Woodstock Festival Safety In The Spotlight
Friday August 26th - 08.56pm
A heated debate has been taking place on the internet regarding the level of safety at Poland’s Woodstock Festival, which ended on Saturday 6 August.
Accusations that The Prodigy acted in an unsafe and unprofessional manner when they performed at the festival have been denied by the band’s Manager John Fairs. According to him, the level of safety was the responsibility of festival promoter Jerzy Owsiak (who is also reported to have made the initial accusations).
Fairs said: “On Friday night, our Production Manager brought it to my attention that Mr Owsiak had no intention of providing a safety barrier in front of the stage, despite signing a legally binding contract agreeing to install barriers.”
Believing Woodstock to be in breach of main goals of The European Festival Association (Yourope), Fairs insisted on a safety barrier to protect the crowd: “Without this, Mr Owsiak and his event would have been putting the crowd at huge risk. An event of this size must have several barrier lines.”
The discussion has continued on the official website for the festival after Owsiak received an email from The Prodigy’s Production Manager Karel Hamm, which were his own personal remarks and not a statement endorsed by the band. Owsiak responded on the site, defending the levels of safety at the festival: “The event was assessed to be very safe. Karel Hamm disseminated an email statement which is unfair and improper; it contains inaccuracies and unconfirmed information.
“None of the remarks Karel Hamm made were ignored, and what is more, all his requirements were fulfilled: suitable barriers were provided and he was present when they were being installed. If the festival had not been safe, it seems that Karel Hamm would not have agreed for the concert to start. Despite what he wrote, nobody was really injured. Nobody died. The attendees of Woodstock Festival are safe, and they went home happy.
After the event, Owsiak was reported to have implied the barrier was requested by the band to keep the fans away. Reportedly, he also suggested The Prodigy had fled the site with a police escort because they were concerned the barrier had injured crowd members.
Fairs explained that the barrier was there for the safety of the fans and the band left with a police escort to avoid road congestion: “There are always traffic queues in and out of festival sites and all headline artists use police escorts to get through traffic. It is necessary and not arrogant.
“According to the promoter, he estimated 800,000 in attendance with around 125,000 cars. With so many people trying to leave site it was necessary to leave immediately with a police escort to avoid severe delays.
“To our relief, we have been informed there have been no serious injuries, but, given Mr Owsiak’s response to the safety barrier, I can only say this is the most unsafe festival I have worked at in 25 years and would urge all promoters and artists to seriously consider the inevitable consequences of incidents at an event which has no regard for the audiences’ health and safety in front of the stage.”
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