Glastonbury festival refused licence – Michael Eavis to appeal
Published by eFestivals – Wednesday 12th December 2002
Back at Mendip District Council for another marathon Glastonbury Public Entertainments Licence (PEL) hearing. It’s becoming like a second home.
Michael Eavis arrived just before the 6pm start, and there was the chance for a quick word. When asked what he felt the chances were the reply was “50-50”.
It’s the Regulatory Board that decides on the granting of the PEL. After the introductions and the obligatory bureaucratic legalese, it was down to business.
For the applicant – Glastonbury Festivals (2003) Ltd (which is Glastonbury Festivals (2002) Ltd after a rename) – Mark Cann ran through the application.
He started by stating the successes of this year: the new management structure; dealing with the New Age Travellers; the marketing plan – getting the “No Ticket – No Festival” message across; the fence and the numbers on site; the safety management; operations control. These were all things demanded at the licence hearing for 2002, and successfully delivered.
There had also been tri-partate agreements made with Avon & Somerset Constabulary (ASC) and the Council, with co-operation creating solutions. To ensure the successes aren’t short lived, they are continuing to work together to solve problems that exist in other areas – the main one being the crime and general annoyance suffered by those living around the Festival site, in particular Pilton.
To ensure the security measures continue to work, there’s to be new and extra security measures on the tickets, as well as a new pass system. The fence is to stay much the same, but security is to have an increase in personnel size of 35%, and there’ll be additional security control, car park security & lighting, as well as more CCTV. For obvious reasons, the details weren’t disclosed.
An area of concern after this year was the campervan fields: they’re to be properly and securely enclosed, but still off the main site. However, a secure route to the site will be made.
The “No Ticket – No Festival” message is to be continued, but with “You’ve helped save the Festival now give it a future” added. It’s important for its continuance that no one comes without a ticket. Mark stated that he believed that the “fence jumper” culture had been broken.
The traffic exit plan is to be improved, to speed up the Monday getaway. To help, the production de-rig is to be delayed until late on Monday, and the traders discouraged from leaving.
Public transport coped well, and the car parks easily accommodated the 26,000 cars. In fact, with a capacity of 40,000, they are spaces to accommodate the increased numbers expected in 2003 – the licence application is for 150,000 (that’s 112,500 weekend tickets for sale, 3,500 Sunday tickets and 34,000 staff/performers, etc. That’s no increase in staff/performers, which isn’t fantastic news I feel). The ticket price has yet to be set.
Noise from the site is a nuisance to those living nearby, but this will be lessened because there’s to be one less venue (which wasn’t disclosed – we presume it’s the Experience Tent), and the cinema is to be moved.
There was a lot of pollution to the water courses around the site – DON’T PISS IN THE HEDGES! To help improve things, they’ll be fencing along streams, a PR campaign, more urinals (although they already exceed industry standards) and the long-drop toilets are to be made watertight. There was a leak this year, and that was the major cause of the pollution. The amazing amount of litter produced (but no more than we’d produce at home – I think one councillor thought we create no rubbish when at home) is to be better managed – including a review of the free on-site newspaper as that causes a litter problem.
The main concern though was what was happening outside the fence. GFL recognise the problems, and are having ongoing discussions with the surrounding villages to come up with the right solutions. GFL have promised to provide 24 hour cover (in 3 shifts) of a police sergeant and 6 PCs to be stationed in Pilton (over and above what the police themselves consider necessary) as well as other extra security measures.
As the meeting progresses, it becomes evident that there is a small group – about 15 – of locals present who are fed up with the problems the Festival causes them. As Mark tries to continue through the extra village measures, their moaning becomes ever louder. As Mark tries to finish off with “it was always a great festival and now it’s a well managed and well planned festival” a voice is clearly heard to say “you don’t give a stuff and you never have”. Mark insists that they “can work together to solve outstanding problems”.
It becomes clear that the villagers present were not happy with the security personel this year, and demand extra police rather than private security.
The Council’s own officer – Chris Malcolmson – now delivers his report. His responsibility is ensuring compliance of any laws as well as any specific PEL conditions. He believes that the “issues of the villagers have been addressed in the application, or will be in the licence”, and sees no reason to refuse the PEL. He believes that the vast majority of non-ticket holders were intent on crime rather than getting inside the site, and says that if the unofficial car parks were stopped then there would be nowhere for the criminals to park. GFL are attempting to come to arrangements with those involved, but there is then some discussion on what measures could be taken against those operators. The words used to explain the Police refusal to comment I understood to mean they believed that those operators could be committing an offence for which they could be prosecuted.
Chief Superintendent John Buckley (of ASC) wasn’t very supportive of the 2002 application. I remember sitting through about an hour and a half of his concerns at the beginning of the year. The change now is astounding. He is brief, and generally supportive. A very good summary was given: “If we felt these measures were inadequate we would be objecting”. From a man who hates to commit to anything, that’s as strong words of support as he’s ever likely to give.
Of the ticket-less outside, he believes that the majority were intent on crime. He mentions that there are 5 police forces around the country that suffer similarly from criminals at large events, and they are starting to plan joint action to tackle it.
Although there is good support from the Police, the Council’s compliance officer and others such as the Fire Service, during questions and discussions it’s becoming clear that there is stronger and more confident opposition from some members of the Regulatory Board. I’m starting to get worried about which way it will go.
It’s the public’s chance to express their concerns next. They are reminded that each new speaker is not to cover ground raised by previous speakers. They’re aware of this, and all but one speak from pre-prepared notes. This is obviously a concerted campaign.
These people are obviously very unhappy about the problems the Festival cause them, and I’m sure have good reasons for their unhappiness. But for most, I’m not convinced that any measures would be enough – they want shot of the festival, for good, and suggestions are made that it should find another site (where exactly? I don’t think anywhere new would be welcoming of a festival even half its size.)
Here are some quotes (these are VERY typical – not choice selections!):
“a very real threat to public order”
“to approve the application would be a mockery … elected members don’t really represent those who elected them”
“has the Council considered that the Festival would be offensive to Muslims …” [not some Muslims, all of them, apparently – ed] “… and as such would be the target for a terrorist attack”. [Because of course, all Muslims are terrorists, aren’t they? – ed]
“we are not going to remain victims of this Festival – we will fight back”
“significant environmental damage”
These are such a lovely bunch of people, I wish I was married to them. One lady in the gallery was heard to say “hippies” with total disgust … but I’m convinced she’d be welcoming of those of a different skin colour.
In the end, the major discussion was about Section 17 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. It appeared those against had been doing a LOT of homework. This law places a poorly defined (if the words used in the hearing were accurate) obligation on a council to ensure it doesn’t do things to increase crime in its area. The Council’s own solicitor seemed to think the Council would not be breaking Section 17 by granting a PEL, whilst the objectors did. Although other legal reasons to refuse the PEL were tossed around – such as the fitness of the applicant to run the event (including a rather underhand attempt to have Michael Eavis branded a criminal), and the environmental damage, this was the one used with the fullest force.
When it came to the vote a motion was put to refuse the PEL. It went 5-4 for the motion, and against the Festival. Michael immediately left the room, and missed a second vote, also carried 5-4; that they’d welcome another application from GFL, but for a different site. Quite why they didn’t get on the horse themselves to run Michael out of town I don’t know.
After a few minutes to compose himself, Michael emerged to state that an appeal (which is heard by magistrates – essentially to see if the Regulatory Board had given proper legal reasons for refusal) would be lodged in the morning. The Festival has been refused a licence before, has always appealed, and has always won. (The licence application wasn’t heard in 2001 – it was withdrawn when it became obvious that it would be legitimately refused.)
On speaking to some of those involved – all off the record (but not just those close to GFL) there was a very strong opinion that the Festival has very strong grounds for an appeal. I think it unlikely that a magistrate would believe the Regulatory Board’s grounds that Pilton couldn’t be properly policed when the Police themselves believe it can.
GFL has put in extraordinary efforts over the last year and did everything expected and requested in putting on the 2002 Festival. It feels unfair in the extreme that it is now penalised for aspects reasonably outside of its control – certainly much of it outside the licenced area – while at the same time it is willing to put in the necessary effort – and funds – to resolve those problems this time around.
We hope – and expect – the appeal to succeed. We’ll have details when available.