Hard Fi Festival Fiasco – Massive Inquiry Planned

08:18 Monday 9th July 2012
Peterborough Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: Many of you contacted us about the Peterborough Festival, the Finale of which fell victim to the bad weather this weekend. Thousands of you expecting to see Hard Fi playing in Central Park. But disappointment after torrential downpours, when Vivacity decided to put a stop to the festivities. A small scale street theatre performance was held yesterday on Bridge Street. It was an unfortunate way to end what would have been a great event. Wonderful stuff booked in. And it looked like it was only going to get better on Saturday. Criticism of how Council officials communicated with each other and the public, the way Vivacity and Enterprise perhaps worked together with the Council in the run up to the Festival. We saw a bit of confusion all round, and we spoke to Cllr Yvonne Lowndes earlier, who said the show should have gone on, should have carried on.
YVONNE LOWNDES: They could have cordoned off the areas with a lot of the mud, and everything could have gone ahead. In hindsight, yesterday it was quite dry, and we could have had continued the Festival. And there are lots and lots of disappointed people. And I was talking to them. Some people yesterday came all the way from Lincoln, thinking they were going to see the orchestra last night. And of course they were very disappointed.
PAUL STAINTON: Well Deputy Leader of the Peterborough City Council Matthew Lee is here now. Morning Matthew.
MATTHEW LEE: Good morning.
PAUL STAINTON: Before I get into the weekend, can I take you back to the planning of this, last week, and the fact that .. this is how I read it last week .. there was an application to increase the capacity of Central Park to 15,000 at the last minute, which seemed like some sort of panic act by Enterprise. You, according to Cllr John Peach, knew nothing about this. And then at the last minute you slapped it down and said 5,000 would be enough. Have I read it right?
MATTHEW LEE: I had absolute confidence in Vivacity’s planning. We’ve seen the Festival grow, year after year ..
PAUL STAINTON: It wasn’t them that put the application in.
MATTHEW LEE: No. No. I shall come to that in just a moment. .. year after year, very very successful Festivals with growing audiences. So I had absolute confidence in what Vivacity were telling me. There seems to have been a very big breakdown of communication between Council officers and Enterprise. And I don’t want to apportion any blame on that. But I will get to the bottom of it. And a licensing application went in of which I did not know until the day before it had gone in. And immediately I was alerted to that, I ordered Enterprise to withdraw it. Because it was unnecessary. Our park is a crowning jewel of all our green open space.
PAUL STAINTON: Well they obviously thought it was necessary, otherwise they wouldn’t have put the application in. And I have to say, a band of Hard Fi’s calibre, with nearly 100,000 people on their Facebook, massive live following, there’s every possibility more than 5,000 people would turn up.
MATTHEW LEE: We can’t have more than 5,000 in that park.
PAUL STAINTON: So it’s the wrong place then.
MATTHEW LEE: When you have a large .. an area like the Park, it is unique. It’s very special. And it has a capacity. And that capacity in my opinion is about the 5,000 mark. But everything Vivacity had done indicated to me that for the hour’s slot that they were on, they could cope within that 5,000 capacity. They had all of the security and all of those other provisions in place. And I think it is inappropriate to have more than 5,000 people in the Park.
PAUL STAINTON: I think we’d all agree with you. So therefore, why not have a plan B, and put Hard Fi on somewhere else?
MATTHEW LEE: Well I have to say I mean for many years now we’ve talked about moving the Festival onto the Embankment. But we had to grow the audience. And we always looked at Central Park as the place where we grew the audience.
PAUL STAINTON: Well it’s lovely.
MATTHEW LEE: It’s absolutely beautiful. It’s one of my most favourite places in the city actually to go. But it can’t cope with more than 5,000 people. And if we are going to be very successful, and I’m delighted with the Arts Festival. We really are doing tremendous work out there, getting fantastic audiences. But as we grow, and if we are looking like we’re going to have to have above 5,000 audiences, we will have to look at alternative venues. That’s not because we’re going to turn our backs on the Park. But certainly.
PAUL STAINTON: Well share it around the city.
MATTHEW LEE: Well absolutely. Because we’ve now got an audience that’s big enough for us to share around the city. But everything I had on that day indicated to me that it was inappropriate. There was a large amount of hostility about increasing the licence for numbers in the Park. And I absolutely understand why. Because it is a very special place. And you cannot treat it like the Embankment. It is not an equivalent to the Embankment.
PAUL STAINTON: And I don’t want to be a naysayer, because as I’ve already said, I think the acts that we booked, we should aim high, we should aim big., we should get bigger and bigger. But as you say there’s a limit. And I think you’re at it with Hard Fi where perhaps they’ve got to perform somewhere else in the city. A big act could be in Cathedral Square. We have 10,000 for the Christmas Light turn on.
MATTHEW LEE: I think it’s fabulous. And you’re absolutely right. We will move around the city I’m sure. Because our audience is growing, and we can put on major events in various parts of the city, as we’ve seen this weekend, and still attract great audiences.
PAUL STAINTON: Now, Councillor Ed Murphy earlier said ” The event got far too political, some councillors wanting the event to be called off, whilst others were desperate for it to go ahead.” And here’s what he had to say. (TAPE)
ED MURPHY: We need to congratulate the people who organised the festival. What happened in the town centre yesterday was brilliant, and what happened at the Key Theatre was brilliant as well. But I think the planning and the infrastructure at Central Park and some of the politics caused problems. We need to find out what caused the damage, and what the health and safety issues were. I do think health and safety was an issue, and there were reasons to cancel the big event in the Park. But I’m not sure of the detail. I haven’t got to the bottom of the risk assessment yet. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: So Ed Murphy. Your reaction to that Matthew?
MATTHEW LEE: No councillor makes a decision .. we employ excellent officers, with all of the qualifications. And they decide whether events go ahead or not. I would never put my neck on the line in either agree or to cancel or not an event.
PAUL STAINTON: Who made the decision?
MATTHEW LEE: It’s not .. It’s a decision made by Vivacity as the event’s organisers. And they have to take into account a huge number of issues, because they have to put on a good successful but above all safe event. And they make that decision. They are the professionals. And I would never interfere. And nor should any other councillor. These are professional decisions that should be taken by the right people, not politicians.
PAUL STAINTON: Can I ask you another question? Enterprise run so many services in the city at the moment. They put in a request to increase the capacity of the Park to 15,000, and you knew nothing about it. You’re supposed to be a check and balance for Enterprise. Can I have confidence you are a check and balance and you know what’s going on elsewhere across the city regarding Enterprise?
MATTHEW LEE: On this one issue, it seems that they had advice from officers within the Council. I’ve asked the Chief Executive to launch a full and in-depth inquiry into how this happened. And they then took that advice it would seem and put in the licensing application …
PAUL STAINTON: So you were out of the loop.
MATTHEW LEE: .. without taking into account my views, or seeking my views. that is inappropriate. They are getting that message very loud and clear. When it became clear to me that the licensing decision had gone in, Vivacity was confident that they could manage within the existing licence. They didn’t need a new licence. When it became clear to me that the local residents were opposed, I stepped in and I ordered them to withdraw it, and I’ve asked the Chief Executive to launch an inquiry into this.
PAUL STAINTON: I know you’ve got to go, but very very quickly, Fiona Radic earlier was saying the Park is an absolute mess at the moment.
PAUL STAINTON: Will it be put back right?
MATTHEW LEE: The team are working really really hard. And I mean that just goes to show if you then actually had thousands more people through, we’d have been facing an absolute mudbath down there.
PAUL STAINTON: Well lessons will be learned. Planning-wise, where are we going to put people ..
MATTHEW LEE: Yes but you cannot you know you cannot plan for the weather. We’ve done year after year, really successful great events.
PAUL STAINTON: The Riverside Festival on Friday called it off in Stamford because they knew it was going to rain at the weekend.
MATTHEW LEE: But we knew you have to push on, because you know what it’s like. It can be raining in Ramsey, it can be dry here. You’ve got to make the best call, and if we’d have called it off well before the event and it hadn’t rained, look at the criticism we’d have had then.
PAUL STAINTON: But the Park will be put back right, and possibly next year, if we do get some massive acts, which we want, spread them around the city.
MATTHEW LEE: I think that’s a very good idea.
PAUL STAINTON: All right. Good luck with your enquiry at the Council. I’ll let you crack on with that today. I know you’ve got a lot of people to talk to. Some of them, getting a right talking to.

BEN STEVENSON: We were also Paul hoping to go to Portugal today …
PAUL STAINTON: What’s going on?
BEN STEVENSON: .. to find out more about what Peterborough United players …
PAUL STAINTON: Phil Adlam still in bed?
BEN STEVENSON: Phil Adlam I believe is still only at the airport. So he’s on a separate flight out.
PAUL STAINTON: Well for him he’s done well to get to the airport.
BEN STEVENSON: He has done well. We have booked in an Englishman who lives in that area of Portugal that they’re going to. Unfortunately, due to the Peterborough Festival, and because of the recent weather, and health and safety …
PAUL STAINTON: Bring on the rain!
BEN STEVENSON: .. we have cancelled this interview, and will be doing it in the Museum tomorrow. No, only joking. We’re hoping to speak to people in Portugal tomorrow.
PAUL STAINTON: No, I’ve just been told it’s not happening tomorrow.
BEN STEVENSON: It’s not happening tomorrow?!! People of Peterborough, vote now. We want the interview with the Portuguese man.
PAUL STAINTON: What a shambles!
BEN STEVENSON: We will have to do it Wednesday.
PAUL STAINTON: We’ll have an internal investigation here to find out what’s gone wrong with the communication between Aneka, you, and the man from Portugal.
BEN STEVENSON: It wasn’t Aneka’s fault. It wasn’t the man from Portugal’s fault. I’ll leave it there.
PAUL STAINTON: Was it Council officers?
BEN STEVENSON: Yes! Yes! The rain!