The report relating to Hope & Glory festival has been released and not surprisingly it is a shocking read.
Anyone with any sense would say that this was a disaster from the outset; the numbers were off, the site was wrong, the build was late and the organiser not in control.
While this thing was being built I was basically living in the Library, so I walked past the site every day. As every day passed I became more and more alarmed. It looked like a bottleneck, it was a dead end, the site was a cobblestone hill with no exits, not much in the way of signage and an awful lot of unanswered questions.
The report has been released by Liverpool City Council and is accompanied by a remarkable statement by one Councillor Wendy Simon, who clearly has no idea what she is doing or hasn’t actually read the report.
Learn lessons Wendy?
Anyone involved in sanctioning this disaster needs to be removed from their post.
If the report is a little tl;dr I’ve gone through it for you.
A lot of people searched out Lee O’Hanlon, the public face of Hope & Glory, after things went belly up. I googled him before that and discovered that there were a few issues around other shows that raised questions.
There were shows by Tom Jones and the Jacksons that led to a prolonged row with the Isle of Man Dept of Economic Development over significant losses.
That said the report states there is no requirement, legal ability or facility to carry out a background check on event organisers on submission of a bid to deliver an event. Therefore no background checks were carried out.
The report does suggest there should be a “robust and formalised system for assessing the suitability, capacity, and track‐record of independent event organiser.”
This is an important point.
Lee O’Hanlon seems to have managed this process in much the same way that he did his Social Media accounts. That the Museum steps weren’t part of the plan at any stage, either on paper or in reality, appears to have upset Lee over the course of planning and right up to the build. He apparently threatened to cancel on numerous occasions.
As I spent the build week in the library, I passed the site every day. That anyone thought the build was acceptable or on time is insane.
The ‘Secret Gig’ dropped in on Thursday necessitated MOVING huge chunks of the build the day before the event into St Georges Hall and then back out, without any consideration as to whether this was a wise move.
It wasn’t clearly.
That the main stage PA was subcontracted out at short notice is not a surprise, again, this meant the festival lost a whole day of the build. That Lee was more concerned about artists facilities is no surprise to anyone who read about SARNIEGATE.
There was no bridge, this would prove to be a key part of the issue. The image below is the site plan Lee submitted, the area I’ve highlighted in yellow is important for our discussion. Also, the original looks like it was done in Microsoft Paint.
The detail is lacking to say the very least. Is this all a council needs these days? Seriously?
I could write a post on this image alone. It’s shockingly bad and not worth the effort.
A mere 15 minutes before the ‘soft opening’ the site was in chaos. There were plant machines roaming through public areas, no site or emergency signage and much confusion. This was probably down to the fact that there had been almost no production meetings during the build week.
Read that bit again. Really.
At midday, half an hour after the soft open time had been and gone an irate Lee O’Hanlon appears to spend his time swearing at the production manager over a radio. (One could easily believe that this was a junior intern and not Lee, because, you know, he’s a professional) The still irate Lee announces that the site will open in five minutes, sign off documents or no. Professional to the bitter end that lad. I will drop the next line verbatim from the report.
“There is no evidence that a “Safety Event Checklist” was ever completed, or indeed that any strategic review
of site conditions were carried out prior to opening.”
The sign offs are eventually given verbally (yes, really) to Liverpool City Council, those were probably not worth the paper they were written on.
That huge elements of the build, the bridge, safety signage and emergency exits were overlooked is remarkable, the report states that none of this was noted by anyone and that no one on site was briefed or prepared.
Once gates open the inevitable chaos ensued, the police are called by attendees over crushes, bits of the site are reorganised and Lee slowly goes into meltdown mode.
At 17.00 LOH dismisses RA over the radio. (RA is managing the production)
RA attempts to remain on site to assist on the main stage.
He eventually is ejected by LOH at 18.30
By 7pm, hours behind schedule, with a distraught and canceled Charlotte Church looking for a home elsewhere, Lee O’Hanlon is by all accounts in hiding.
30 minutes after Lee sacked the event manager, management is taken over by the Council team. Honest to Christ, I’m not making this up. The team on site read like they knocked their pans in to get things over the line safely, the police help with closing roads and egress and the team then appear to go into overdrive to make Sunday safe.
Sub Contractors are happy to be effectively REEMPLOYED by Liverpool City Council and happy to continue, the site manager who Lee ‘ejected’ was asked to return by the Council team on the basis that he probably knew the site better than anyone. There was apparently still no sign of Lee up to and including at the debrief after the site is cleared.
Lee was nowhere to be seen for hours amid utter chaos. At his festival.
Lee stumbles back into the site at 2 am. Stumble is just a word here, I can’t think of another that’s suitable, if that word is misconstrued as anything other than Lee returning then you are a bad person. Shame on you, shame I say.
Lee proceeds to speak to the techs getting ready for Sunday, he tells them that the show is off and they are dismissed from the site. Again, more sage, safe and professional advice from Lee there. At 5am the Social Media Meltdown begins.
NO FESTIVAL TODAY.
This is where it gets interesting, early on Sunday morning Liverpool City Council staff, who by this stage had taken control of the event, return to the site to find very little had changed since the night before, just before Lee sacked everyone at 2am. You know, because he clearly knew what was going on in the hours he was AWOL.
Liverpool City Council staff then discover the NO FESTIVAL TODAY post and the chaos that was erupting online. With the site in actual chaos, the production hours behind (again) and attendees no doubt furious about the situation, a decision is taken to cancel the event officially, hence the early morning confusion online.
Remember, Lee sacked the Site manager, went AWOL, cancelled the Sunday without talking to the new event managers and had a Social Media Meltdown while he was not OFFICIALLY running the event. But what about the SANDWICHES Angie…?
The report states that the site was not ready to open when it did, remember, it was Lees call, he insisted it open and the sign off was done verbally over a radio. The Council should have stepped in at that point and pulled the plug. The sign off was farcical, no one was watching the numbers and the capacity was at dangerous levels. People were given the wrong passes and the ticket gates were a disaster, searches were brief and equally shocking given the events in Manchester.
That there had to be significant changes made during the event on Saturday should tell you all you need to know about its readiness to open. The site failed at what the report calls below capacity.
The report also states that there was a significant risk to public safety. That the new management team from LCC was undermined by Lee’s social media outbursts and his 2am hissy fit suggests he is to be avoided at all costs.
I’m putting the image below in because it scares the shit out of me. Here is the lead singer of James. Ah lads, why is there no one behind him?
It would be my opinion that both the Safety Advisory Group and the Joint Agency Group missed some pretty key elements in the lead up to H&G.
The report states that SAG basically rubber-stamped the JAG reports, that JAG didn’t see any issues in relation to numbers and layout is staggering.
One look at the sitemap shows that the missing bridge, if it were in place would have caused a massive bottleneck further down the hill, beside the FOH desk and in a much more dangerous position. That should be within the remit of the JAG to spot. The next line is verbatim.
“The signed copy of the Land Use Agreement provided to TESS (Appendix 3) is dated 26th August 2017, i.e. some three weeks after the event.
It is assumed this must be a typo”
Should no one have checked this was in place before gates opened? Who is looking at these documents and what are they doing with them?
The JAG meeting of 30th January signs off the final ticket allocation of 12,500. An April JAG meeting was delayed as Lee had a ‘serious family illness’ to attend to. At this stage, the appointed production and safety manager walks. Why?
(It’s also worth pointing out that this report was delayed as Lee was on ‘holiday’, regardless of the fact his social media stream was filled with tales of dropping his teenage son off to school, grounding him for talking back in front of his mates and Saturday kickabouts.)
Lee delays yet another JAG meeting. The next meeting is June 15. Lee cancels the 4 July JAG with one more proposed to take place on site before the event, this meeting is attended only by LCC. The debrief JAG meeting is held on August 16, Lee couldn’t make it.
The processes in this are a mess.
The number of 12,500 wasn’t based on any analysis of the site. Someone plucked the number from thin air or from out their arse. Lee is said to have suggested 12,500 so there’s that. The relationship between SAG and JAG is crucial in this instance, that it appears to have failed is more than an oversight.
Its a complete dereliction of duty. A dereliction of duty that should have been cause for alarm for anyone watching this unfold. Again, verbatim from the report:
“If there is a specific failure, it is that of the JAG to have gone through the EMP and
other documents in fine detail. Given the fact that multiple JAG’s were cancelled
(with none held between January 30th and June 15th ) the opportunity for scrutiny and to ask detailed questions was much reduced. This period also saw the departure of Neil Marcus as the Production Manager and Safety Adviser, which should have been cause for concern.”
The debrief JAG meeting notes that all present agreed the event document was a good document. Well, of course, they would, anything else would show how little attention they paid to the thing in the first place.
A NUMBERS GAME
My initial concern around this event was the numbers in attendance. The ongoing license in place for the wider area includes the gardens, William Brown street where the main stage was, St Georges Plaza and a closed off Lime Street. The licence states that area holds 14,999 people.
Now, when you build this stuff you cut that number for every bit of space you lose to something else.
Knock 400 off for ticketing and access areas, knock a few of thousand off because you’re not using the plaza, another few thousand off because you’re not using Lime Street, knock a few hundred off when you lose the areas for staging and backstage, knock a hundred or so off for every van, structure or bar space, now knock another couple of hundred off because you need to leave room for people to breathe. Then, finally, knock off about 600 for performers, staff, stewards, and others.
That falls way below 12,500.
Now, Neil Marcus, our plucky production manager who walked out in May, put the total number of attendees at 7000 just before his departure, just SEVEN THOUSAND.
Lee didn’t pass this fact on to Liverpool City Council according to the report.
The report states that a decision to proceed with an occupancy of 12,500 was deeply flawed.
If we expect 75% will want to see the headliner that gives you 9,375 people on that cobbled street.
No shit Sherlock.
9,375 people in 2500m2 gives an average density of 3.75 person per metre square. National guidance (Purple Guide, drawn from HSG195 The Event Safety Guide)
indicates 2 per square metre as a safe maximum average density.
The evacuation calculations may well have been written on a beer mat. Its all in the report but too unwieldy to add in here, but to suggest it was a fiasco is no surprise.
The exits and speed at which the site could have been evacuated are so far removed from reality as to be unbelievable, the fact that the main stage space was in itself a bottleneck is undeniable.
With 4500 OVER THE SAFE LIMIT, there is every possibility they could have been lining bodies up alongside the Hillsborough memorial.
I do not say that lightly.
Again, verbatim from the report:
Critical considerations of occupancy and exit capacity are glossed over with
references to 12,500 under the ‘existing licence’ [page 5].
But there is more than a grain of truth in Mr O’Hanlon’s observation that the Safety Advisory Group effectively sanctioned it “in their agreement to the event at that
The SAG sanctioned this number on the basis of the work of the JAG.
Let’s look at the site.
This image relates to the license for a total of 14,999 people. It includes William Brown Street where the main stage was, the gardens, the plaza and a closed off Lime street. None of the images include St Georges Hall itself.
The effective space Hope & Glory used is below.
This is before bars, FOH and other bits and bobs are added into the street and gardens.
The space Hope & Glory had for the Headliners, a possible 75% of 12,500 is below.
Given that the license of 14,999 relates to the first image, I find it incredible that anyone from JAG or SAG didn’t spot the anomaly here. I am stunned by it. Are we really supposed to believe Hope & Glory could fit 12,500 into that box safely? Sorry, no.
How did no one see this?
Most of the press so far and the Council statement seems to gloss over this element of the report. This is the most critical point of this entire post. We know Lee was unable to deliver this, that is beyond debate at this point, but the council has a duty of care and a legal responsibility to ensure the event is safe and that organisers are aware of the requirements of the license and the event.
The list of failings from tinyCOW, Lee, the Event Management Plan and the operations itself are too many to list. There are significant failings from JAG and SAG in allowing this to go ahead, it was their responsibility to scrutinse the plans and they clearly missed the ball. tinyCOW and Lee were simply not capable of running this and someone somewhere should have seen it. This City is bloody lucky no one died.