York’s first live music event of the summer cancelled at the last minute – after public health ‘withhold support’

The Mothership Festival in full swing in 2019. Photograph: Festival's Facebook page
13 Aug 2020 @ 8.02 pm
| Entertainment

Hundreds of people have been left disappointed – and the organisers thousands of pounds out of pocket – after York’s first live event of the summer was cancelled at the eleventh hour.

The Mothership Festival, which has run in the city for ten years, was being brought back at much reduced capacity this Sunday (16 August) from 1pm.

It followed government guidance being revised to allow outdoor performances.

City of York Council had granted the event a licence, after organisers reduced it to a sixth of its normal size, cutting the number of tickets from about 3,000 to just under 500.

But just as they were making the last preparations, the team heard back from a meeting of the city’s safety advisory group today.

A post on the festival’s Facebook page said tonight: “The public health authority are not prepared to support the event under the current pandemic, and will enforce their powers to stop the event should we go ahead.”

Therefore the event is axed and all tickets will be refunded.

‘We are gutted’

The stage at the cricket ground

Dave Sykes, organiser and chairman of the sports club, told YorkMix: “We are gutted, as we had worked hard to plan a very safe event.

“It’s also extremely galling that City of York Council operate in this poor manner; they obviously don’t communicate with each other, and as a result a community organisation like ours pays the price, having already had a tough year financially.”

He said the event had lost at least £2,000 spent on preparations.

The event is a community day for all the family with a range of activities for young and old alike, including a range of performances by bands.

A coronavirus risk assessment had been carried out. Safety measures being put in place included ticket-only admission, event security and marshals to ensure people sat in their own “cluster”, closing of indoor areas and management of the toilets to avoid queues.

Performers would have had their own area with toilet facilities and brought their own equipment so microphones are not shared.

Dave added:

  • We had really put a lot of effort on to make it safe, and it’s not like we’re amateurs.

    Mothership has run for ten years with a 3,000-capacity. This was scaled down to 500 and we just wanted to give local families a good day out.

The team are now “frantically cancelling our stage and crew people. our fantastic artists, security staff, attractions and suppliers; all of who have had virtually no work this year”.

City of York Council’s response

Matthew Boxall, chair of the York Safety Advisory Group (SAG) which includes North Yorkshire Police, North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service and City of York Council’s public health and public protection departments, said:

“We are still in a health crisis and only certain organisations can organise outdoor events. If they do so, they must undertake a robust Covid-19 risk assessment which follows the Government guidelines and includes effective social distancing measures and other requirements to reduce the risk of the virus’s transmission. 

“While previous festival plans have met the safety requirements at the time, plans for this summer’s event during the pandemic did not. The organiser sent SAG a document three days before the event which did not meet the robust safety measures needed. After careful consideration, SAG informed the organiser that it could not support the event and the organiser has decided to cancel this year’s festival.

 “A temporary event licence had been granted in July this year which permitted a limited number of people at the event. That number has been exceeded and no plan to safely accommodate all ticket holders, performers, staff, artists, security and vendors has been given. In addition, the overriding concern of SAG remains with the quality of a Covid-19 risk assessment and its impact on the safety of all involved during the pandemic. Other outdoor events in the city are being held following very careful planning to mitigate risk for all involved and we continue working with organisers to establish all necessary safety precautions.

“We appreciate that this is disappointing for everyone. Holding a festival during a pandemic has more risks and complexities than in pre-Covid times. We hope to work with it in the future to ensure everyone’s safety and that the festival returns successfully.”

Additional reporting: Chloe Laversuch, local democracy reporter