Witcombe Cider Festival has responded after complaints came in about the ongoing event.
The annual bash draws in huge crowds to the outskirts of Brockworth looking for a pint or two in the biggest cider festival in the UK, with big name music acts providing the entertainment.
But the event has so far left a bitter taste in the mouths of some festival-goers after a raft of complaints and claims of ‘chaos’ were directed at the organisers on social media.
Long queues, people fainting in the heat, and a lack of general organisation have been some of the criticisms lobbed after the first two days of the three-day event, which concludes with a highly-anticipated headline set from rapper Dizzee Rascal tonight.
But the organisers have said that queues for drinks at an event the size of theirs should be expected, and that they are working ‘flat-out’ to try and keep everyone happy. Plenty of praise for the event has also been posted on social media by other festival-goers.
One lady, from Abbeymead, went with three of her friends after having been at the festival in 2016.
But her second experience proved to be the last as she says: “We spent an hour queuing at the bar only to give up and try another bar, where we spent another hour queuing.
“It was such an awful experience. People were fainting in the queues because of the heat – there was just no organisation. People were brawling and fighting in the field. Each of the bars were ‘constantly’ running out of cider, with the main bar only having three types left. The manager said he didn’t realise that it was going to be so hot, but they had been posting about the weather on social media all week. The issue was just a complete lack of management. I’ll never go again.”
She and her friends decided to leave after just two hours at the festival, she said, but before they left they went to the head office of the festival to ask for a refund, which they were refused.
For 52-year-old Andrew Costello, it was his very first festival experience of any kind and after staying for three hours before going home, he said it may have been his last.
He said: “We queued for an hour for drinks and tried to make them last as long as possible. But it was so hot that after half an hour we had to get another. By the time we reached the bar again they told us they were out of plastic cups and all they had were little bottles of wine.
Andrew, who was there with his girlfriend and her son, said they tried to make the best of the situation as much as they could. But he continued: “We had been there for three hours and two-and-a-half hours wedged in a massive crowd waiting for a drink.
“It was my first time at a festival so I just thought this must be normal. I really regret spending the money on it and wasting the day. I felt a bit sorry for the staff, but there just weren’t enough people for the crowds that were there.”
Sam Lewis, who was also at the festival, said: “It’s a complete shambles, I waited over an hour at bars yesterday and there were people passing out in the heat. Lots of people left early – there’s a lot of angry and upset people who want a lot of answers rather than being ignored. The event continues to flood social media with further marketing last night rather than responding to comments. Theres simply no regard for the safety wellbeing or enjoyment of entrants and in all honesty it’s a money grabbing con. There was no lighting on the road for pedestrians when leaving the event and security couldn’t control the crowds – local roads were used as car parks and from what I’ve heard lots of residents are not happy.”
Sarah Larner, from Brockworth, went to the festival with seven members of her family and was left feeling ‘completely mugged off’.
She said: “As it got busier and busier they started running out of cider. They class themselves as a cider festival but they only had three types of cider. We paid all that money for this – you do not expect to wait two hours in the heat for a drink. We opted to go to a cider tour, which was pushed back to later in the day, until it was eventually cancelled.
In Sarah’s opinion, the apology from the Witcombe Cider Festival isn’t good enough.
“They’re ignoring people’s comments,” she said. They say it will be better today but what about all the people who paid for Saturday and couldn’t get a drink?
“We booked it back in January and arranged childcare for it.”
What the organisers said
Joe Pointon, organiser of the Witcombe Cider Festival, defended the event and said:
“At the end of the day, it’s a major festival, not a pub garden event. Most people that go to festivals expect hour-long queues. Glastonbury had two-hour long queues for water earlier this summer and the wait at the cider festival was nowhere near that. We had a record crowd yesterday and it was very busy. We did have a two-hour long meeting in the early hours of this morning to improve on everything – we got more staff, made sure we had enough of everything. Our bar staff are exceptional, they work completely flat-out. We’re doing everything we can.”
Joe went on to highlight the positive influence of the festival in Gloucester, saying: “We have Plan B, Faithless and Dizzee Rascal – three major acts.
“Plan B himself told me it was really refreshing to play at an independent festival and he loved the atmosphere and spirit of the crowds.”
Witcombe Cider Festival responded to the complaints on their social media today, saying: “Witcombe Cider Festival fully acknowledges and apologies profusely for the delays at bars yesterday.
“We can assure you that the organisers and management team have been working tirelessly throughout the night and have taken measures to ensure that these issues are resolved for today’s event.
“We take this opportunity to ensure ALL festival goers waiting times will be drastically reduced today due to more bar staff, more tills and the prepouring of popular drinks.”
News by Gloucestershire Live