The organiser of a festival which had to be shut down early after a ‘life-threatening’ crush has been refused a license to run a new festival in Colwick.
Detonate Halloween Festival had to be called off three hours early in 2016 after an “angry and frustrated” crowd surged forward into an overcrowded tent, and caused a “threat to life”.
The pressure caused by the crush caused metal barriers to twist and buckle, and a guide rope to the tent to snap, according to police reports.
Nottinghamshire Police officers said fire exits at some of the tents were blocked, and not in the locations they were meant to be in, while locked gates were in place just feet from the exits.
Senior police officers also said there was ‘flawed decision making’ by organisers in the run up to the crush, and that they could see people caught up were ‘unable to breath’.
The force said the events at the 2016 festival showed he should not be granted a licence to run an Escape to Wonderland festival in Colwick later this year.
But organiser Ian Willis said he should not be judged by the events of one night, after hosting many successful festivals.
He said he had brought in external companies to run aspects of the festival, and that one person could not be responsible for all decisions made.
In a meeting today (Feb 5), Mr Willis was applying for a new licence to run a smaller, one-day event, with capacity for 4,999 people.
However this application was denied by Nottingham City Council, because the authority did not have confidence it would be planned and run safely and in accordance with its rules.
The hearing heard a queue of at least an hour had formed outside one of the tents on the night in 2016.
The tent became very crowded, and people began to spill out of the sides of the tent.
The ‘angry and frustrated’ crowd then surged forward in an attempt to get into the tent, and a decision was made to close the tent, before minutes later the festival was abandoned altogether due to the safety concerns.
Sergeant Richard Shaw, one of the senior police officers on the night of the crush, said to Mr Willis: “What happened that night, it wasn’t because the crowd were bad, or because they sought disorder, it’s because things were put in place which increased the level of disorder, the likes of which I have never seen before in my career.
“There was incompetence and a lack of responsibility from individuals to run that event. Individuals were out of their depth in making decisions.
“Your decision making, and the speed at which you made those decisions was flawed. You fell far below the standard I would expect and would want to see of a person holding that kind of event.”
But Mr Willis said: “This event is a much smaller event. It’s not in the same situations or the same surroundings as the Halloween one, where we know there was a lot of infrastructure problems with that event, and we have learned from that.
“You can make what you will of the police assumption that I’m not fit to do this job, but I have been doing this job for 26 years, and you can only throw one day, one night at me, out of hundreds and hundreds.”
PC Lloyd Major was involved in helping organisers plan the festival before the event.
He said fire exits in the tents were not where they had been planned to be. Some of these had then been partly blocked by shipping cases designed to carry musicians’ equipment.
To help deal with the growing crowds, security barriers had then been placed around the tent. However these had been locked together near fire exits, meaning they could not be easily opened if a quick evacuation was needed.
The PC said: “Do you expect a crowd, which has become intoxicated through alcohol and possibly drugs to then, in the middle of a crisis, begin moving cases and then moving fences that have been locked?
“The emergency exits had been fundamentally moved. They were half way down the tent from where they should have been.”
The police officer went on to say he had been involved in policing several Nottingham Forest vs Derby county matches in his career, but had never had the same fear for life as he had that night.