Mathew Street Festival 2007 – CANCELLED

Oh dear, Oh dear, that’s a great shame. I feel really sorry for all the people planning to travel in for this event and, of course, all the bands that were expecting to play!

LIVERPOOL’S 2007 Mathew Street Festival has been cancelled for health and safety reasons.

The decision follows independent advice from Capita Symonds Limited, the country’s leading experts in health and safety at outdoor events.

They were employed by the Liverpool Culture Company to undertake a comprehensive review of the plans for the festival, and highlighted the loss of the Pier Head and extensive regeneration work taking place in the city centre in August, which has reduced Liverpool’s capacity to host an event which regularly attracts more than 100,000 people to the city.

Their advice, backed by Merseyside Police, states that this reduction in capacity, combined with huge crowds in an open, licensed environment, means there is a significant safety risk to the public. The detailed planning for the event, and discussions between the city council, police and safety officials, cannot fully eliminate the risk.

Chief Executive of Liverpool City Council, Colin Hilton, said: “We have been working tirelessly for months to try and make the Mathew Street Festival work in the city centre. Unfortunately, it has just not been possible to make it happen this year. We have a responsibility for the safety and welfare of every single person attending the event.

“We brought in the country’s leading experts to examine our plans, and look at the health and safety issues, and we have to take their advice. We are rightly proud of the festival, and were desperate for it to go ahead this year, but public safety must come first.”

Merseyside Police’s Assistant Chief Constable, Helen King, said: “Having had sight of the advice from the independent consultants to Liverpool Culture Company, we fully understand why they have made the decision to cancel Mathew Street festival this year. Public safety has to be the paramount consideration.”

The loss of Pier Head and other regeneration work going on in the city has made planning for this year’s festival an extremely difficult exercise, but staff worked right to the 11th hour to try and produce a workable plan which could accommodate the festival in the city centre.

Extra measures this year included an extensive temporary CCTV network to monitor crowd build-up, a big increase in the number of safety stewards and the use of seven stages across the city centre to spread the density of the crowds. The festival is the only major event for which a large area of the city centre is licensed for the sale and consumption of alcohol.

However, despite these extra measures, police and safety staff still had reservations about possible crowd safety implications, particularly in light of events in Clayton Square last year. To ensure the event provided the maximum protection for the public, organisers called in independent experts in to examine all public safety aspects of the event.

Regrettably, that review has concluded that there would be too many risks for the festival to go ahead as planned.

The advice relates specifically to the unique conditions surrounding the staging of the Mathew Street Festival this year, and does not affect the city’s ability to stage other large-scale events, including the city’s 800th birthday celebrations on 28 August.

Colin Hilton, added: “We have done everything we can to make sure the festival goes ahead and explored every possible alternative, but there comes a point where you can do no more, and this is it. Everyone is hugely disappointed it cannot go ahead.”

Jason Harborow, Chief Executive of the Liverpool Culture Company, said: “In many ways, the Mathew Street Festival has become a victim of its own success this year. The huge growth in the popularity of the festival, combined with the loss of the Pier Head, presented us with a massive problem.

“Unfortunately, that problem has proved to be insurmountable. We worked hard to try and find a way to stage the event in the city centre, but even after months of planning we were still not satisfied. As a last resort we employed national safety experts Capita Symonds to see if they could see a way through these intractable problems. Sadly, they have concluded there is still too great a risk to attempt to do so.”

“The festival has become an integral part of the city centre’s calendar of activities. We know that businesses and the public want to keep it in the city centre, and that’s why we’ve tried right until the very end to achieve that.”

The major difficulty in staging this year’s Mathew Street Festival has been the redevelopment of the Pier Head which, in recent years, has served as a focal point for the festival.

The Pier Head can accommodate up to 34,800 visitors at any one time, but visitors to this year’s festival would have to be accommodated on the city streets – many of which are also undergoing regeneration works.