This past weekend saw the inaugural Hope & Glory festival held in Liverpool. With a line-up plucked mainly from ’90s and early ’00s and a scenic-cobbled setting in the George’s Quarter at the centre of the city with the profits promised to the Victims of the Manchester terrorist attacks, what could possibly go wrong?
What followed were chaotic reports of huge queues, overcrowding, over-running of set times, inadequate facilities, cancelled sets, ticketing issues and finally the cancellation of the Sunday events with just the words ‘No festival today’ tweeted via an official account. In light of one of the most shambolic festivals ever and a lack of forthcoming refunds, various Liverpool venues heroically housed performances from amongst others Charlotte Church‘s pop dungeon who was bumped from the bill having made the trip to the venue. What’s followed since is a lesson in how not to handle a PR crisis and an apology from the team behind the festival, issuing an at times bizarre statement and arguing with disgruntled punters and artists alike.
We have been sent an account of Hope and Glory festival from Louise Tomkow an ‘Unhappy Festival Goer’ who was witness to this jaw-dropping chain of events and gives us her forthright opinion. And it serves as a lesson to any would-be-promoters of ‘how not to organise a city festival.’
“The confusion starts early on with the mile long queue into the venue’s one single entrance for some 12,000 ticket holders.
First, comes the wristband/ticket shambles. Being asked if you were a single, day, or weekend ticket holders without any proof of purchase was quite simply the most stupid question that had ever been uttered. It’s all down to the wristband and so we immediately realised we needn’t have even bothered paying the full £90 weekend ticket price, we could have simply just said “weekend” and the wristband is on – zero qualms!
As soon as we approached security, the alarm bells started. In a time of huge worry from terrorist attacks etc, I like to think people were of the same view as myself and my friends that we actually wanted to be checked thoroughly! So we would get peace of mind that all ticket holders had been and would be checked thoroughly. Instead, the females of the group merely had their bags glanced through, the males absolutely nothing. A fully-loaded vest packed with explosives wouldn’t have been detected had we literally waved it in front of their faces!
We enter the already packed festival at around 3pm and started with the loos after the hour long queue. In all honesty, we think we counted about 30 portaloos in total. All at a ten-minute wait and completely free of toilet roll.
Further through the day/night, the only thing that changed here was the queues got bigger. We also noted a number of men in the queues, which we found out later was due to there being no signs/directions for the urinals therein assuming there were none.
The bars – all three of them! Now, this was around an hour and 30-minute wait with absolutely no orderly queue and which queues also backed into the toilet queues so nobody knew who was queuing for what!
Gourmet food stalls – all two of them! It was basically chicken and chips which you either had to eat standing up, find a tiny patch of grass or just decide ‘sod it’ and sit on the concrete floor. One of our group received a lovely surprise of finding his chicken burger was raw which was simply met with “oh, ok I’ll get you another” – that was it! For raw chicken at £7 a pop!
The acts – it started with The Pigeon Detectives apologising for the delay and hysterically confirming nobody (organisers) owned a watch or could fix down a speaker; the lead singer had placed his foot on top of it during the first song, the usual lead singer stance, to which the speaker promptly flung itself and almost the singer off the stage into the front row!
There was a slight worry when he tried to get the crowd going telling everyone to get onto each other’s shoulders (as singers do) – this, however, was met with dubious looks due the floor being concrete and uneven cobbles with the odd plank of wood lying around (we have a pic of one). With the delay and overlapping of times, this meant two things (1) risk the crowd rush to the other stage (2) miss one of the acts altogether that you paid good money to see.
My sister had unfortunately been queuing at the loo during one of these times and found herself completely stuck up against a barrier because of the crowd surge. She shouted to one of the very few festival staff to please let her through the barrier because she was scared of getting crushed to be met with the response of “it’s not my job, I don’t get paid to do that,” she shouted again to be met with “fuck off.” When she finally returned to us she was so distressed and later told us she thought something really bad was going to happen but hadn’t mentioned it because she didn’t want to worry us.
All the acts’ sets were cut short and we found out that the only female act, Charlotte Church, was removed altogether which everyone thought was truly harsh as it seemed she was as unaware of this as us! Money was not well spent. The exit was a dubious exercise of worry and disorderly queues again (this time intoxicated) and generally underwhelming from a disastrous shit show.
Our group headed back to the apartment we had paid £400 for two nights for (between 5) after a £10 taxi fare not knowing if we actually wanted to return the following day. All of the above factors had really put us off, not to mention knowing rain was forecast. Rain and cobbles are not a good mix.
The next day we woke up to find the festival had ‘kind of’ been cancelled. We spent hours waiting around obsessively following Twitter which was turning into a blockbuster movie in itself. The poor one line post by the ‘Hope & Glory Festival’ page was met with uproar and for good reason. No apology, no explanation. Ticket holders AND even Sunday’s acts were tweeting asking if the festival was on as many had to travel. Nobody was notified! We thereafter saw a post with a picture of some guy at the gate with a handwritten piece of paper stating it was cancelled. Bonkers!
The posts by the con artist that is Lee O’Hanlon were as bonkers as his festival! I’m sure you’ve seen his beyond rude and disgraceful replies/posts on Twitter, in particular, his retweet and reply to Tim Booth‘s frank and solidly accurate post of Saturday’s festival.
His ‘statement’ released on the Hope & Glory Facebook page was equally as bonkers rambling about milk and sandwiches being stolen and riddled with throwing various names people under the bus!
We decided to make the most of it and went on an all-dayer where we spoke to so many people who had been to the festival and had the same experiences, but the way Liverpool came together and the comradery made our ‘cancelled’ Sunday amazing! (Even if it did cost us even more money!)
On the whole, it was the most shambolic and extremely poorly put together catastrophe we have ever witnessed. I’m glad many are stepping forward to liken it to ‘an almost’ second Hillsborough because it had all the ingredients to make that so.
Lee O’Hanlon is without a doubt to blame, which is apparently not the first time, but we do believe the Council should step in. They would have had many a meeting and gone through many plans – but to not see the catastrophe that was in front of them on paper is mind boggling. Any qualified health and safety person or mathematician would have put a red pen through it.
All in all the whole weekend has cost us well over £1,000. To expect a refund for our ticket for a festival that didn’t happen is completely justified. I’m sure you’ve noticed on Twitter the lack of answers we have been getting on this subject.
Lee O’Hanlon’s car crash, obnoxious, and alcohol-fuelled interview on Iain Lee’s radio show was packed with unanswered questions, the most highlighted being “Lee, where is the money?” This was horrendously dodged resulting in all us listeners getting the impression that the proceeds were clearly already in some offshore bank account and were, at present, unlikely to be returned. Surely the capacity alarm bells started ringing when ticket number 12,000 was sold and the cash gladly received?
The whole thing was like watching a failed task in The Apprentice or an event put together by Mr Magoo!
Unhappy Festival Goer”
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