Glastonbury Festival organisers ordered to take more action on noise and crowd control
By Daniel Mumby - Local Democracy Reporter
24th Nov 2022 | Local News
The organisers of the Glastonbury Festival have been ordered to take decisive action to reduce unwanted noise and ensure proper crowd control at near year's event.
Mendip District Council, which issues the licence for the Glastonbury Festival, has published a "de-brief" report following this year's event, which raises a number of concerns about how well things were managed.
Both councillors and local residents raised concerns when the report came before the council's scrutiny board when it met in Shepton Mallet on Tuesday evening (November 22).
The festival organisers, Glastonbury Festival Events Ltd. (GFEL), will provide its response to the criticisms in writing within the next couple of months.
The de-brief report stated that the festival in 2022 had been "well planned and managed", building on feedback offered after the events in 2017 and 2019 (2018 was a 'fallow year' to allow the land at Worthy Farm to recover).
However, the need for improvement within three key areas was identified:
- More work was needed to "address excessive loudness and low frequency noise", including monitoring and time restrictions
- A new strategy is needed to control the density of camping within the staff and performer areas to reduce fire risk and prevent "conflict between vehicles and tents"
- Work is needed to achieve "improvements to crowd distribution across the site" to prevent crushes and other injuries
Nick Hall, who lives in Pilton near the festival site, told the scrutiny board on Tuesday evening (November 22): "Despite this council making recommendations after the 2017 and 2019 festivals regarding night-time noise and off-site noise management, this year proved to be even worse.
"This debrief report glosses over substantial complaints made to the council. My perception is that licence conditions were breached from Wednesday through to Morning morning.
"Loud amplified music continued until 1am on Friday morning. Over the weekend period, there were multiple complaints about noise going on until 4am. It would be nice to think the council enforces all licensing conditions, but let's not get carried away with ourselves."
Caroline Griffiths, who also lives in the village, added: "On Wednesday evening going into Thursday at 3am, I was so frustrated that I rang the village helpline. The same thing happened on Thursday night – I rang and there was no-one there at all.
"On Saturday night there was very loud bass music. My experience was not a good one – I had a sleepless period and it did affect my work."
These residents concerns were shared by several councillors, including regular festival attendee Michael Gay.
He said: "When Arcadia finished performing at the south-east corner, there were crushes. There was also a bad crush on Thursday evening when an inappropriate venue was chosen for what's known as TBAX – that is, people don't know who's going to be on.
"Mr Eavis was gracing us with his presence and the point was not just how much of a lure that was, but the fact that there was virtually nothing going on by way of live music at the time.
"In terms of dynamics, it is the worst that I have seen it."
Councillor Chris Inchley, who chaired the meeting, added: "I echo the comments made by the public and highlighted in the report. I have to say, this year I had constituents contact me about the noise of the festival – even the local MP did the same.
"Anecdotally, talking to people who actually went to the festival, one comment made by many people was about the actual number of people on the site, especially on the Sunday. They said they felt rather unsafe with the volume of people."
Councillor Heather Shearer, portfolio holder for community health and neighbourhood services, said that the festival site was large enough to accommodate all ticket-holders, but more needed to be done to control crowds in particular areas to prevent crushes.
She said: "It is recognised as something that the festival organisers need to be thinking about.
"Because it's such a massive site, it's clearly big enough for the people if it goes to the pinnacle of its numbers. The issue is really about crowd dynamics – about the pinch points when they move.
"Every time the festival is run, there are always changes made to the layout, to the number of stages, to the [number of] people who were coming. The interest actually wasn't anticipated that the number of people would go to the various stages at a particular time."
Marietta Gill, the council's public protection manager, added: "There were definitely issues around the distribution and movement of people.
"Some acts were a lot more popular than was expected, and GFEL recognises that work needs to be done on that."
Councillor Nick Cottle, however, opined that the increase in noise could be attributed at least in part to different weather conditions during the festival.
He said: "I live, as the crows flies, probably about four miles from the Pyramid Stage. A few years ago I could hear it quite easily on a Sunday evening without problem; now, I can't hear it at all.
"It's dependent on weather conditions, wind speed and other things that you've got to take into consideration. I mean no disrespect to the residents, but the weather conditions control a lot of where the sound goes to."
Councillor Damon Hooton bemoaned that the festival was effectively being subsidised by taxpayers since the fees relating to the licence were set at a low level by the Home Office.
He said: "I think it's scandalous that we are not even able to cover our costs.
"There is a lot of time, effort, blood, sweat and tears goes into putting this festival on by officers here – basically, the taxpayers are subsidising it, and I think that's quite wrong."
The Home Office is expected to launch a consultation on fees councils can charge in relation to licensed events in January 2023.
Ms Shearer said she was confident that the issues raised in the report would be taken seriously and pro-actively addressed."
She said; "We would have no problem in taking action if licence conditions are breached.
"We have to work with them [GFEL], we want to work with them and build a relationship with them, but we never forget what our duties are."
Mr Inchley concluded: "We need the festival to be successful, we need it to be safe, and we need to make sure that the neighbours aren't inconvenienced too greatly by it."
Glastonbury Festival Events Ltd. was approached by the Local Democracy Reporting Service after the council's report was published, but did not respond to a request for comment.
GFEL sent two representatives to the scrutiny board meeting in person, with a further representative joining via phone link; however, none of them spoke during the meeting or responded to the individual concerns raised.