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Scotland’s biggest music festival through the ages: A look back at the highlights and history of T in the Park

T in the Park first launched in 1994. From top left, clockwise: Fans enjoy the festival; Noel Gallagher in 2015; Keith Flint of The Prodigy in 2015; Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters in 2002.
T in the Park first launched in 1994. From top left, clockwise: Fans enjoy the festival; Noel Gallagher in 2015; Keith Flint of The Prodigy in 2015; Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters in 2002.

With musical events off the calendar this summer, Gayle Ritchie takes a look back at Scotland’s biggest music festival – T in the Park.

It was the festival which put a disused airfield in Kinross on the map for almost two decades.

Six years ago this month, music lovers from across the globe flocked to Balado in Kinross to attend T in the Park, Scotland’s biggest music festival.

As they enjoyed headline performances from Arctic Monkeys, Biffy Clyro and Calvin Harris, fans were unaware that this would be the last time the venue would host T, and that the axe would fall on the event two years later.

The festival, which was named after its main sponsor, Tennents, had originally launched at Strathclyde Park in Lanarkshire in 1994, with sets from, amongst others, Primal Scream, Blur, Rage Against the Machine, Bjork, Pulp, Oasis and the House of Pain.

It moved to Balado in 1997 where it grew in size and stature, attracting around 85,000 people.

It was famously forced to move away from the site after an underground gas pipeline sparked health and safety fears.

The last T at Balado was in 2014. The following year, it took place at a brand new site at Strathallan Castle in Auchterarder, Perthshire.

It ran there just twice – in 2015 and 2016 – but it was the most complained-about festival since its launch.

This was thanks to bad traffic management which resulted in chaotic scenes with some vehicles queuing for up to three hours to leave the site.

Ian Brown of The Stone Roses at T in the Park in 2012.

The last three bands to headline T in 2016 were The Stone Roses, Calvin Harris and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.

And sadly, that was the very last T in the Park festival ever.


Here are some cracking pictures of bands in action – and crowd scenes – through the years

  • Arctic Monkeys singer Alex Turner at T in the Park 2014 – the last time the festival was held at Balado.

  • Crowd scenes from T in the Park at Balado in 2014.

  • Tim Burgess of The Charlatans waves to fans in 2003.

  • Iggy Pop struts his stuff at Balado in 2000.

  • Controversial rapper Eminem takes on the Scottish festival in 2010.

  • Black Grape graced the T stage when it took place at Strathclyde Country Park in 1996.

  • Chris Martin of Coldplay sings his heart out in 2001.

  • Crowd scenes from Strathallan Castle in 2016.

  • Singer Dua Lipa played T in 2016.

  • Paloma Faith got a selfie with fans when T in the Park moved to Strathallan Castle in 2015.

  • Exhausted revellers hang out in fields of post-festival litter and think about packing up in 2002.

  • Keith Flint of The Prodigy in 2003. The flamboyant singer and dancer passed away in March last year.

  • Sassy singer Rita Ora wows the crowds in 2013.

  • Wellie-wearing revellers enjoyed the music and atmosphere of T in 2016.

  • Foo Fighters headlined T in 2011. Dave Grohl put his heart and soul into putting on a performance for loyal fans.

  • The crowd sang along while Haim performed at the very last T at the Park at Balado in 2014.

  • Last Request singer Paolo Nutini in 2010.

  • Crazy in Love star Beyonce performed at the 2011 festival.

  • Jessie J at the 2015 festival at Strathallan Castle.

  • The sun shone brightly for fans at the very last T in the Park at Strathallan Castle in 2016.

  • Scots favourites Biffy Clyro were among the headliners at Balado in 2014.

  • Former Kasabian frontman Tom Meighan at T in the Park 2012.

  • Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine in 2012.

  • The sun sets at T in the Park in 2010.

  • Campers leave Balado in 2014 – the last time the festival was held at the Kinross venue.

  • Farewell to the Balado site in 2014.


The biggest gig that never was

David Bowie was one of the main draws for thousands of fans due to attend T in the Park in 2004 and who had paid up to £88 for a weekend ticket.

The superstar was due to headline the Saturday night main stage bill but was forced to cancel because of a trapped nerve in his shoulder.

David Bowie had to pull out of T 2004 due to a shoulder injury.

Bowie, then 57, had cut short a gig in Prague the previous week because of persistent pain, and had cancelled appearances in Vienna and Salzburg.

The Darkness, who were second on the bill, took Bowie’s headline slot.

The Darkness took the headline spot in 2003.

Courier writer Gayle Ritchie’s memories of the very first T

The very first T in the Park was held on the weekend of Saturday July 30 1994 at Strathclyde Country Park in Lanarkshire – a staggering 26 years ago.

Two of my favourite bands – Cypress Hill and Rage Against the Machine – were playing on the Saturday, as was Bjork, so I was massively excited.

It was a year of festival firsts for me and I’d been to Glastonbury the previous month and had tickets for Reading in August.

Glastonbury had completely blown me away. It wasn’t just about the music; it was the atmosphere, the setting, the sheer magic and freshness of it all.

With T in the Park being held a couple of hours down the road from my home in Aberdeenshire, my dad kindly offered to drive me and two mates there.

Gayle went to T in the Park at Strathclyde Country Park in 1994 and 1995. Gayle is pictured (on the right) with two friends in 1995.

We camped, of course, and my main memory is of shoving a pillow over my head while groups of drunk and rowdy neds shouted and chanted through the night.

The magic of Glastonbury, it seemed, had not made its way to Strathclyde Country Park.

Nevertheless, the festival was brilliant. Well, the music side of things was, at least.

I was determined to get right to the front of the stage for the bands I loved – and that meant risking injury.

I remember getting booted in the head as random boys and men crowd-surfed and I didn’t actually mind at all.

The highlight was when Rage Against the Machine burst onto the stage.

Look closely at a YouTube video of them playing Take the Power Back and see if you can spot me head-banging!

 

I was delighted when, at the end of their set, the drummer lobbed a broken drumstick into the crowd and my boyfriend at the time caught it and gave it to me. To this day, I keep that splintered, mangled piece of wood hidden in a drawer!

Another surprise came during RATM’s set when Cypress Hill, having been delayed at Heathrow Airport, joined the rock band on stage for a couple of songs. Amazing.

Other highlights for me were Bjork (of course) and then on the Sunday, Teenage Fanclub and Primal Scream.

I went back to T the following year but for whatever reason, I never made it to Balado.


Balado’s future?

Plans were revealed last year to transform T in the Park’s beloved Balado site into a hub for outdoor pursuits and aviation enthusiasts.

Land owners hope the project will go some way to plug the economic gap left by T in the Park.

Property firm Hilton Estates submitted an application to build a series of new hangars to meet increasing demand for flight training.

There are also separate plans to demolish the World War Two control tower – a familiar landmark to T in the Park revellers – and replace it with a new state-of-the-art reception building.

Festival goer Lyndsay Mackie, from Fife, shelters from the rain at the last T at Balado – in 2014.

A third planning application, yet to be submitted, will ask for permission to create a series of off road tracks, to offer driving experiences to public and corporate customers.

In paperwork submitted to Perth and Kinross Council, developers stressed the new buildings and activities would be a safe distance from the underground pipeline.

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