Well, that wasn’t how I expected my first visit to Derbyshire’s Y Not Festival to end! But then considering how it started I shouldn’t have expected anything else. From start to inevitable finish this year’s festival became a complete and utter farce, with downright immoral organisation that created nothing but chaos.
Now I’m not normally one to get bogged down by the negatives, and I will look towards the positives further on, but I wouldn’t be much of a reviewer if I didn’t talk about the reasons for the events failures and eventual cancellation. I would like to say that without the rain on Friday the event no doubt would have seen its conclusion and would have been an enjoyable festival for most but then I’d be lying. Yes we would have had beer and music to see us through but the weather didn’t cause the cancellation of this event it merely took the spotlight away from the events other failings.
I will start with the weather however as that’s what everyone will be talking about. I knew a couple of weeks in advance we were looking at a wet weekend. How did I know? I looked at the weather forecast of course, something which Y Not’s organisers apparently forgot to do. So, what did I do with this information? I prepared! I packed my wellies and my waterproofs and I braced myself to stand out in the rain.
Clearly however, Y Not chose to do nothing. This was evident when I arrived on site on Friday to see cars being pushed into the car park! Yes, in to the car park! There were no tracks laid down, no straw, no hay, nothing. The same scenario presented itself once we found our way into the arena. No preparation, not even on the main walkways. Again with the forecast as it was, it should have been obvious some protection would be needed, but no.
If for some reason the rain came as a surprise to the organisers then at least their contingency plans would come into effect and come Saturday morning they would have put something down at least on those main walkways. Again the answer was no, nothing, no effort whatsoever to limit the damage. Not in the arena and not in the car park, where I’d had to be pushed out of on Friday night.
Thankfully I was staying off-site as having walked through the campsites I could see that even without the rain they were in a terrible state. No food facilities, overflowing toilets, overcrowding, and a complete free for all where it didn’t seem to matter whether you’d purchased family camping, VIP camping or standard camping.
Speaking of families, what is described as a family friendly festival seemed anything but that, with the campsite taken over by non-families, awful toilets, no water available at times and the family entertainment nowhere to be seen. I really felt sorry for those struggling to push pushchairs in the mud with seemingly nowhere to seek solace from the conditions.
Onto the security and the event was understaffed and underprepared again. The few staff visible appeared clueless. It would have taken no effort whatsoever to walk into the festival without a ticket, and that’s no doubt to blame for the large amount of reported thefts. Searching in the current climate was shocking with staff clearly tasked to simply stop people taking alcohol into the arena in order to force customers to spend more money buying beer inside.
The problems didn’t stop there sadly as basic organisation also failed. The stages weren’t sign posted in anyway, I lost count of the amount of people that asked me what stage they were at, only to realise the act they wanted to see was on a different stage. When stage times are published in advance you expect them to be stuck to as best as possible, yet almost every act I watched was either on earlier or later than planned. At one point on Saturday I even turned up to the Giant Squid stage to watch Black Foxxes, but found a completely different band playing. In fairness King No-One, a band who had their own set cancelled the day before, turned out to be decent, but I still don’t know what happened to Black Foxxes.
Even when the organisers tried to take action by bringing forward Saturday’s main stage set times they couldn’t get it right. Poorly advertised as it was, even the people who were aware of the changes had to guess as the stage fell behind again. In the end it was pot luck when and where bands would be appearing, if they would appear at all. Friday headliners The Vaccines after all would never even make it to the stage, with fans informed long after their scheduled start time. Then there were the sound problems. Frank Turner headlining The Quarry was barely audible and our Saturday headliners Stereophonics were also on the quiet side.
The inevitable then happened early Sunday morning, when it was announced that the last day would be cancelled. Again this was poorly communicated and with little thought put in to how the attendees would actually leave the site or be managed whilst still on site. Realistically if the festival was to cease operation it should have happened way before Sunday morning. All the cancellation did was cause more chaos and deprive their paying customers of the entertainment they had paid for.
In my many years of attending festivals of all shapes and sizes I have never experienced such a poorly organised shambles as Y Not. This is a festival that has built up a great reputation until this point, hence my attending for the first time this year. Sadly they have undone in one weekend a reputation they have spent over 10 years building, and I for one can’t see myself ever returning.
At the end of the day it’s the great British festival season and we fans all expect wet weather, but we are prepared for it and just want to have a good time. When there was music playing and beer flowing nothing else really mattered. Music after all brings us all together as we forget the troubles of the world. I’ve encountered far worse conditions due to weather in the past, but the events have dealt with them the best they could, Y Not chose not to deal with them and ultimately that has cost them.
So, on that note I will try and look at the positives. If the scheduled bill had been delivered then there was plenty to do with many smaller stages and bars providing entertainment into the early hours. There was of course a stellar line-up on the cards, but the likes of The Vaccines, Two Door Cinema Club, Happy Mondays, Maximo Park, Twin Atlantic, Deaf Havana and Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes never got to play. Also although at the normal high festival prices, the food and drink options appeared to be good with a decent variety to choose from.
As mentioned despite all the failings when there was a band playing, the music united those in attendance and there were some great performances over the time the festival actually took place. The first band I caught on the Friday was The Hunna and I’m surprised to say they were actually quite decent. This despite being made to play underneath gazebos on the main stage...yes you read that right. Same can be said about Nothing But Thieves who were better than expected on my part.
I then headed to the Giant Squid stage which is where I felt most at home in the company of some great young rock bands such as Roam and Young Guns who did a great job in keeping the party going. It was then over to the Quarry for Frank Turner, who despite being barely audible at times put in a fantastic solo set that had the packed tent singing along to every word.
The weather improved greatly on Saturday with barely a drop of rain in sight and I made the most of this by spending a lot of time at the main stage. I did however catch an energetic set from Strange Bones in the Giant Squid to start the day out right. Clean Cut Kid and Declan McKenna then put in good shifts on the main stage before I headed to catch Beans On Toast serenade a full tent over at the Quarry.
The top three on the main stage on Saturday was as good as any festival this size could book. First up were Slaves who put in a brilliant set that got the crowd moshing along in the mud. Jake Bugg then got everyone singing along with a set that really surprised me in terms of quality. Our headliners Stereophonics then got the crowd both moving and singing along as they proved once again that they are one of the best live acts around.
Playing a career spanning set from 1997 debut ‘Word Get’s Around’ to their newly announced upcoming album ‘Scream Above The Sounds’. Their performance was quality throughout and provided the overriding highlight of what will be remembered as a shambles of a festival. Bringing the night and unknowingly the weekend to a close with a firework accompanied ‘Dakota’, Stereophonics demonstrated what this festival should have been about.
This really wasn’t the review I had hoped to be writing. Y Not was a festival with a good reputation that billed a stunning line-up and promised much. Sadly they failed to deliver and instead put the safety of their customers at risk. It will be an uphill struggle for the festival to rebuild its reputation now especially amongst the family demographic. I do hope that this isn’t the end of the festival, but for them to move forward they need to take a long hard look in the mirror.
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