Following the appalling tragedy at Roskilde, crowd management has ridden to the top of all festival organiser’s agendas. This was the first big show at Donnington since the demise of the annual Monsters of Rock five years ago, and security arrangements were uppermost in many minds. Showsec, the contracted party, has much experience of Donnington, not least from Monsters, so in many ways choosing them was a given. Company founder Mick Upton managed a team of 250 Showsec staff from the control room, which he shared with local emergency services and licensing officials, monitoring events by radio and CCTV. Mike Harding, group operations director, was at the sharp end of crowd control, with responsibility for some 40,000 individuals. "As it happened, the event was very good-natured. The crowd tended to be younger and less intoxicated than the old Monsters crowds, and presented no major challenges, even back at the campsite after the show."
Harding’s low-key post show report belies the planning that led to this benign state of affairs. One of the key areas of concern was the front of the crowd and pit area. Following the commitment made by SFX director Stuart Galbraith at the International Live Music Conference (ILMC) this year, where he said that SFX would "proactively discourage crowd surfing," plans were drawn up. A primary D barrier system (from Mojo) was incorporated in the risk assessment for the event prepared by Harding and Upton; this barrier-design limits the number of people in the area immediately in front of the stage, and means that Showsec staff also had easy access well back into the audience.
"We met with the promoters (SFX and SJM) to discuss crowd surfing, which has been a growing concern at rock concerts in recent years," said Harding. "We implemented a policy whereby our staff asked people not to crowd surf as they were entering the site and making their way in the front pit enclosure, which generally worked very well. The few people who did come over were taken into a marquee at the side of the stage where the dangers of crowd surfing and their consequential liability if they injured anyone were explained." Quite a sobering prospect for most fans.
Like all big outdoor events, this one involved an enormous army of support staff, from Star Hire’s roofing and staging team, through to security, they all needed to be fed, up to 800 of them at the event peak. Eat to the Beat (ETTB) got the gig, by default of being tour caterers for the Stereo’s, and largely down to the efforts of one man, ‘Tommo’ (he’s known by no other name), their tour chef for the past three outings.
Eat to the Beat’s manager Fiona Esmarch co-ordinated the logistics for the event, which were based in the Donnington ‘Pit Stop’ café, over half a mile from the production area. "The Pit Stop is normally only used for reheating food such as burgers," explained Esmarch, "so we had to convert half of the dining room into a full kitchen and install our own walk in cold-room, ovens, cookers, a dish washing unit and serveries."
No small task, ETTB supplied 11 staff augmented by three local crew, managed by event leader Suzie D’Andrea. Because of the long distance from the production area, shuttle buses were laid on to ferry the crew to the café, which meant that people arrived in larger groups rather than the normal steady trickle of roadies taking a break. Likewise, the artists’ dressing rooms for the five bands that appeared on the day were also situated some distance from the Pit Stop, so their food and drinks were driven across to them, once they’d been prepared in the ETTB kitchen.
Despite some fairly pressured days, Esmarch was able to declare: "It was a pleasure to work with the Stereophonics. They were typically stress-free and n