Behind the scenes: Love Saves the Day

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Tom Paine, festival director of Team Love’s Love Saves the Day, reflects on 2022 and year one on a new site…

In November 2019, Team Love, promoter of Love Saves the Day, secured a new site and festival licence to host 39,999 festivalgoers at Ashton Court, Bristol, in 2021. The two-day festival was all set to host its last festival at its Eastville site in 2020 when COVID struck. As the pandemic lingered and restrictions curtailed events and festivals taking place, Team Love was forced to host Love Saves the Day 2021 on The Downs [September 4-5] – the move was purely a one-off. Team Love had bigger plans and was adamant that the show’s 10th anniversary would take place in its new intended home – Ashton Court – with a much larger audience.

“We chose to move site because, essentially, we had outgrown our Eastville location,” explained Tom Paine, Love Saves the Day’s festival director. “The council was keen for us to move. We had had three or four years of sold-out shows and with 22,000 people on site each day, egress had a big impact on the local residential area.

“At first, I was hesitant about moving to Ashton Court because of the legacy we had created and the feeling of community that we had but Ashton Court is stunning,” Paine commented. “It’s nice to be slightly out of Bristol and the site gives us the ability to create bigger festival structures and festival environments.”

Biblical downpour

Love Saves the Day 2022 took advantage of the Platinum Jubilee Weekend. Instead of taking place on May 28 and 29, and its usual May Bank Holiday slot, the two-day festival took place on June 2 and 3. It was an eventful weekend. Especially as torrential rain and thunderstorms caused Paine and his team to temporarily close festival bars and a stage with a leaking roof.

“We had an eventful 90 minutes,” said Paine. “The rest of the festival was amazing, and everything worked as we wanted but on Friday, as we hit capacity, at about 4.30 pm, there was biblical rain.

“When the rain came, it was unexpected and torrential. There was a forecast of showers but nothing as heavy and as constant as the two hours we all faced.

“Lots of people had turned up in festival gear but had not prepared for the rain.”

The downpour soaked some festivalgoers, who chose to leave the festival, causing a small egress issue. This was professionally handled by Judy Bec, event controller and head of ELT, Tom Solly, head of health and safety, and Chris Birkett, site manager. However, as Paine and his team now head into an event debrief, it’s an issue that will need some discussion for 2023.

Paine continued: “Love Saves the Day has been an outdoor open-air festival since its beginning 10 years ago. We have had some tents over the years, but we have always been predominantly outdoors and uncovered. Fundamentally, it would not be possible to provide cover for 30,000 people simultaneously during a biblical downpour without putting all the stages into tents and completely changing the whole identity of the festival – but we will look to provide more cover and shelter next year and to ensure that the site-wide response system is strengthened.”

Paine described the weather incident as an “eye-opener”. The Love Saves the Day team has previously managed rain and inclement weather during their event, but Paine wondered whether a brand new and “inexperienced” crowd, not used to attending festivals, were not prepared for rain and festival realities. Paine added: “I don’t want to start using big tops. I find them soulless. If we had a 2,000-capacity tent and 10,000 people trying to get in it, we’d have other problems. But there’s a good chance that we will need to prepare for rain and build shelter into our plans.”

Love Saves the Day Mike Massaro

Lessons learned

The bigger site and larger licence called for more infrastructure. Team Love contracted more toilets and bars and worked with its supply chain to create the new-look site. “The supply chain has been tricky,” said Paine. “There’s still a huge amount of scarcity in infrastructure. Usually, we would have one marquee provider for our bars and back of house structures, but this year we had three. And there were lots of bumps along the way. For example, with two months to go, we had to change the trackway supplier. They couldn’t supply us.”

Paine confirmed that prices have increased by 30 to 40 per cent but honest conversations with good people have helped Team Love to navigate the process.

When asked to reflect on year one at Ashton Court, Paine explained: “It was our first year on a new site and there were always going to be lessons to be learned. We’re going to tweak the site. It’s hard to see what the site is really like when you have a 2D map. There’s loads of space and we gave our customers loads of space and they appreciated that they could lie down and chill with their mates, but we might bring the fence line in a bit to make some of the site more intimate.”

Paine acknowledged that if Team Love wants to continue growing Love Saves the Day, then some aspects – such as egress – will need to be looked at.

He concluded: “It’s exciting to have year one under our belts and to look at year two. Looking at our shots of the main stage, it feels like we have stepped up a level. We are starting work now to ensure we do everything we can to improve the show at its new home for 2023.”

Images: Love Saves the Day/Mike Massaro