Hope and Glory is / was a new urban festival located in the heart of Liverpool. With a capacity of 12,000 and hosting music focused in the 1990’s and 2000’s it featured performers including James, Razorlight and The Fratellis on the first day.
Arriving on Saturday I was struck by the long queues stretching for several hundred metres around the site. It was around 12.45 and the first performance on the main stage should have begun at 12.15 yet there was no sign of any music and hardly anyone inside the festival. It was not a good beginning and the first sign of problems that were to develop.
Music began at around 1.15 but the programme was now running an hour late. Once underway it was telling that bands performing on the main stage were unhappy. The Membranes, Pigeon Detectives, Badly Drawn Boy and Embrace all experienced problems with sound. Badly Drawn Boy had to abandon his guitar for keyboards while Embrace were forced to leave the stage almost immediately (they did return) due to a lack of sound on vocals. Several of these acts made public criticism from the stage about sound and other issues.
Already under pressure having started an hour late, bands were asked to reduce sets to make up time. Unfortunately, changeovers between bands which had been allocated a reasonable 30 minutes, were taking up to 45 minutes. By 6.30 the programme was over two hours behind schedule. Charlotte Church’s performance was cancelled and there were further reductions in set duration for the remaining bands. Headliners James eventually took to the stage at 9.50. Fifty minutes after their programmed start time.
It’s worth noting that while timing was in chaos on the main stage, performances seemed to run pretty much as scheduled on minor stages with the exception of the Sex Pissed Dolls who inexplicably took to the stage over an hour late.
While this was unfolding the audience was arriving. Unfortunately there were far too many for the venue and facilities to cope with. Unacceptably large queues grew for bars and toilets and a severe bottleneck developed at the entrance / exit to the main stage area. Fortunately the audience showed great patience and the atmosphere within the festival was actually very good. Bands were universally well received in spite of their curtailed sets and the vast majority of those inside appeared to be enjoying themselves in the summer sunshine.
Meanwhile, by late afternoon there were still large queues of people outside waiting to get in. At some point police assistance was requested, the gates were closed and customers sent away. Apparently gates were later re-opened, presumably because some of those inside had left. It was noticeable that by the time James took to the stage the audience inside the festival had shrunk considerably.
As stated earlier, many of those in attendance appeared to be having a good time and obvious care had been taken in the presentation of the environment. Away from the music areas there was a pleasant, chilled vibe. People sat enjoying themselves the sunshine in the gardens, some picnicking on the grass, others in shaded areas sat at table and chairs that had been provided. Efforts had also been made to provide other entertainment such as stilt walkers, acrobats, and a marching band. There was also a children’s area with entertainers.
Other than to say that the music was well received, it’s difficult to review individual performances. As a photographer I spend the first three songs of each band in the pit in front of the stage. By the time I had exited via the backstage area and made my way back through the crowds to the arena, bands playing curtailed sets were reaching the end of their performances.
Clearly day one had encountered multiple problems and late night conversations revolved around what would be needed to improve things and what Sunday would bring. In fact the following occurred.
Sometime prior to 10 am on Sunday the online version of The Liverpool Echo printed an article stating that in spite of difficulties encountered the festival would go ahead. The article also included a statement from the organisers severely criticising the production company involved and blaming them for the issues that had plagued the main stage. However, shortly after 10 am press were informed that festival would not be going ahead. Festival goers arriving at the site on Sunday were presented with a statement that included the following; “The event management company who were responsible for delivering the Hope and Glory Festival have decided to cancel today’s festival. Liverpool City Council has no choice but to accept this decision.” This clearly places responsibility to cancellation on the organisers but considering the earlier statement stating that events would proceed, one is left to wonder whether the decision resulted from behind the scenes pressure from the authorities.
Tim Booth from James expressed sympathy for festival goers via twitter while some bands including The Lightning Seeds who were due to perform on Sunday took to social media to offer themselves for gigs in Liverpool on Sunday if any venue wanted to host them.
Clearly the closure of gates on Saturday and cancellation of Sunday has caused anger, discontent and dismay among festival goers with questions about refunds still to be resolved and many of those in attendance further out of pocket having booked hotels for the weekend.
As for the issues that plagued the festival, there is no doubt that the organisation was short of what it should have been, for which responsibility falls back onto the organisers. Having spent a day at the venue, issuing a licence for 12,000 would appear to be optimistic bearing in mind the layout of the site so maybe it just couldn’t cope with the number of tickets sold. Having said that I don’t know how many people were there. It could be that organisers sold more tickets than the 12,000 capacity. I’ve also heard rumours of forged tickets and of security being very limited early in the day, allowing some to simply walk in unchecked.
Whatever the reasons for the problems and cancellation, recriminations and repercussions are likely to continue for some time to come.
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