Richard Ashcroft has pulled out of his headline slot at Sheffield’s Tramlines festival later this month, as he opposes the event being used as part of government research into the transmission of Covid-19 at large events.
He wrote on Instagram:
Apologies to my fans for any disappointment but the festival was informed over 10 days ago that I wouldn’t be playing once it had become part of a government testing programme. I had informed my agent months ago I wouldn’t be playing concerts with restrictions. The status of the festival was one thing when I signed up for it, but sadly was forced to become something else. It must be an age thing but the words Government Experiment and Festival 😂😂😂#naturalrebel #theydontownme
Natural Rebel is the name of Ashcroft’s most recent album, released in 2018, while They Don’t Own Me is a song from 2016’s These People.
Tramlines, from 23 to 25 July, is set to be one of the largest festivals to take place in Europe since the pandemic began, hosting 40,000 fans in Sheffield’s Hillsborough park. Ashcroft was due to close the festival on the Sunday, and Supergrass have been announced as his replacement.
Attendees will not need to wear a mask, and there will be no social distancing, regardless of any official restrictions at the time. They will need to prove a negative Covid result from a lateral flow test taken within the previous 48 hours, or that they have received two vaccination doses, with the second received at least 14 days before.
Tramlines was given the go-ahead as part of the government’s events research programme, which monitors transmission of Covid among attendees.
Sheffield previously participated in the programme with the world snooker championships in April and May. Other test events took place in Liverpool and London, including the Brit awards, FA Cup final and an outdoor concert with Blossoms.
Only 28 cases were discovered to have been transmitted from tens of thousands of attendees, though there were some concerns over the accuracy because lateral flow tests were used rather than the more reliable PCR tests.
Ashcroft joins a clutch of British indie-rock stars who oppose government intervention regarding Covid-19.
He received praise from former Stone Roses frontman Ian Brown, who said it was “a solid decision and a great statement, Comrade”. Brown has vociferously opposed vaccination and lockdowns, including in his song Little Seed Big Tree where he sang of: “A forced vaccine, like a bad dream / They’ll plant a microchip, every woman, child and man”.
In September 2020, Noel Gallagher lambasted mask-wearing as “pointless”, and said: “There’s too many fucking liberties being taken away from us now.” In June, he said he had received the vaccine on medical advice, but added: “The people who are virtue signalling, their lofty wagging their finger at people who are declining it, can eff off. That’s how fascism starts.”
In a new interview this week with his nephew Sam Esty Rayner, Morrissey discusses civil liberties, including around Covid. Rayner tells him that “Covid society is also the precise description of slavery,” to which Morrissey replies: “Precisely. And more people are now forced into poverty, which is another form of slavery, as is tax and council tax and all the other ways in which we are pinned down and tracked. Our present freedom is restricted to visiting supermarkets and buying sofas. The government act like Chinese emperors … ‘We will allow you to live as we do if you behave yourself.’”