Crowds at Warwick Summer Festival in Coventry Cathedral Ruins.
Image: Warwick Summer Festival

What went wrong with the Warwick Summer Festival?

The inaugural Warwick Summer Festival took place at Coventry Cathedral Ruins last Saturday 17 June. Falling on the hottest day of the year so far, the festival was struck by issues over water, security and transport, with the event estimated by promoters to have made a loss of £10,000.

Intended as a spiritual successor to Warwick’s annual Summer Party, which last took place in 2013, event promoter David Ramsey told The Boar: “We were just desperate to bring this event back for Warwick Uni students.”

Warwick Students’ Union (SU) reiterated during the build-up to the festival that it was “organised by external promoters”, not the University or SU, and was “not connected to either institution.”

The event was headlined by Fuse ODG, who also played at this year’s Freshers’ Festival, and house duo Blonde. Other acts included indie rock band Arcadian, grime artist Truthz and Warwick alumni Mike Beech and Jordan Charles.

However, early on in the day concerns with security were highlighted by RAW 1251AM, who were live-tweeting the event: “Despite previous support for Warwick Summer Festival we are still committed to honesty and fairness to you. It’s not great. Be wary.”

Complaints were levied that security were “generally rude and unhelpful” with those attending not allowed to leave and re-enter the festival once they had been admitted. The festival’s organisers later posted on Facebook that: “security have been briefed to allow re-entry 10 minutes [sic]” as is “standard procedure”.

Security was very tight, and due to recent issues at venues we had extremely strict-anti terrorism and violence protocols in place.
David Ramsey

On the security measures, David Ramsey commented: “Security was very tight, and due to recent issues at venues we had extremely strict-anti terrorism and violence protocols in place. This was the utmost priority as your safety and enjoyment is paramount.”

Water also quickly became a concern. As temperatures reached 28C it was reported that security were confiscating sealed bottles at the entrance, with water inside the festival costing £4. The situation was rectified by 8pm with the Festival posting online: “Apologies for any confusion over water we’ve sorted it out with security now meaning you can bring your own water, and free water can be obtained from the bar.”

“We want to make sure you have the best event possible and stay hydrated!”

Despite this, accusations were still levied that such provisions should have been in place from the start, with student Barnaby Merrill taking to Twitter to state: “Good that water being offered at #warwicksummerfestival but let’s be real, that shouldn’t be something that needs to be forced.”

He later added: “Basic human requirements should not take hours to be provided.”

In addition to this, The Boar received video footage showing that while “free bottled mineral water” was said to be on offer, at least some of the free water being offered at the bar was instead melted ice that had been used to chill other drinks.

Basic human requirements should not take hours to be provided.
Barnaby Merrill

Whilst the reception to the food on offer was generally positive, the options available were three varieties of pizza on offer for £6-£7 and garlic bread at £4, with no vegan, dairy or gluten free alternatives.

Outside alcohol was also not allowed, with the festival employing a token system for drinks with 1 token for £4 or 4 for £15. Soft drinks were the same price as alcoholic ones.

Furthermore, an administrative error on Skiddle resulted in tickets being sold for £4 (instead of £40) the day before the event. However, the organisers promised to honour this price as they attempted to fix the issue.

There were also slight issues with transport – with the Festival having advertised a free shuttle service to take students from campus and Leamington to Coventry. Shani Taggart, a third-year Law student, noted that the last bus from Leamington was full and left some people waiting. Although the driver called someone and another bus arrived half an hour later, some students had already left to get trains or taxis, having been told that the 5pm bus was the last.

Salko Kadic, a first-year PPE student who attended the Festival, commented: “Basically, the whole event is a disaster. The nerve to charge £40 for a glorified night out, when no one is allowed to leave the event with re-entry is really just ridiculous.”

“Overall the vibe was one of boredom with very few people enjoying themselves at the stage. The overpriced drinks and pizza added to how much of a failure this whole event turned out to be. That has been echoed by most friends here, there’s not much else to say other than they’ve ripped off students hoping to have a good time after their exams.”

Basically, the whole event is a disaster. The nerve to charge £40 for a glorified night out, when no one is allowed to leave the event with re-entry is really just ridiculous.
Salko Kadic

Others had a more positive reaction to the festival, Shani noted that the issues she had encountered were “pretty minor”, adding: “We got there in the end and my group of friends had a good time.”

RAW 1251AM also noted: “The acts and artists are brilliant, the logistics of the event is what we see the problems with.” On such issues Ramsey commented: “We dealt with issues as and when we heard about them.”

The Festival was praised for its choice of venue, with the Cathedral ruins also having hosted the Ruins Festival for the past two years, and also benefited from the sunny weather.

David Ramsey added: “Weather couldn’t have been better which was great for everyone! There were nearly 1,000 people in attendance and there was an awesome atmosphere created by all the bands and artists who did a truly amazing job at entertaining the crowds, to see their talent was truly humbling.”

“Overall it was a fantastic occasion where the bands were really overwhelming with their performances.”

The performing acts also spoke positively with Truthz remarking: “The weather couldn’t have been better, and it was an amazing opportunity, the vibe was good, and the energy crew was deffo in the crowd.”

The whole festival was run at a financial loss and was never intended as a profit-maker, we were just really hoping to give something back to Warwick students who’ve supported us and this movement.
David Ramsey

Arcadian’s Joe Campbell also commented: “Arcadian loved the festival! Good weather, good vibes, no better way to spend a Saturday evening in the summer.”

The festival is estimated to have made a loss in the region of £10,000, with David Ramsey noting that production for the festival was “a huge expense” and that the acts performing had had their expenses covered “where possible”.

He added that: “The whole festival was run at a financial loss and was never intended as a profit-maker, we were just really hoping to give something back to Warwick students who’ve supported us and this movement.”

General release tickets for the festival cost £40 each and were still available on the day. It has not yet been confirmed whether the event will take place again next year.

SU Welfare and Campaigns Officer Chloe Wynne said that it was unlikely the SU will be running a similar event next year due to land issues with the University, although, “It is something everyone does want to bring back; there is a real desire for it.”

The Warwick Summer Party was previously held on campus; however, the annual event was discontinued after construction work began on the field where the event was held.

However, as no incoming sabbaticals have pledged to bring back the party, it is unlikely that it will be returning to campus.

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