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Doncaster festival that booked convicted abuser cancelled on public safety grounds

Doncaster Council's Licensing Committee said they "did not have confidence" in Askern Music Festival's ability to run a safe event. 

Three men sit in a row with microphones in front of them.

Askern Music Festival representatives at City of Doncaster Council Licensing Committee

City of Doncaster Council

Askern Music Festival, which had booked former Kasabian frontman and convicted domestic abuser Tom Meighan for their 2024 edition, has had to cancel this year's event after having their licence application refused on the grounds of public safety.

George Orwell may have said, “If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself,” but the modern-day equivalent may be, “If you want to keep a secret, you could hide it in a six-hour Doncaster Council Licensing Committee meeting.” But this intrepid Now Then journalist ploughed through all six hours to witness agency after agency challenge different elements of Askern’s plan to keep its attendees – and Askern locals – safe.

Incomplete risk assessments, ineffective emergency plans, a “patently unsuitable” site, lack of consideration of logistics, an evacuation route through marshland, questionable access for emergency vehicles, and multiple safety risks were highlighted and challenged by health and safety teams, the police, emergency planners and highways teams.

The festival's initial premises licence application was said to have been last minute and inadequate and multiple versions had been submitted to try and get it over the line, to the point that a South Yorkshire Police representative said in the meeting that the festival had been using the various agencies “essentially as free consultancy”.

Askern Music Festival, which by the time of the committee meeting had sold just over 1,700 tickets, offered some reasoning for why the things they'd not planned for would not be needed, such as that the demographics of Billy Ocean fans meant there wouldn’t be bad behaviour, and that disabled people wouldn’t have any trouble evacuating the festival in an emergency because we always have a carer with us.

A modern building with blue strikes and a sharp corner.

Doncaster Council

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Summing up the committee’s decision to refuse Askern Music Festival’s application, chair Dave Shaw said,

The committee did not have confidence that the applicant fully appreciated the requirement to have effective measures in place to ensure public safety and thought it unacceptable that risk assessments were ‘almost there’. We feel there has been sufficient time to have these in place already.

The applicant appeared to be reacting to representations made by the responsible authorities rather than proactively managing the event.

When Askern finally announced the cancellation of their 2024 edition yesterday, it was only a surprise that it had taken them so long.

In their statement, the festival said: “We exhausted every possible avenue to address all aspects of safety, but unfortunately, our efforts fell short. The site’s limitations combined with the rigorous safety standards set by the Council presented a challenge that was just too much for us to overcome.”

Askern Music Festival will “address refund requests on a case-by-case basis”.

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