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Chelmsford’s V Festival went ahead with no police presence this year, reports BBC

By | Published on Friday 15 December 2017

V Festival

The 2017 (and, it later turned out, final) edition of the V Festival in Chelmsford went ahead with no police presence on site, reports the BBC’s ‘Victoria Derbyshire Show’. This was seemingly due to a dispute over the cost of policing at the event.

Minutes from a meeting of Chelmsford City Council’s Safety Advisory Group, obtained by the BBC, express some concern about this turn of events. Though Essex Police have stressed that on-site policing is not compulsory for privately-organised festivals, while the council ultimately concluded that “the lack of agreement on special police services was a risk which the festival promoter resolved through alternative means to the satisfaction of the Safety Advisory Group”.

Increased policing costs have been a talking point in the festival community for a while now. It seems the dispute between V Festival’s promoter – Live Nation’s Festival Republic – and Essex Police began when organisers tried to reduce those costs in 2017. According to the BBC, Festival Republic submitted a request to pay £100,000 for policing at the Chelmsford edition of its 2017 event, down from £138,000 in 2016. When no agreement could be reached on price, the festival went ahead with no police onsite at all.

Although the SAG was ultimately satisfied with Festival Republic’s alternative security measures, and local police did respond to specific reports of crimes on site, some councillors nevertheless raised concerns with the situation, in particular the system in place via which festival security could contact police.

“Drugs were the biggest concern, with no police presence on site”, said one council rep, while the minutes also noted that, after a sexual assault on a thirteen year old girl had been reported, by the time police arrived they were unable to find the tent where the alleged incident took place. A suspect package was also reportedly discovered – which would have likely caused particular concern because the event took place just two months after the attack on an Ariana Grande show at the Manchester Arena.

The SAG meeting also discussed concerns that security vetting for some of the festival’s staff was still ongoing by the time they were on site for the event “by which point it is too late”. All in all, the council concluded that “last minute arrangements for this year’s festival were unacceptable and this must be improved upon from now on. The 2018 event must be planned well in advance and an agreement in principle be made before tickets sales [begin]”.

As previously reported, in October this year, Virgin announced that it was pulling its sponsorship of V Festival after 22 years. Festival Republic has said that it plans to continue the dual site event – which takes place in Chelmsford and Staffordshire concurrently – under a new name. Earlier this week, the NME denied rumours that it plans to become the new headline sponsor.

Commenting on the arrangements at V Festival this summer, Essex Police’s Deputy Chief Constable told the BBC: “I really must stress that the safety of a commercial event like V Festival sits with the organisers. They are licensed by the local authority, and … [the] safety of people attending their event … is down to them. That doesn’t mean we abandon them. We had a really good working relationship with security, and with Chelmsford City Council, to make sure that people who were going there were safe”.

Chelmsford City Council itself added: “The Safety Advisory Group process allows a transparent and robust examination of all safety issues prior to and during the festival, to ensure any risk to safety is properly managed and mitigated. The lack of agreement on special police services was a risk which the festival promoter resolved through alternative means to the satisfaction of the Safety Advisory Group”.