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Hope & Glory’s statement scores high on word count, but placates no one

By | Published on Tuesday 8 August 2017

Organisers of the abandoned Liverpool festival Hope & Glory yesterday issued a rather lengthy statement about the events that unfolded last weekend. And like much of the communications on the festival’s official social media channels over the weekend, it was certainly an unconventional response. The whole section dedicated to a spat over what happened to foods destined for Sunday’s artist riders was a particular stand out.

As previously reported, the second day of the new Hope & Glory festival was called off on Sunday morning over health and safety concerns after excessive queuing and overcrowding dominated the first day of the proceedings. That first day also opened late, meaning stages ran behind schedule resulting in some bands having their sets cut short, and Charlotte Church being jettisoned off the line-up entirely.

Sunday’s cancellation having been originally announced via a three-word statement – “no festival today” – the subsequently promised explanation published yesterday lunchtime ran to 1700 words. We already knew that there were grievances between the Hope & Glory company, the production management firm working on the show and Liverpool City Council, and those grievances were very much outlined in the short essay.

Although organisers said that they were “desperately saddened” and “devastated” about having to cancel the second day of their festival, and apologies were dished out for the queues and late running of stages on Saturday, and the cancellation of Sunday’s show, much of the statement was about apportioning blame to other parties.

Council officials had set capacity levels, the statement said, and the over-crowding problems were really the result of failings of the production management company hired to set up the event. Festival boss Lee O’Hanlon had sought to overcome the obvious issues on day one of the festival – the statement insisted – by temporarily closing the festival’s entrance, stopping the sale of additional tickets on the door and calling in the police. But such were the level of the issues, it was ultimately decided day two should not go ahead.

The production management firm working on the festival has yet to respond to the various allegations made against it by O’Hanlon and the Hope & Glory company, while Liverpool City Council has promised an investigation into the event and the allegations made against its staff. Though it seems unlikely yesterday’s lengthy statement will placate many disgruntled ticket holders, who are less interested in behind the scenes squabbles between business partners and suppliers, and more interested in the event’s refund policy.

It remains unclear if and how ticket-holders will get their refunds. A number of ticket agents were selling tickets for the festival, while purchases via the event’s own website were initially handled by Eventbrite and then Skiddle.

At least some of the ticket monies generated had already been handed over to the Hope & Glory company, and given many of the festival’s expenses would have been incurred prior to cancellation, it seems unlikely there will be much of that money left. Which may well mean ticket-holders will be relying on their credit card companies and banks for refunds. The guarantees offered there vary from provider to provider, though generally there is more protection with credit cards than debit cards.

Even if ticket holders can get a refund – from their ticket agent or credit card provider – those who travelled to the event obviously won’t get their transport and accommodation costs back. That’s a common form of collateral damage when festivals collapse at the last minute or mid-event, such events generally attracting more punters from far away than conventional gigs. You can only hope those who did travel to Liverpool on Sunday took advantage of the various local venues who staged impromptu events for Hope & Glory ticket holders who found themselves at a loose end.

Since last night O’Hanlon has been personally fielding questions about the failed festival on Twitter, while insisting that tweets sent during the weekend – including the flippant responses to customer complaints and criticism of Tim Booth of headliners James – were written by a junior member of staff. Meanwhile last night the promoter took part in an at times fiery interview with Iain Lee on his Talk Radio show where, again, blame was diligently apportioned to production management and council officials, and guidance on refunds was somewhat vague. Though a further statement on refunds has been promised.

With promoter, production and local authority at loggerheads over the failed event, the chances of litigation coming out of the Hope & Glory festival seems quite high, meaning this story could run for some time yet.