Woop, woop that's the pound of the police: how rising costs are throttling smaller events

United Kingdom United Kingdom | 21 May 2010

Sadly, as you may already know, Glade Festival was cancelled last week. The news came via a heartfelt press release from the reluctant organisers of the event. The cancellation was blamed on the increased police demands on security as the festival had been forced to up the amount of officers, security staff and stewards at this year’s event. The official statement from the events management team said that, “the resulting compromises have led to increased cost, increased ticket prices and a throttling of the very essence of what we wanted to do.” This follows years of Glade Festival being opposed by local authorities and the police at its original site. However, the festival thought it had found its home at its new venue, The Matterley Bowl in Winchester, where the event was held in 2009. The local council even supported the festival, recognising the cultural and economic significance of such a large festival being held in their small town. The Hampshire police authorities were said to be reluctant to negotiate in advance and allegedly delayed any dialogue with the organisers.

It seems that the police were not just content with closing down the UK’s largest underground dance music festival, leaving thousands of ravers mourning the loss of their unique event. Dozens of other smaller festivals have also faced dramatic changes when faced by police restrictions that are forced upon them.

Festival chief Nick Ladd told Skrufff.com the cost of policing at Glade has risen from £29,000 in 2009 to over £90,000 for this year, combined with the cost of stewarding and security, the bills amounted to £310,000, which is more than the organisers spend on music. Amongst other festivals that have felt the strain are Waveform and Offworld festival, both underground dance music events, along with Cambridge’s Strawberry Fair - an event that has been running for the past 30 years - but has faced opposition from police since it welcomed an underground dance music stage. It does appear that a trend seems to be developing and is threatening the future of small festivals across the UK.

Now the Association of Chief Police Officers has raised the stakes with each officer at a ‘pop concert’ now being paid up to £55 an hour, due to the supposedly dangerous nature of the event. In their report music festivals are now in the same category as football matches and agricultural shows. Festival size or type is not taken into account, meaning that the charges for Reading Festival and Glastonbury will be the same as those for Sunrise Celebration and Beautiful Days.

There are, however, a small army of festival-goers who have already begun to fight back against the police forces culling of culture in the UK, and are appealing for support through Facebook. Groups entitled ‘Save Our Festivals’ and ‘Glade Free Festival’ are offering the organisers their skills and services at dramatically reduced costs in order to allow these events to go ahead. We cannot let the police destroy these cultural significant, peaceful events.

Glade Festival organisers have said that they will continue to host the Glastonbury stage from which the festival was born, and already have plans in development: “We will continue to strive to create a genuine grass roots, community based, control free, true spirited dance festival in the UK,” they say. Let’s hope they succeed.

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