who unfortunately cannot join us this year.
Prior to arrival:
- All parties need to send each individual's full name and contact information so Track and Trace can be carried out. As per government regulations, this information needs to be kept for 21 days, after which it will be wiped from our system.
- It would be super helpful for attendees to book places at each event prior to arrival, as much as possible, as it helps us with ensuring social distancing during the weekend.
- We have a local cab driver, who is COVID compliant, with screens fitted in his taxi, who can get people to and from Leamington Spa train station.
- While we are not necessarily a proponent of driving to the festival (for the environment's sake) this year is the year to do it, given the circumstances, and therefore is also the year to bring all those home comforts so your weekend can be as luxurious and cosy as possible.
This will take a little longer than usual, but it should be stress-free and easy to navigate. Depending on the entrance being used, festival-goers will wait in their cars as they get temperature checked. Unfortunately, if anyone in the party has a temperature in excess of 37.8C, the entire party will have to leave the site.
Depending on the entrance being used, a member of the party will (using a mask and practising socially distanced queuing) get out of the car and go to the check-in desk to pick up their entire party's wrist bands and festival pack (all prepared 72h prior to the festival day, which is a government regulation). At the other entrance, everyone stays in the car an ALSO staff member will distribute the packs to each car following the temperature check.
Our glamping offering spaces each yurt at a 10m distance. Due to government regulations, we need to have the yurts set up 72h prior to the start of the event so, unlike in previous years, we have a strict cut off point in terms of reservations.
At the campsite - as per current government regulation regarding bubbles, two households can camp together, but we ask that all bubbles keep a good 10m distance from each other.
The Festival Itself:
General: This is a huge 50-acre site so there's absolutely immense space for everyone to be really comfortable as they socially distance.
Masks 1: We follow government regulations. It is an outside event so there are really only specific areas where mask-wearing is necessary and we hope that people are sensible about this both in terms of wearing them and also not taking it upon themselves to police others. We have security who can quietly have a word with anyone not respecting the regulations, so rather than creating tension with other festival-goers, we are recommending that people simply move away from groups who appear to be flouting rules.
Masks 2: We would like attendees to wear masks in places that involve queuing, such as entering or leaving an event, at the bar for food, that sort of thing. It really shouldn't be any different to how you are currently using masks under current guidance.
Main Stage: We are designing squares at the main stage for each bubble to do their thing in. There's plenty of space. And we are also erecting a 5m video screen so people can comfortably remain at quite a long distance away from the stage and still get a great view.
Food has always played a central role at ALSO and it is, of course, one of the most social aspects of our lives. We didn't want to give that up so we got creative. While we can't offer our usual hyper-social culinary adventures, because we can't have a kitchen and strangers can't sit close to each other, we decided that a luxury picnic was the way to go. So, on Saturday afternoon we have instead gorgeous hampers (both vegan and meat-based) on offer, with a hosted service to a beautiful spot near the Lake Stage. Aside from this, there will be a variety of delicious food concessions, coffee and a bar (remember the masking and social distancing rules when getting your fill).
We spend the most per capita on toilets (!) than any festival and this year is no exception. For £60 each party can rent their own portaloo to reduce further potential vectors of COVID. Or you can stick to the communal, regularly cleaned loos.