Business News Live Business Top Stories

Hope & Glory organisers to blame for event’s collapse, council investigation finds

By | Published on Monday 9 October 2017

Hope & Glory Festival

Liverpool City Council has completed its investigation into what went wrong at the city’s inaugural Hope & Glory Festival back in August. And I’m sure it will come as a surprise to no one to find out that the Council’s conclusion is that the event’s organiser Lee O’Hanlon fucked up royally.

As previously reported, although plenty of bands did play on the first day of the city centre Hope & Glory festival, gates opened late, stages ran behind all day, sets were cut short and Charlotte Church’s set was cut entirely, while festival-goers reported massive queues at the gates, bars and toilets. It was also tricky moving around the festival’s site, and many expressed concern about the dangerous levels of overcrowding.

Day two was cancelled via a social media post that simply read “no festival today”. The festival’s official Twitter account then began sparring with angry ticket-holders, while on Facebook a statement told punters to direct their anger at a single production manager who had allegedly failed to complete the event’s site on time.

lengthy and rambling statement from promoter O’Hanlon published the next day did apologise for the shambles, but spent much more time laying into the aforementioned production manager and Liverpool City Council. It also dedicated plenty of page space to complaints that council officials had sent food intended for day two’s riders to a local charity without the permission of the festival’s management.

Prefacing the council’s report into what went wrong, Liverpool’s Assistant Mayor Wendy Simon writes: “I am rightly proud of Liverpool’s cultural programme – from the city-council run events right through to those run by external organisations. Our incredible track record means we are renowned for staging large-scale, successful events, but when something jeopardises that hard-won reputation we have to take action”.

She continues: “In the days that followed the debacle that was the Hope & Glory Festival, it became apparent that issues which occurred largely pointed to action (or lack of) by the organiser … The report clearly states that the failure of the event was down to the event organiser’s mismanagement and as a result, a catalogue of errors were unavoidable. Our staff did tremendous work on the first day sorting out a wide range of issues which enabled the event to continue”.

The report concedes that the council should have had a more robust system in place to assess “the suitability, capacity and track‐record of independent event organisers”, noting that “more substantial checks at the initial application stage would be an effective means of assessing applications before they become too advanced”.

It also includes a detailed timeline of events, showing that council staff first became concerned about the organisation of the festival shortly before it was due to open on the Saturday. By midday, a rep for the council on site had expressed “concern over the management of the event, and the apparent absence of an operations manager”.

The report also claims that O’Hanlon attempted to open the site before safety checks had been completed. Shortly afterward, the concerned council rep was placed in an operational role at the festival.

At around 4.15pm, police were called to deal with “crowd crushing”, at which point it is claimed that O’Hanlon said that “he had lost control”. The site was closed, and reopened shortly afterwards, although walk-up ticket sales were suspended.

As council and security staff attempted to manage issues including over-crowding, people jumping over the fence without tickets and congestion at the entrance gate, an emergency meeting was called just after 6pm. At this, the report says, O’Hanlon “appears to break down emotionally and leaves the meeting. He is not contactable either by radio or mobile phone”.

After this, council staff “effectively take over full operational management of the event”, and O’Hanlon is not see again until 2am, when he returned and told technicians setting up the main stage for the next day that the remainder of the event would be cancelled. This is seemingly not information he relayed to anyone else involved.

“It appears that the LCC team [who were] working to save the second day were unaware of these developments until at least 9.30am [on day two]”, says the report. Although it admits that the cancelation of Sunday’s activities was the appropriate action.

Speaking to the Liverpool Echo, O’Hanlon maintained that he was not to blame for the collapse of the event. He again blamed council officials and Richard Agar, the production manager who was mentioned in the festival’s aforementioned social media posts as day two was officially called off.

It seems Agar had been employed as both Production and Safety Manager at the event, despite these being two distinct roles normally carried out by separate people. The report shows that tensions grew between the two men after the opening of the event was delayed. It also states that Agar remained on site for an hour and a half to assist with the event’s ongoing problems even after being “dismissed” by O’Hanlon, before finally being “ejected”.

“Richard Agar Productions – I maintain that they were a professional company that had wholesale failings in the festival and delivery of the festival”, says O’Hanlon. “That company also chose the people in key positions that were part of the delivery and I also state that there were failings of Liverpool City Council. I have said that I accept there were failings in the festival but it would be unfair and inappropriate not to attribute those exact failings to the appropriate bodies and professional services that were employed to deliver the festival”.

As previously reported, after the company behind the event went into liquidation it left behind debts of nearly £1 million. Among those owed money are ticketing companies Eventbrite and Skiddle, which paid out refunds to ticketholders after it became apparent that the organisers would not do so.

You can read Liverpool City Council’s full report here.