Mendip Council clarify Big Green Gathering's cancellation

after 'untrue accusations' appear in the media and on internet sites

published: Tue 28th Jul 2009

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Wednesday 29th July to Sunday 2nd August 2009
Mendip Hills, near Cheddar, Somerset, England MAP
adults £125, children under 12 free and 12-17 £50
last updated: Wed 2nd Sep 2009

Mendip District Council have issued a statement to explain the cancellation of this week's The Big Green Gathering. A number of untrue accusations have started circulating throughout the media and on internet sites, and so the Council has decided to issue an update to account for the facts of why the event was cancelled.

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The Mendip District Council update is as follows:
Following a decision by the Big Green Gathering to cancel its event by surrendering the licence, this has meant that Mendip District Council has not needed to apply to the High Court for an injunction to stop the event.

The failure of the organisers to address a number of serious public safety issues meant that they had no other option but to cancel it themselves.

The fact is that organisers chose to surrender the licence before an application was made to the High Court.

The final decision to prepare legal papers for a High Court hearing was made on Friday evening (July 24), but a court application was not expected to be made until yesterday (Monday, July 27).

In addition to the several months of help and advice they had been given by both us and emergency services, the weekend provided even more opportunity for the organisers to fulfil their licence obligations. However, they handed their licence back to us on Sunday morning (July 26).

Many hours of council time have been committed to help make this event happen, but the lack of assurances from the organisers about the safety of their event were continually causing concern for the council and emergency services.

There has been an apparent lack of coordination in managing and meeting the obligations of the licence, and now the cancellation of this event creates many more issues and a heavier workload for the council and emergency services than if it had gone ahead safely.

Mendip is a council which is recognised nationally with its partners for licensing large events.

The bottom line is we know about licensing festivals, and therefore would not have taken a decision to consider legal action lightly. Preparing for legal action is a last resort.

All festivals, no matter how big or small, must go through a strict licensing process with public safety and crime and disorder playing a major part in that process.

A number of untrue accusations are circulating throughout the media and on internet sites. These are without substance.

The council's decision to pursue an injunction was a last resort. It only considered such action because the organisers did not fulfil their obligations under the licence.

The council recognises people's frustrations but despite the best efforts of the council and emergency services, the event was cancelled by the organisers because the requirements of the licence were not met.

Following a number of calls and emails to the council regarding the cancellation of the Big Green Gathering, the following frequently asked questions have been compiled by the Council:

Who has cancelled the Big Green Gathering (BGG)?
The organisers of the BGG agreed to cancel it and handed their event licence back to the council.

Why has the event been cancelled?
There were serious concerns about potential public safety and crime and disorder, which the organisers of the BGG seem to have recognised they could not address in time for the event.

Who will refund my ticket and travel costs?
Contact Big Green Gathering initially on 01458 834629, email info@big-green-gathering.com or visit www.big-green-gathering.com. Alternatively if you have paid by credit card you may be able to get more details from your card provider.

Why did the council consider applying for an injunction?
The seriousness of the concerns meant that despite days of negotiations the organisers had still not complied with some aspects of their licence and other legal requirements connected to fire safety. This amounted to concerns that public safety could have been seriously undermined should the event take place in such circumstances. Therefore the council had no other option but to consider applying for an injunction, which if successful may have forced the event to shut down.

When was the decision made to progress with an injunction?
During a meeting between the council and emergency services at 6.30pm on Friday (July 24). However, the injunction application was not due to submitted until Monday (July 27) which gave the organisers more opportunity to address their licensing issues.

When was the council first made aware about concerns surrounding the licence?
On July 17 we became aware there were serious issues about the licence including the confirmation that an important security company involved with the event had withdrawn their services.

What happened next?
Internal investigations at the council alongside the emergency services flagged up other areas of concern. The organisers of BGG were invited to attend a meeting at the council offices on July 22 to help resolve various issues. Some issues were resolved at that meeting, but a number of issues remained outstanding. The council and emergency services had already arranged to meet with the organisers the following day on-site to ensure the outstanding issues had been resolved.

Who would have granted the injunction?
The council had prepared a case to take to the High Court where a judge would have listened to both sides of the argument and made a decision. There is no guarantee the court would have agreed with the council, but the council felt so strongly about their concerns that it had no other option but prepare for an injunction.

Did the police pressurise the council into threatening an injunction?
No, the council works in partnership with many agencies. This decision was based on advice from emergency services including the police, ambulance, fire etc. Ultimately, as the licensing authority the council weighed up all the factors and risks and made the final decision.

Was the threat of an injunction a political decision?
No, this was purely based on public safety and potential for crime and disorder.

Why wasn't this issued sorted out sooner?
The council and other agencies have been working closely with BGG since February this year on the licence application, which was finally granted. However, there were a number of requirements that had to be completed before the event. Some of these crucial elements had not been completed.

Does the council not feel that this is a safe and green festival?
This is not an issue about whether it has been safe and green, but is an issue as to whether the forthcoming event would have been safe based on the fact that certain requirements were not met.

Does the council not support the ethos of events such as the BGG?
The issue here is not about the ethos or messages this event wants to send out but about ensuring public safety during the event.

Is the council not victimising this event and those that attend?
Since BGG came to this area a number of years ago it has had significant support from all agencies in planning and running this event. Over the past couple of weeks there has been significant ongoing discussion between organisers, the council and emergency services to try and resolve the licensing issues. The organisers signed up to legal commitments associated with the licence, some of which they failed to meet, and are bound by other legislation.

Did the council not want this event to go ahead from the beginning?
The council strives to ensure that any licence application is considered properly and fairly, but it also works closely with other agencies and organisers to attempt to organise safe and well run events. We realise the potential benefit that large events create for the area and local economy. In short the cancellation of this event creates many more issues and a heavier workload for the council than if it had gone ahead safely.

Has the council gone health and safety mad?
No. However the council has a duty to protect the public from potential harm, and concerns existed due to certain plans not being in place. We realise that the cancellation of this event will be blamed on the council by some and has had a huge impact, however if we had done nothing and a serious incident had happened the council would have been also been blamed for not acting where concerns existed.
All events however well run do have a significant potential for crime and disorder issues, however part of our role is to minimise this effect through proper licensing. We were not satisfied that this event had addressed some of those issues.

Did we have an intention of creating financial difficulties for the BGG?
No. The council would never wish to see any financial difficulties affect any local event or businesses as one of our corporate goals is to support the local economy.

Did the council create problems with the BGG signing up a security firm?
No, we simply needed assurance from the BGG that they had security arrangements in place.

How much crime and disorder results from the BGG?
This is a policing issue and the BGG spent significant time working with the police on this event.

It would seem that the lesson here is that public festivals have moved on from how they used to be run. Events now have to meet the demands of licences, and with more and more people from all walks of life going to festivals, they have to achieve a certain degree of safety, and policing for all those who attend. Licences are no longer an automatic go ahead to put on a festival, the terms of the license must be met before and during the event, or they can be revoked at anytime.

This year's Big Chill, Endorse-It In-Dorset, Stokes Bay Festival and next year's Sunrise 2010 festivals are all offering ticket swaps for those who have bought festival tickets for Big Green Gathering.

Wednesday 29th July to Sunday 2nd August 2009
Mendip Hills, near Cheddar, Somerset, England MAP
adults £125, children under 12 free and 12-17 £50
last updated: Wed 2nd Sep 2009


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