An Eden festival will return next year organisers have pledged, despite it being left “crippled” this year after staffing agencies let organisers down, causing queues and leaving security workers ill-equipped to deal with increased anti-social behaviour.
Three days of fun in the sun for revellers at last weekend’s Wannasee Festival at Hutton-in-the-Forest, was dampened considerably by mammoth queues, disorganisation and police involvement.
Organisers have been working hard since the event and have issued a warning to people who want to attend next year that anti-social behaviour will not be tolerated.
They said: “There were attendees this year who wouldn’t normally attend a Wannasee Festival, and behaviours present that wouldn’t normally be anticipated at a Wannasee Festival, and we were unsure how best to address this.
“After substantial thought and reflection, we have decided that we would be compromising our vision for the event and our promise to our most loyal customers if we didn’t tackle this issue head on.”
Festival organiser Alex Hutchinson said that staffing agencies, which were paid in advance for large numbers of workers across various roles, could not fulfil their contracts either entirely or substantially. This left the tribute act festival significantly short of staff across all sectors on Friday night.
He added that his team only found out about the extent of the issue when workers didn’t turn up, with one agency simply transferring back the festival’s deposit without any communication.
This led to huge queues to collect wristbands and get drinks from bars with one attendee claiming he waited almost 90 minutes to get to the bar only to be confronted by disorganised staff.
Many other attendees echoed this with reports of it taking more than two hours even to enter the site.
The staffing shortage was not just felt on the gate.
One attendee claimed toilets were not cleaned regularly enough, forcing him to drive to Southwaite to use the service station facilities rather than brave the festival loos.
Stayed up all night to resolve Wannasee crisis
Alex said that the organisation team were still awake at 9am on Saturday morning, having stayed up all night trying to resolve the crisis.
“We were just left quite crippled really,” he added. “We roped in as many people as we could and Saturday and Sunday were OK, but I think it left a bitter taste in people’s mouths.”
A Facebook post trying to rally last-minute bar staff on Friday night was shared more than 1,000 times with cash-strapped youngsters being helicoptered in from across the North of England to earn “well in excess of normal bar rates”.
While bolstering numbers slightly, the existing staff members were clearly exhausted which led to some avoidable errors on Saturday and Sunday according to Alex, although these did not affect attendees.
One aspect of the event organisers were not prepared for was the large numbers of younger, rowdier festival goers who attended. Alex said that having had to remove only one person in 2019, his security team ejected around 80 people this year.
He put this down to pent-up frustration from a younger group of revellers who had been trapped inside over the pandemic and more youth-oriented festivals being cancelled. His security team reported showers being egged and portable toilets being toppled as noise levels remained high in the campsite throughout the night.
Police called after disturbance
Police were called just after midnight on Sunday following reports of a disturbance at the site. Around 10 youths were involved — all of whom were removed by security staff.
A further report was then received that a 15-year-old male had been assaulted causing actual bodily harm. Investigations are ongoing and the police are burging anyone with information to report online at cumbria.police.uk/reportit
The Wannasee team have begun mounting a legal response to the staffing agencies but Alex said he is not optimistic over the outcome.
This year the festival lost money due to lack of bar sales.
Alex apologised to those who had attended the event.
Message to festival supporters
Yesterday, Team Wanasee posted the following message on Facebook:
Seven years ago, we came together as a small group of independent promoters with a view to creating a fantastic festival of live music and entertainment, financially accessible to all and offering a safe and welcome space for anyone, to enjoy a great weekend in Cumbria witnessing the best tribute bands the world has to offer.
We are incredibly proud of our efforts to date and took huge pride in watching the enjoyment of thousands of people, just a week ago, having a wonderful weekend.
Delivering a music festival in 2021 was an undertaking like nothing anyone in this industry has ever attempted before, and the logistical and financial hurdles were formidable.
It wasn’t a smooth journey but the event took place, unlike so many others, and to everyone who joined us to party the Bank Holiday weekend away, we are so grateful.
Challenges and issues at Wannasee
There were challenges and issues along the way and these have to be acknowledged.
From the well-publicised crisis with staffing agencies leaving us hugely in the lurch on Friday evening, to supply chain issues from bins, to waste tankers, to the machinery needed to build the festival site – nothing has been simple this year, for us, or for anyone else.
Many of these were outside of our ability to influence, but nonetheless we are the organisers and the buck stops with us.
We believe we overcame almost all issues to the best of our ability throughout the weekend, but the problems were visible and we’re sorry that they occurred in any event.
The issues relating to queuing, staffing and supplier issues are the focus of intense debriefing processes including ourselves and various partners and we are already in the process of planning to ensure that these are entirely eliminated and will never affect the event again.
The reason that we’ve taken so long to make this post-festival statement is very simple.
There were attendees this year who wouldn’t normally attend a Wannasee Festival, and behaviours present that wouldn’t normally be anticipated at a Wannasee Festival, and we were unsure how best to address this.
Tackling issue head-on
After substantial thought and reflection, we have decided that we would be compromising our vision for the event and our promise to our most loyal customers if we didn’t tackle this issue head on.
So, with that in mind, we would like to address the following very clearly.
To the small number of customers who left children to present anti-social behaviour at the festival through the evening and night, ignored etiquette and dumped motorhome waste in portable toilets leaving those without caravans or motorhomes struggling for clean toilets, drank to excess while responsible for supervising children, engaged in disorderly and intimidating behaviour and, but certainly not least, directed abuse and even threats to staff at the festival; we need to state the following:
Please don’t return to the festival, we couldn’t be clearer than this.
This isn’t an event that you’ll enjoy in the future and it’s not an event where any such behaviour will be tolerated in the future.
All of these issues are entirely new to the festival this year and we’re sure our fantastic customers will agree have never been witnessed before.
Behaviour to be stopped in its tracks
Nonetheless, they occurred, and we now have no choice but to act appropriately to ensure that this is stopped firmly in its tracks.
Our vision for the event is very simple indeed – a safe, accessible, unintimidating, welcoming and friendly atmosphere for absolutely everyone and to achieve that, we have firmly committed collectively to the following steps.
At the 2022 Wannasee Festival, the following will be implemented throughout:
- All toilets (which will be increased by at least 25 per cent) will be incorporated into large “blocks” which will be stewarded throughout the festival by our security team to ensure proper usage and to prevent criminal damage which occurred repeatedly this year
- Tankers will be permanently on the festival site and toilet servicing will be available 24/7 on a targeted basis as required, rather than on a timed schedule as is normal at most major events
- Children under the age of 18 will be required to be accompanied by an adult at all times within the festival. Being accompanied into and out of the festival is not sufficient, a festival is not the place to leave children unsupervised, they must remain with parents or under other suitable, sober adult supervision at all times
- All children aged 13 to 17 years must be accompanied by an adult aged over 25
- The provision of security and stewarding will be more than doubled to ensure a thorough presence in all areas of the arena and all campsites 24/7 throughout the weekend
- Any anti-social behaviour, of any sort, will result in a single warning, before ejection from the festival for any further occurrence.
- Any threatening, abusive or violent behaviour will result in immediate ejection from the event, without warning.
- Delay Towers will be introduced to allow sound to be spread more evenly across the arena, and an additional large video screen will be positioned in the centre of the arena to allow people to spread further out and avoid having to feel crowded at one end near the stage
- A physical barrier will be introduced in campsites to separate cars and tents. This is in response to a single driver this year who, had he not been immediately prevented from doing so by our security team, would have attempted to drive while intoxicated through a populated campsite
- A family camping area will be introduced in the field behind the church. This field will have its own dedicated toilets, showers and drinking water points. There will be a rigid noise curfew of 11.30pm in this field and any groups causing excessive noise after that time will be dealt with by security
- All other campsites will have a noise curfew of 12.30am and, again, any groups causing excessive noise after that time will be dealt with by security
- Last but not least, we will engage with Cumbria police to support the event with police officers positioned at the event (for which we will fully cover the cost, this does not affect local policing provision) to work with our security team and ensure that those who attend the festival with the intention of causing issues or breaking the law are dealt with in the strongest possible manner.
Since Wannasee Festivals inception, the fantastic customers who have joined us year after year have been an absolute joy to host and a credit to the festival.
Unfortunately, this year many people’s experience, and ours, was marred by a tiny percentage unable to act in a manner which is acceptable at a family festival.
Our initial response after this year was to not bring the festival back as we were unsure if we could put our staff and management through this again, but having built up an event loved and enjoyed by so many, and one we are rightly proud of, after much thought and consideration, we have decided that Wannasee will be back on August 26-28 2022 and the only approach now from us, is to throw everything we can at resourcing to ensure that these issues are stopped completely in their tracks and the 99 per cent of the audience whom we can’t wait to see back again, can feel completely safe and secure, as they always have done and always will be able to.
Thank you to each and every one of you who have supported us this far.