Residents of Shanklin met on Tuesday night to discuss the decision by the Isle of Wight council to grant a licence for Wow Fest. Many thanks to David Pugh for sending through this press release which reveals the details of an action group formed to fight the festival. Ed
Following a meeting on Tuesday evening (27th September), a group of local residents have vowed to redouble their efforts to prevent the WOW Festival taking place on the outskirts of Shanklin next year.
This meeting took place after the decision of the IW Council’s Licensing (Determinations) Sub-Committee to grant a three-year licence to WOW Festivals Ltd to hold a festival on land at Shanklin Road, on the edge of the town. The licence permits WOW Festivals to hold the event annually in August in 2012, 2013 and 2014, with numbers of 18,000, 20,000 and 22,000 respectively.
A small team of local residents, from Shanklin and others parts of the Island, have set up a campaign group – RAW (Residents Against Wow) – to co-ordinate efforts to minimise the impact of the festival, or prevent it taking place. They have vowed to use all legitimate means to thwart the event.
The residents are supported by local councillors, David Pugh and David Williams, who are continuing to represent their views and highlight the shortcomings of the festival.
Speaking after the residents’ meeting, Cllr Pugh said: “The Licensing Authority made the wrong decision last week. This festival is in the wrong place, at the wrong time of year
and is organised by the wrong people. We are hugely disappointed with the decision, not least because we presented sound policy reasons setting out why the application should have been refused.
“However the granting of a licence is only one step towards this event taking place. There are many other obstacles still in the way of the organisers, and we are now redoubling our efforts
to stop this festival becoming a reality. Between myself, Cllr Williams and many local residents, we will – over the coming weeks and months – be pursuing a number of routes in our efforts to achieve this. Anyone who shares our concerns about this event should get in touch; we would be pleased to involve them in our campaign.”
The view that it was the wrong decision is shared by many residents. A number are currently considering whether to lodge an appeal to the decision. An announcement on this issue will be made on Friday 14th October, which is the deadline for making such an appeal.
There are also concerns that the licensing hearing was not conducted properly. Shanklin resident Kelly Moorman is writing to the licensing authority setting out her concerns about their failure to follow their own procedures. For example, the requirement that “an equal maximum period of time will be given to the parties in which to present their case” was not followed. The applicants and responsible authorities spoke for over five hours before local residents (interested parties) were given less than an hour to make their points. Furthermore the incorrect running order was used, affording the applicant two opportunities to sum up.
Miss Moorman said: “I believe that the meeting was unfairly weighted in the favour of the applicant and that the interested parties and objectors were very unfairly disadvantaged. The panel in their decision process took no heed of any of the representations made by the objectors which is apparent in the list of the conditions imposed with the granting of the license. They only appeared to take heed of the issues raised by the responsible authorities.
“I request that the IW Council re-hear this application because it is absolutely unacceptable that we should have to pay a fee and appeal to the magistrates’ court with the possibility of having costs awarded against us, particularly when the local authority has not followed a fair and just procedure. Should they decide not to re-hear this application, then myself and the other objectors will have no other option than to complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman and possibly apply for a judicial review. We consider that this would be our only reasonable course of action to seek redress in this matter.”
Miss Moorman and other residents will be requesting a response by Friday 7th October.
John Hague, a resident of Shanklin and a member of the local Ramblers Association, is leading the efforts to prevent the closure rights of way in the area of the festival site. The
festival organisers have indicated that they will be seeking the closure of footpaths that run through the proposed location. Mr Hague, along with many other local residents, will be urging
the highways authority (IW Council) to resist any requests for the closure of rights of way.
Mr Hague said: “The Ramblers are very concerned at the proposals to close popular and well used rights of way in the area of the festival site. These routes provide essential links in the network for walkers, horse riders and cyclists. To close them at the height of the tourist season and school holidays will cause disruption, inconvenience and nuisance to Island people and to our important tourist business.
“The Council is obliged “to assert and protect the rights of the public to the use and enjoyment of the highway” (Highways Act 1980). Such closures are specified to be “because of the likelihood of danger to the public” (Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984). These proposed closures will result in users seeking alternative routes involving major roads in the area – thus exposing themselves to greater danger. We will fight for our right to use rights
of way which have been in place for centuries. We will not allow a set of festival organisers to deprive us of this right.”
Residents of the Island who have an interest in walking, cycling and horseriding will be urged to join the campaign to support local rights of way being kept open throughout the summer season. Without these closures the event may not be able to take place.
A lot of concern has been expressed that the proposed timing of this festival would have an adverse impact on the established tourism industry in the locality. August, in the middle of the school holidays, is the peak time for those working in the visitor economy, and local hoteliers are concerned as to whether Shanklin and the wider Bay area can cope with such a vast additional influx of visitors at that time.
Chris Quirk, a local hotelier and Chairman of the Shanklin Hotel and Accommodation Association said: “Our members are not opposed to a new festival per se, and many recognise that such an event out of the main season could extend our tourism offer. However the likely impact of this event in August would be to deter our traditional audience of seaside visitors, which could have a lasting detrimental effect for many years ahead.
“Our regular guests would struggle to get space on the ferries and even if they got here would experience our relaxed seaside town being potentially overwhelmed with excessive numbers
of visitors. We are disappointed that the organisers have not sought to work in partnership with the local tourist industry.
“Contrary to their claims of this being a boost to the longer-term prosperity of the area, it could have exactly the reverse effect. We strongly urge them to think again about the timing of this event.”
Island resident John Wortham has been a long-standing campaigner on behalf of various local individuals companies, who are owed thousands of pounds by two of the directors of WOW Festivals Ltd. Philip Snellen (Festival Director / MD) and Geri Ward (Director of Communications) have outstanding county court judgements against them as a result of their failure to pay bills for past music events they have organised. This is a matter of public record. Mr Wortham and his supporters believe that these bills should be settled in full before Mr Snellen and Miss Ward run another event.
Mr Wortham said: “I must admit to being staggered at the revelation the dubious duo of Snellen and Ward of jazz / folk festivals notoriety have the sheer gall to announce plans for a new festival. The catalogue of their misdemeanours has been extensively covered, not least by two editions of BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours programme.
“Geri Ward states that past problems only concerned the IW Folk and Blues Festival, and ‘lessons had been learnt’, as if that excused non payment to artists and contractors. The facts are, of course, that large sums are owed not only on the folk festival, but the 2007 and 2008 jazz festivals.
“Myself and many others urge all Island residents who support local businesses to boycott this event until Snellen and Ward have personally repaid their outstanding bills. It is an insult to hard-working local people that they carry on like this. A complete boycott of this event by Islanders will be a strong sign of the widespread public contempt in which these debtors are held.
“We will be launching this boycott campaign in earnest if and when tickets go on sale and would welcome support from all concerned Island residents.
“We will also be contacting local businesses and potential artists to warn them of the organisers’ track records in not paying their bills. These facts must be known to anyone who considers doing work for this event.”
This statement marks the first stage of a concerted campaign to thwart the WOW Festival.
If any residents wish to get in touch with the campaign, either with support and / or ideas for addressing these concerns, please contact us on email@example.com.