If there’s one certainty with Covid-19 it’s the uncertainty and when you’re trying to organise a festival like Pukkelpop that‘s not exactly helpful. As an organiser you must eventually decide on a deadline to get the preparations for your event underway. Otherwise you have no crew, no infrastructure and no artists. This deadline also marked the start of ticket sales. When 75% of combi tickets sold out in a matter of hours it was clear that Pukkelpoppers were gearing up for a memorable edition.
These past weeks and months we’ve worked in close consultation with the government and our medical partners. Throughout we have given all concerns, wishes and guidelines our full attention. However, last Monday it became clear that the current framework has made it impossible for us to organise Pukkelpop. The additional demands in terms of testing would require us to almost triple the testing capacity at and in the run-up to the festival.
The government finds itself in an unenviable position and so do we.
Originally a negative PCR test carried out within 72 hours of arrival was enough but on Monday this was reduced to 48 hours. In addition, a negative antigen test was no longer sufficient for fans to be admitted to the festival. Since Thursday antigen testing is allowed again but the initial validity of 48 hours has been reduced to 24 hours.
Initially we planned for a capacity of up to 7,000 tests per day at the Pukkelpop site but the 24/48 hour limit for the validity of, respectively, a rapid antigen test (RAT) or a PCR test means that we would have to triple this capacity. To put things into perspective: this is 21 times the capacity of the Park Spoor Noord testing village in Antwerp at the height of its activities. The 24/48 hour limit effectively means tripling the number of tests but there is no way we could guarantee the government we can organise this under safe circumstances. This is simple math and a healthy dose of common sense.
Despite the best efforts of the Vaccination Task Force and the many vaccination centres in the province of Limburg and beyond, we are forced to conclude that the vaccination rate within our target demographic is not as we had hoped. Almost 8 in 10 of our young audience would have to submit to testing. For a multi-day mass event with such a young audience, many of which haven’t had the opportunity to get vaccinated, daily testing of so many youngsters is simply not feasible.
Pukkelpop mainly targets youngsters. They are the DNA of Pukkelpop, our core audience. Their happiness, but also their safety, is one of our number one concerns.
We deeply regret the fact that the authorities made this decision just one month before the start of the festival but the Covid measures were always going to be subject to the latest developments. As a result, Pukkelpop 2021 can no longer take place as planned.
After all, Pukkelpop has a huge responsibility to its audience and our youths in particular. From an organisational standpoint we were prepared to go to great lengths to ensure everyone’s safety. Throughout this process we have relied on the recommendations and advice of an extensive team of experts. These past few days we have examined every possible scenario together in detail but the conclusion was always the same: under these new rules we cannot possibly guarantee a safe and carefree Pukkelpop environment.
Following consultations with the Pukkelpop team the federal government has today decided not to allow the festival to proceed in its current form. As a result, Pukkelpop is postponed to 2022.
Our heart bleeds, especially for all those youngsters who were so looking forward to Pukkelpop this year. More than anything we were rooting for them but in the end a favourable outcome wasn’t in the cards.
Pukkelpoppers who have bought a ticket will be contacted via email before 8 August. They will be given a choice to have their ticket refunded or automatically rolled over to our 2022 edition.
In closing, the Pukkelpop organisers would like to thank all Pukkelpoppers from the bottom of their hearts for their tremendous support these past months. We also extend our gratitude to the various cabinets and governments and the municipality of Hasselt in particular. And of course there’s our amazing team that moved heaven and earth to make Pukkelpop 2021 an unforgettable event. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be.
Pukkelpop 2022 takes place from Thursday-Sunday 18-21 August 2022.