The Big Green Gathering was the UK's largest green festival
Big Green Gathering shutdown blamed on police
27th July, 2009
Green groups lose out on thousands of pounds as UK's biggest eco-festival is forced into late cancellation
The late cancellation of the UK's biggest green festival has been blamed on the local council and police.
Around 20,000 visitors were due to attend this week's Big Green Gathering, a five-day festival of arts, culture and music in the Mendip Hills in Somerset. Organisers cancelled the event over the weekend after the council sought an injunction to have it closed.
As well as the directors and paid-up visitors, the biggest losers have been the hundreds of green campaign groups who use the event for fundraising and to attract new supporters.
Last chance saloon
Supporters of Climate Camp run a popular bar, 'Last Chance Saloon' at the festival and had already invested several thousand pounds setting this year's up. The bar was one of the major fundraising activities for climate protest activities this Summer.
Other groups including Transition Towns and Plane Stupid were planning to use the festival to increase support for their campaigns.
'We had a stall and three talks scheduled so it was obviously one of our big outreach events of the Summer,' said Liz, from Plane Stupid. 'It's a really good place to network with other green groups - probably one of the reasons the police wanted to stop it,' she said.
Transition Towns co-founder Rob Hopkins said he was 'very disappointed'.
'Pulling it so close to the time, I can only imagine how some people have ended up out of pocket,' he said.
Council make late decision
Mendip district council granted a licence back for the festival to go-ahead in June but says the late reversal of the decision was because of concerns over traffic management and security.
The organisers of the Big Green Gathering (BGG) say the Highways Agency had previously indicated they would close the road and that the festival had an exemplary record on health and safety since it started in 1994 and that crime levels were low for the number of people on site.
BGG chair Brig Oubridge said the late decision was an attempt to bankrupt the festival.
'At the multi-agency meeting on Thursday 23rd July, we were still negotiating with the police and the council under the genuine belief that things were progressing and we were continuing to spend money on infrastructure, wages and security.
'If they [the police] knew they were going to cancel the event, we can only conclude that this drive to increase expenditure appears to be a deliberate attempt to bankrupt the Big Green Gathering,' he said.
People who had planned to attend the festival have been urged to relocate to the Vestas factory protest in Newport on the Isle of Wight. Around 25 workers are staging a sit-in protest against plans to close the wind turbine plant.
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