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Beef Of The Week #367: Hope & Glory Festival v Getting Any Work Done

By | Published on Friday 11 August 2017

For those who attended day one of new Liverpool festival Hope & Glory most memories will probably involve standing in a queue. But for those of us watching from the outside in the failed event will mainly be recalled in the form of a Twitter feed that continued to entertain even as day two of the shindig was abruptly cancelled. So much so, it all became rather distracting as the week went on. And some of us had work to do.

Plenty of column inches have been dedicated to how day one of Hope & Glory turned out. The festival’s city centre site opened late and queues up to the event’s single entrance were lengthy throughout, even though security measures at the gate were seemingly very modest indeed. Once inside the compound, festival-goers faced further lengthy queues if they wanted to buy food and drink, or go to the toilet.

Ticket-holders have criticised both the number of bars and toilets offered and the positioning of said facilities, which meant queues collided and merged, and dangerous bottlenecks occurred as people tried to move around the site. Bad sign-posting may have also contributed to the problems, with many saying that the urinals in particular were hard to find further lengthening the queues at the other toilets. Though given reports the urinals started overflowing, perhaps that was a good thing.

Meanwhile on stage, the late opening meant few artists were playing in their advertised slots, while some acts had their sets cut short. Charlotte Church’s set was cut so short she was given no time at all, instead relocating to a much less chaotic Liverpool club venue to play to those who had given up on the Hope & Glory debacle entirely.

But it was online – rather than on the ground – that Hope & Glory ensured its place in music festival history. Albeit for all the wrong reasons. The event’s digital channels went very quiet as the festival fell apart on Saturday, just as real time information about ever changing set times would have been really useful, as would statements on the rumour that the event’s gates had now been closed due to overcrowding.

But on Sunday things got lively. First, the second day of the festival was officially cancelled with a three word statement that read “no festival today”. Then the personal email address of a production manager was posted on Facebook, with organisers saying that all the problems the previous day were his fault for not finishing site set up on time and for failing to build a bridge that would have overcome the bottleneck issue.

And it sort of went downhill from there, as the festival’s official Twitter feed first complained about all the negative feedback the event had been getting online, then hit out at Tim Booth from Saturday headliners James for having the nerve to acknowledge what a shambles day one had been, and then started sparring with angry ticket holders. What was entirely missing was an apology and a statement about ticket refunds.

But so bad was the festival’s official response to its own collapse, it soon reached ‘so bad it’s good’ territory, making the #hopeandgloryfestival hashtag on Twitter compelling reading, as tweets went back and forth between organisers and angry ticket holders. Though if the tweets were distracting on Sunday, they were nothing compared to the two big developments on Monday.

First came the comedically long official statement from the Hope & Glory company which did, at least, apologise to punters. Before accepting responsibility for the debacle, and then immediately blaming everything on the production manager whose email address had been published the previous day and certain officials at Liverpool City Council.

Meanwhile, in amongst all the blame shifting, was a particularly bizarre section discussing what had happened to food and drink that had been bought for Sunday’s artist riders. A council official had donated the food to charity, while no one seemed certain about what had happened to all the booze. This was an outrage, the Hope & Glory statement exclaimed, which it might have been, though it was hardly relevant to the thousands of ticket holders who had only really showed up at the festival’s Facebook page for an update on refunds.

As everyone digested the comedy statement, it was confirmed that festival chief Lee O’Hanlon had agreed to appear on Iain Lee’s late night phone in show on Talk Radio to discuss the debacle. Which seemed like an admirable thing to do, though risky in PR terms.

And while – as the Talk Radio DJ got more over the top with his demands to know “where’s the money gone!” – it was actually possible to feel a little sympathy for the beleaguered Hope & Glory boss, there was little sympathy for the promoter online as the radio interview aired, and got replayed on-demand the next day.

Possibly because the social media conversation was being led by those who had actually bought tickets and who were understandably pissed off that all the messaging around refunds was very confused – with the promoter saying “speak to your ticket agent”, and the ticketing firms telling customers they really needed to talk to the promoter.

Back on Twitter, O’Hanlon was now answering questions on the festival’s official feed, insisting that Sunday’s flippant tweets had been written by a junior member of staff.

The now generally apologetic tone of the Hope & Glory Twitter feed was a definite improvement, though back on the #hopeandgloryfestival hashtag – which was still proving pretty distracting – there were mainly two kinds of tweets: those mocking O’Hanlon and his Monday essay on missing foodstuffs, and those repeating Iain Lee’s mantra of “where’s the money gone!”

Further statements on refunds from the Hope & Glory company were promised, though as the week reached its conclusion the festival’s official social media channels suspiciously fell off the internet. But back on the hashtag feed good news at last as the two companies that had powered ticketing on the festival’s own website – Eventbrite and Skiddle – both announced they were instigating refunds out of their own pockets, the status of the ticketing monies already handed over to the Hope & Glory company remaining unknown.

Further squabbling and probably litigation are now anticipated. But either way, I think it’s fair to say that – while the inaugural Hope & Glory festival will be the only ever Hope & Glory festival – the shambolic event will nevertheless be recalled aplenty whenever people talk about how not to handle crisis communications. Though, to be fair, while there was very little glory to be had at the Hope & Glory festival itself, following the subsequent fallout online has been glorious.