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Crowd Safety

Do we have an individual responsibility? should there be any rules?

Looking at some of the downsides of festivals and outdoor gigs there has been a strong focus on what the professionals get wrong and rather less emphasis on what we,  as customers,  may do badly do we create additional hazards and difficulties that festival organisers then have to deal with?

The reality is that - yes - things can and do go sometimes go wrong at events - we live in an imperfect world and no  festival organiser can ensure perfection at all times. Most of them do a fantastic job in putting on a really good event. Those things that go wrong are very few and far between,  the UK has a pretty good overall record for concert safety that's really down to the hard working folk behind the scenes - the one's you barely notice and the ones that don't  get a lot of  thanks for the hard work that they do. Often we are very quick to complain - but are we as quick to compliment when they've got it right?

There are some highly experienced people who work tirelessly at getting recognition for crowd safety issues - it's not a popular subject and it's one that only gets picked up on when there is an incident or possibly someone  gets hurt - but we shouldn't forget that this vital work is ongoing - quietly and efficiently in the background

Festival stewards often have a pretty tough time of it and sometimes just can't do right for doing wrong in some quarters, the reality is that they have a huge array of responsibilities and duties to perform and many of those tasks are  unenviable.  It might be worth bearing in mind that however frustrating and aggravating it might be they don't make the rules - and whether they agree with them or not they have to enforce them, they have no choice in the matter it is what they are employed to do. Try not to get into conflict  with them, save any arguments for a more appropriate time, if you disagree with the rules talk to the organisers about it later - it isn't the festival steward's fault and they won't be able to change the rules.

There is a notion that festivals are a bit of a 'free for all' and that 'anything goes' after all it's only rock and roll - but is life  like that at all - anywhere?  Sadly there have to be some rules - and where there are rules there have to be people to enforce them because there most certainly are those that are all to ready and willing to break them or to find a way round them. It isn't the fault of the staff if we don't like the rules, but it is our responsibility to stick to them - for everyone's benefit. Most rules are put there for a purpose, even if we can't immediately see why it is more than likely that they have been thought out and put in place to try and ensure the gig goes smoothly and as a result of something that's happened in the past. And to be realistic - let's face it - there are few rules for us to worry about at festivals and concerts.

In previous years both Leeds and Reading festivals experienced problems when a minority of fans ran riot  - this caused untold grief, distress and damage to a lot of people.  There were many injuries and one fan lost an eye in the disorder - it was really lucky that no-one was killed given that among other things that  happened that night gas canisters were being thrown onto fires. Several members of the security staff suffered significant injuries - including broken bones. People were so out of control they were even attacking the emergency services preventing them from doing their job in the process.

Following the disorder  there were the usual complaints against the security company who had the unenviable tasks of trying to maintain order in a crowd spiralling out of control - but you have to ask yourself - how would you deal with a violent crowd disorder that could potentially cause the deaths of festival goers? Can you really blame festival organisers and security staff who have no time to sit back and discuss how to deal with it or to consider theoretic perspectives - they're on the spot and have no option but to deal with it there and then - for everybody's safety. Nobody behaves well in these circumstances and certainly nobody wins, it's a complete lose-lose situation.

Both Reading and Leeds could have been lost because of these problems- and it seems that an awful lot of people got away with an awful lot of bad behaviour which in any other circumstance would have resulted in arrests and charges. Many of the festival goers involved walked away from the trouble  with no repercussions - but the professionals who dealt with it couldn't and didn't. 

Does this then suggest that people  need to think more about their own behaviour at events and the impact it might have on those around them? The lengths some people will go to in order to play the 'let's get one over on security' game and the type of implements some try to get into the arenas knows few bounds. This means that security gets ever more stringent and prohibitive - drugs are as illegal on site as they are off site. Festival organisers have no option but to tackle this issue - they will be held liable if they don't - and it will put their license in jeopardy - you keep on acting outside the law - they lose their license - you lose your festival - so who wins?

Many people try and smuggle items into an event - a quick flit around various forums gives quite an insight into the lengths some people will go to - they find it a giggle. So with the threat of terrorism, and the fact that we have a developing gun and knife culture there is a concern that a minority may want to get into a gig armed and willing to use it. There have been a number of incidents of this nature including the shooting of two stewards at the Birmingham NEC - some punter was armed and used it because two stewards were escorting him from a gig he had no right to be at.  More recently people were stabbed at an awards ceremony at the London O2 , it's quite a salutary thought that certain customers are prepared to attack, assault or injure a member of staff or maybe even fellow gig goers.

Does anybody feel comfortable with people smuggling guns, knives and other implements into gigs? -  the fact that a minority do this means that security have no option but to search people on entry still, maybe it's a very small price to pay for piece of mind.

Taking responsibility for our behaviour at  some events is easier than dealing with what some other people do -  some things are just a bit  too disgusting, why do people put up with it?  Why do people throw bottles of urine into the crowd? -  do people really think that's fun?  stewards and security can't always stop it - but we could if we wanted to couldn't we? Same with many of the other totally anti-social behaviours we see - we could and should do something about it because ultimately we all have a responsibility when it comes to crowd safety - it isn't just the responsibility of the organisers - it's down to us to make sure that these events are both safe and fun

There's loads of stuff on this site about your rights - and there's loads of stuff about keeping yourself safe in a crowd - but perhaps we also need to look just as hard at how we ourselves behave.

So if you're off to one of the many great events (and there are some BRILLIANT gigs getting about) what should you do?

Well - have a look at our festival survival guide - it's fairly comprehensive and packed full of advice.
Check out our stuff on crowd safety and have a think about those dense crowds - is it worth being a tad aware to  make sure you're safe and having a good time and that those around you are okay too?

Check out the rules on your tickets and on the festival or gig organisers festival website -  there's loads of useful information that's being put there so that festival goers can be better informed and know what's expected.

Chill out and relax - be friendly to staff - it WILL make a difference.

Remember that the staff are there for everybody's benefit and to make sure that things go smoothly - if the rules get on your nerves it isn't their fault and no amount of getting at them will make a difference - they are only doing what they are instructed to do - for a reason. If you really object write to the organisers after the event - they will listen to you.

Do not under any circumstance try and smuggle banned items into an event - if you get caught you will get what you deserve - and you  run the risk of being ejected from the event.

Do not under any circumstances get involved in crowd disorder -  it will put the future of the event in jeopardy - it will end in tears and people will get hurt.

Above all think about what YOU are doing and whether you'd want people to do the same to you - if you wouldn't like to be treated the same then you shouldn't be doing it.

And if the staff got it right - tell them - write to the organisers - make sure they know that we do appreciate what they do and that as customers we will support them when they do a good job - which most do most of the time.

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Crowd Safety
1st July 2006
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Crowd Safety
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