Remembering T in the Park

T in the Park was Scotland's flagship music festival for over 20 years before the plug was pulled in 2016. We look back on what made it so special, and what Scotland's festival scene looks like now

Feature by Logan Walker | 01 Apr 2024
  • T in the Park

Growing up in Scotland, you are likely to go through a series of events which could all fairly be described as rites of passage. These can include (but are not limited to) telling your parents you are staying over at a friend’s house when in reality you're drinking cheap vodka in a farmer’s field; standing outside the off-licence trying to convince strangers to buy you and your friends alcohol; or passing your driving test at 17 and ferrying all your pals to and from the nearest drive-thru.

Another rite of passage, and one I was fortunate enough to undertake myself, was to go to T in the Park. For those unaware, T in the Park was an annual music festival that ran between 1994 and 2016. For the majority of those years, it took place at Balado (an old disused airfield near Kinross), before worries over unstable gas pipes forced it to move location for its last few editions. Having to move because the festival site was sat over what was essentially a ticking timebomb perhaps sums up T in the Park better than I ever could. It was a special festival that always seemed to be teetering right on the brink, bringing out the best in people and creating a real sense of community and camaraderie among devotees in the mud and the sun and the rain, and offering those who were so inclined an opportunity to act on their worst instincts.

I went to T in the Park in 2014, shortly after I had turned 18 and left school. My friends and I were going to see some of our musical heroes that weekend, the likes of Arctic Monkeys, Biffy Clyro, Kaiser Chiefs and Calvin Harris – this was before we had a chance to develop our tastes, I promise you we have all expanded our audio horizons now. I remember after we had all made it through security (where several of my friends who were unlucky enough to be under 18 had their weekend supply of booze confiscated) being a bit overawed by the sheer scale of the site. It was a solid 40-minute walk from security to the main campsite, and as we walked through the sun-scorched and trampled grass on the way to pitch our tents, you could easily tell the first timers apart from the TITP veterans, who had a sort of thousand-yard stare. To our young impressionable minds, it was like we had just stumbled into Woodstock.

A photograph of a crowd beside a stage at T in the Park.

Once we'd made it to the campsite, decanted our various spirits and beers from their cardboard crates and set up our cheap foldaway camping chairs, that’s when the magic began. If T in the Park was a melting pot in terms of the artists it booked, from Rage Against the Machine to Beyoncé, it was even more so for the people it attracted. A varying cast of characters would wander in and out during the day, including one gentleman with a panda hat and face paint who offered to help me wash my hair, some guy with a [professional footballer] Daniel Sturridge cardboard face mask who had a beer bong and decided to scarper after someone suggested they use it as a urinal, and the world’s least subtle drug dealers openly displaying their wares.

There was something this ragtag group of miscreants shared in common however, and that was that they were all there to have a good time. Everywhere you turned to look, you could see people who had decided just to go with the flow even if just for a weekend. These were your brothers in arms, you marched down through the muck to the mainstage with them, drank overpriced warm beer and screamed your lungs out for 12 hours with them, then trudged back to your tent, drank some more, slept for a few hours then got up and did it all over again. It was impossible not to feel some sort of connection and form a bond with those around you. Although I did want to kill whoever had brought in a vuvuzela and used it like an alarm clock every morning at 7am.

We even met one punter who told us he had been coming to TITP for over a decade and had never seen a single band, instead choosing to spend his time getting fucked up at the campsite and dancing at the Slam Tent. Speaking of which, The Slam Tent was another T in the Park institution that set it apart from other festivals. Not fancying going down to watch the Red Hot Chili Peppers? Ed Sheeran not doing it for you? You always had the option of going down to the Slam Tent and relaxing by dancing wildly to some 130bpm trance music instead. I spent a brief few moments in the Slam Tent, and the combination of 100 decibel dance tunes combined with thousands of sweaty bodies leaping all around me proved to be just a bit too much, but if that was your scene, I can’t imagine anywhere else doing it better.

But now, T in the Park has sadly gone the way of the dodo. Increasing incidents of antisocial behaviour, violence and drug-related deaths forced the hands of the organisers, and the 2016 edition proved to be its last.

Two hands hold up a sign reading 'Potato!' above a crowd at T in the Park.

T in the Park isn't the only Scottish festival in recent years to be axed. There was RockNess, a sort of mini TITP in the Scottish Highlands, which ran from 2006 to 2013. Electric Fields in Dumfries & Galloway came and went, with its fifth and final outing in 2018. See also Doune the Rabbit Hole, a festival in Stirlingshire that managed to pull in some decent names before they decided against paying any of their artists and were boycotted into oblivion. There’s also Connect. Initially running on the grounds of Inverary Castle in 2007 and 2008, the festival made its surprise return in 2022 and 2023 at Edinburgh's Royal Highland Centre Showgrounds. Offering more upmarket camping, it probably came closest to TITP, but this year has seen the organisers opt to sadly take a fallow year "to take the time to build the next edition of the festival". All these losses have left a black hole in Scotland’s annual festival scene, with only one real big dog remaining in the yard – TRNSMT.

TRNSMT ran its first edition in 2017, the year following TITP’s dissolution. While the organisers have stated that it is categorically not a replacement for the beloved festival, many see it as, at the very least, a spiritual successor (or, depending who you ask, a pale imitation). TRNSMT shares some similarities that can’t be denied. It has featured many of the same artists that played T over the years and takes place over a long weekend with a variety of stages showcasing bands at different stages of their careers, from upstarts to global superstars (and Liam Gallagher three times in seven years). It does not, however, offer camping, and this is what really prevents it from recapturing some of that T in the Park magic. There’s no traipsing through the mud back to your half-collapsed and water logged tent to discuss the meaning of life with a stranger you just met in the crowd at Pixies – instead you’re hopping on a train or a bus back home. The feeling dissipates all too quickly, and that is perhaps what is most missed from T in the Park.

While TITP is gone, and unlikely to ever return (despite what recent online rumours might tell you), there are thankfully a few festival options at home and further afield that might help scratch the itch, even if only temporarily. I can’t promise you that any of these will fill the TITP-shaped hole in your heart, but it’s better than nothing. Just remember if you are jetting off to pack the sun cream, something rarely needed at T in the Park.

Photos by Katherine Maclennan. 

Eight music festivals to help plug the TITP gap

Primavera Sound
Barcelona, Spain, 29 May-2 Jun
Lineup: Pulp, SZA, Amyl & The Sniffers

Bergen, Norway, 12-15 Jun
Lineup: Stormzy, PJ Harvey, CMAT

Rock in Rio Lisboa
Lisbon, Portugal, 15-16 & 22-23 Jun
Lineup: Doja Cat, Evanescence, Ed Sheeran

Isle of Wight Festival
Isle of Wight, England, 20-23 Jun
Lineup: Green Day, The Darkness, The Prodigy

Pinkpop Festival
Landgraaf, The Netherlands, 21-23 Jun
Lineup: Calvin Harris, Måneskin, Avril Lavigne

Roskilde Festival
Roskilde, Denmark, 29 Jun-6 Jul
Lineup: Foo Fighters, Ice Spice, Khruangbin

Party at the Palace
Linlithgow, Scotland, 10-11 Aug
Lineup: UB40, Big Country, Ronan Keating

Reading and Leeds
Reading and Leeds, UK, 21-25 Aug
Lineup: Blink-182, Lana Del Rey, Viagra Boys