Hope & Glory Fiasco – The Festival That Never Should Have Been

By Shaun Ponsonby
Mon 07 August, 2017

An obviously unsuitable venue, a clear lack of organisation and a promoter whose shows have appeared on Rip-Off Britain. Why was Hope and Glory given permission to go ahead?

Anyone who follows the arts in Liverpool will no doubt have heard all about the fiasco that was the Hope and Glory Festival over the weekend.

It felt like everybody who is in some way involved with the arts in Liverpool had reservations about the event from the off. Something didn’t feel quite right about it as soon as it was announced. But, good God, I don’t think any of us thought it would be this bad.

For starters, any old fool could see that the area seemed much too small to hold a festival of this size. I know this because I am a fool, and even I could see it. Sure, they stage Pride there, but Pride is a free event and people aren’t caged in.  It is easy to get in, out and around. At Hope and Glory, they were told that the area was safe for a 9,000 (others have said 5,000) but it seems that anywhere between 12-15,000 were sold.

No biggie, though, right? I mean what’s a bit of overcrowding? It’s not like the city of Liverpool specifically has ever faced devastating consequences as a direct result of overcrowding, is it?

And then there is what exists in St. George’s Garden, the park area behind St. George’s Hall. There are memorials in there. Not just the statues, but trees that were planted in remembrance to Liverpool AIDS victims (which, incidentally, is one of the reasons why it makes a helluva lot more sense for Pride to be held in that area). From what can be gathered, no effort appeared to have been made to protect these memorials.

I had no intention of going to the festival. It was a second rate line-up full of indie landfill acts that haven’t been relevant for about a decade. They might as well have renamed the whole thing Ladfest.

I did, however, go past the site on the bus not long after doors opened. The queue went right around the block. The geniuses sold 12,000 tickets and only seemed to have one entrance point. That might be fine for a venue that only holds a few hundred, but you are aware that there is a reason that stadiums and arenas have multiple entrances, right?

People I know who were there told me that the bottleneck at the entrance made moving around close to an impossibility. There was only one bar that could be easily accessed by this point, and it took people between 45 minutes to an hour to get served, either for food or drink (incidentally, the supposed “Gin Palace” only had one kind of gin). It was so bad that some people reportedly left and returned with drinks from an off-license, which I’m pretty sure is prohibited as a security risk among other things.

The portable toilets were overflowing extremely quickly, which isn’t surprising. Some reports are suggesting that there were only 20 of them. That’s 20 portable toilets for 12,000 people. To put that into context, the Titanic had 20 lifeboats for 3,327 people and that was deemed shambolic. The guidelines state that somewhere between 150-200 portable toilets would be necessary for that many people.

This led to a total standstill. Police were called in. People who had tickets were turned away at the door. A friend of mine entered, saw the conditions inside and left after ten minutes, feeling completely unsafe.

Things didn’t seem much better for the bands. The Pigeon Detectives’ Matt Bowmen asked if anyone knew how to tie down speakers, which makes the whole place sound like a death trap.

Thank God nobody was hurt.

The day seemed to start off with delays – The Membranes were due on at 12.30pm, but didn’t take to the stage until an hour later, and then they had their set cut to just three songs. Embrace played at 6pm, but were due at 3.15pm, and even when they did make it to the stage, there was initially no sound.

But the mid-festival standstill led to yet more delays. They were running so late that Charlotte Church was thrown off the bill entirely at the last minute.

Less than half an hour before James began their set, they were told to shorten it. They were initially allotted a full 90 minute set, but ended up playing just nine songs. And this is where things really took off.

Tim Booth, James’ frontman, took to Twitter to apologise to everyone affected by the day’s events and to thank people for sticking around.

The response from Hope and Glory’s social media was less than professional.

And this continued. When pressed for answers for the day’s problems, they responded by blaming everything on one man, namely the production manager, and gave his email address out for everyone to contact him (we have censored the email because we’re not total cockrings).

Yeah! It’s all Richard‘s fault!

Except…erm…well, this is the promoter Lee O’Hanlon on Facebook last week…

Following this, there came another message. For the life of me, I don’t understand how anybody could possibly think that this was a good way of cancelling a day at a festival.

No apology. No explanation. Just three words; “No festival today”. Christ, technically, they didn’t even specify which festival. Given that they spoke to the Liverpool Echo not long before this, declaring that Sunday would go ahead, they could reasonably have been talking about V Festival. I mean, there was no V Festival yesterday, was there? Granted, it wasn’t scheduled to be taking place, but there wasn’t any context to  make that clear.

There was then an appalling display on social media through the festival’s official account, where understandably frustrated fans were mocked, patronised and treated like garbage.

It almost feels like people are being laughed at. And then people did start laughing, thanks to the @HopeNGloryhole gag account.

To add insult to injury (almost literally), they previously announced that profits would be going to One Love Manchester. Following the cancellation, it turned out that only Sunday’s profits were going to charity. You know, the cancelled day.

Not that I suspect it matters. If you haven’t got a refund yet, I urge you to. Contact your ticket agents posthaste.

But then maybe this should be expected. The company behind this fiasco are called (after this, that might be “were called“) tinyCOW. A man named Lee O’ Hanlon runs it. He was involved in a Tom Jones gig on the Isle of Man which was so disastrous that it ended up on the BBC’s Rip Off Britain, and have also has had issues spring up with a gigs they promoted for The Jacksons.

In regards to the issues surrounding both gigs, O’Hanlon admitted there were problems, but claimed these were the fault of a company rather ironically called Loose Cannon and Villa-Gaiety, whose general manager Dawn Maddrell was put on precautionary suspension when O’Hanlon made a series of allegations about the staging of the shows.

And then there’s this, which is consistent with the reaction we saw from Hope and Glory’s Twitter.

His initial response to complaints about Saturday on Facebook was; “Bandwagon. People love to talk shit. Screw ’em“.

Whoever from Liverpool City Council gave permission for the festival to go ahead should have done the tiniest bit of research on who was asking for this permission. As soon as Rip-Off Britain shows up in a quick ten minute Google search, alarm bells should be ringing. At the very least, it appears as though the people running the event were out of their depth.

Somebody needs to be held accountable. This show should not have happened. Liverpool has one of the healthiest festival and events calendars of any major city in Europe. This reputation has taken a long time to build, and we don’t want one screw up that has nothing to do with us to ruin it. But that is what is in all the news reports; “Liverpool’s Hope and Glory Festival”.

To anyone outside the city – this company has nothing to do with the Liverpool arts community. We have so much incredible stuff going on here; the total gorgeousness of Africa Oye, the sheer diversity of LIMF, the grass roots family feel of Threshold, niche events like Psych Fest, Liverpool Disco Festival, Positive Vibration. All of them wonderful in their own way, all of them well organised and coming from the heart.

Through all of this, Hope and Glory thought they could come here and shit on our doorstep with a half-arsed bill, poor planning, unprofessional actions and terrible conditions. How dare they?

Give everybody a refund. Pay every single band you booked. And on behalf of the Liverpool arts community – fuck you.

And it was the Liverpool arts community who was left to clear up their mess.

When Charlotte Church’s set was cancelled, she appealed on Twitter for a guerrilla gig. Liquidation took her up on the offer, and within 90 minutes the gig was prepared in EBGB’s, free for anybody with festival wristbands.

The Magnet attempted to house some of the bands for an impromptu replacement gig, but were unable to make it happen due to logistics. That said, Zanzibar were able to stage a gig with Clean Cut Kid and The Lightning Seeds at very short notice, again free for festival wristband holders. Other venues, such as Studio 2 and Berry and Rhye, took people in, or gave them drinks offers.

That is the spirit of the Liverpool arts community. Not the gang of tossers behind Hope and Glory.

At the very least, we can leave you with something a bit prophetic.

Update: Full statement from Hope & Glory.

Dear all

It is with the deepest regret that the organisers of HOPE & GLORY made the decision to cancel the Sunday of the festival. We can appreciate how disappointed and angry the festival-goers are as we are feeling the same. To say that the organisers feel anything short of devastated would be a gross understatement.

Whilst we accept responsibility for our festival, we believe it is important that we are wholly transparent with the issues that led to our decision.

We are conducting a full review into what happened, however it is clear at this early stage that multitudinous failures by the Production Management Team, headed by Richard Agar, resulted in a plethora of issues that meant the decision to cancel the festival was made. Again, the festival accepts its responsibility but the public attending the festival need to know the truth behind our decision to sadly cancel the festival. We already know at this early stage, that we be taking legal action against some parties employed as a result of the failures.

We will now address some of the key points that led to our decision and also provide correct information about some of the comments that we have seen made about the festival and other matters of concern:

We are aware of a social media account claiming to be Jannet Loures. We are equally aware that the comments by this individual will have caused further distress to us and the public.

We have never heard of this individual yet she claims to be solicitor to the HOPE & GLORY Festival. Her comments and claims should be disregarded as should many of the fake accounts that appear to be engaging with her comments. We believe we know the source of these and the police have been advised.

We have seen a number of comments suggesting the festival was over capacity.
In joint agencies group meeting Angie Redhead, Head of City Assets for Liverpool Council advised the group that the capacity allowed is 15,000. This was noted in minutes of the meeting.

The number seemed very excessive to Hope & Glory Festival Ltd and our company advised the council and emergency services in attendance that we were very uncomfortable with the capacity that Angie Redhead of Liverpool Council advised on behalf of the council.

As a direct result of the festival statement of concern, the capacity was reduced by 2,500 people.

We can confirm that contrary to claims on social media, at no point did the festival exceed the capacity agreed by the SAG (council, police, fire, ambulance).

The festival was concerned about the numbers and so decided to further reduce the capacity on the day by mid afternoon and stopped selling day tickets as a way to do so thus reducing the capacity below that that had been sanctioned by the Sag (blue light services and Liverpool City Council). It is worth noting that if we had proceeded with the 15,000 Angie Redhead of Liverpool Council had advised the festival then this would have been at a severely dangerous level. We are relieved we did not.

We are very aware of the claims of excessive queues, bottle necking and late running of stage times which also led to the cancellation of one major act.

The festival accept that this occurred and profusely apologise to the public and artists for this.

However, it is important to acknowledge why these issues occurred and whom was responsible for them. Whereas Hope & Glory accept ultimate responsibility for the event we must highlight the issues caused not only to the public and Hope & Glory festival but to other companies involved in the delivery of the festival also.

The festival employed experienced Production Manager Richard Agar and his team to deliver the production element of the event. The Production failed to deliver a site that was ready in time. We had agreed that doors would be opened at 11am though advertised at noon. This was agreed with the Council, blue light services and all contractors for the event including Richard Agar.

Mr Agar and the team he appointed to carry out the production sadly did not deliver the site as ready in time for 11am. We view this solely as a management issue as his team appeared to work exceedingly hard to address what they needed to.

At 12:45 William Brown St was still having build materials cleared from it. As a direct result the festival opened 1 hour and 50 minutes later than agreed and 50 minutes later than advertised. These had a massive impact on the queues that never recovered from them until much later in the day. We will continue to liaise with Mr Agar and his company and seek a resolution over these issues.

Despite the delay opening, it became apparent that the bridges that the festival had requested be built from William Brown Street into St. Johns Gardens to ease congestion had not been built. We believe that these were the sole reason for the bottle necking that occurred. We requested that these be delivered by Mr Agar’s production management as agreed and they clearly were not.

The festival became concerned during the course of the day. We requested to a PCSO onsite that a senior police officer join us to assess the matter. That occurred along with us putting in place a temporary measure to imporove the flow of people movement between the gardens and William Brown St. That resolved the matter though we realised it was still not ideal. We held entry back onto the site whilst we revieqwed the steps taken with the police and opened them again when we were sure that public safety had once again been established.

We will continue to liaise with Mr Agar and his company and seek a resolution over these issues.

We profusely apologise to all customers, artists and management alike over the late stage running and the necessary cancellation of one main stage act and reduction of some set lengths. It was necessary for all the reasons above.

All ticket purchasers should consult the company they purchased their tickets from for advice on this.

We have reported to the police the theft of property from the festival site and in particular from St.George’s Hall. We had previously been advised by council officials that our office in St.George’s Hall was a safe place to leave our belongings and that there was sufficient security in the building. It seems however that our belongings were not safe from Angie Redhead of Liverpool City Council’s decisions and I will address that now.

On Saturday evening, all of the artist riders were laid out in Suite 2 of St. George’s Hall. The value of these were circa £2,000. We have been advised by Angie Redhead that most of this was “donated’ when she said “We made the decision to give it away”. A decision they were not authorised to make.

Angie Redhead claimed that the ‘perishables’ would have “gone off”. This is remarkable as the food was not perishable within two hours (!) but that most had long dates on them and even the shorter dated products had a few days – certainly enough time available to drop us an email asking what should be done with them. There was certainly nothing that would have gone off, save perhaps a pint milk we understand was there and the room was not so warm that it would have caused an issue to any of the products. As we know the Sunday was a much cooler, rainy day too!

Even more concerning was that out of the vast amount of alcohol in that room, most of it was gone – including all the spirits (bourbon, gin, whisky, vodka, rum etc) and all but one of the plentiful bottles of wine. A small amount of the alcohol has been returned but no spirits and only one bottle of wine. Again, Angie Redhead advised, when challenged that she had “Made the decision to give it away”. For the avoidance of doubt, the quotes I have attributed to Angie Redhead here are exact. As a council official, and without contacting the festival organisers (we had been on site that morning and were again that afternoon).

We were refused entry to check it which given my quiet demeanour when working with the local authority and discussing the riders we were most surprised at.

No-one in the festival set up with such responsibility received any email from Angie Redhead. We consider that theft of Hope & Glory Festival Limited owned goods.

There was cash and two Mac computers present in Suite 1. The macs we may have located and the money I need to look into but, as we have said already, Angie Redhead chose not to allow me entry into the building – a decision I am still unclear on why she too as it was our belongings in there. As I had already been in the building 5 minutes earlier and was asking where my Macs were, we can only imagine she made that decision because she knew we were about to discover about the alcohol.


Some of the above will not apply to you all but we are attempting to be as transparent as possible and will answer any other questions we can. Some matters will of course lead us to legal action against some parties so our apologies if at this stage we can’t answer everything.

Hope & Glory Festival wish to once again apologise to all our customers and acts and others involved. We are desperately saddened that what was to be a superb and exciting festival ended in cancellation. We did so because the Health & Safety of all of our customers takes precedence over anything else and we felt that given the issues of the Saturday, these could not be assured.

Such concerns will always be our priority and we will update you on more as our investigation continues.

We have received a question about the festival cancellation for the Sunday. We cancelled the Sunday after we became increasingly aware that the work required by one contractor had not been carried out. We felt that we were fortunate that no-one was injured on the Sunday during the bottlenecking and that the festival site was still not going to be as requested. We had dismissed from site the Production Manager and decided that it was more important to that the event be cancelled rather than have a second day where health and safety could be potentially compromised. Simply put, there were too many elements that had not been addressed by the company tasked to provide them. Our sincere apologies about this.