As internet commenters have joked over the last few days, you know a situation has spiralled out of control when Pete Doherty of all people is trying to calm things down. But the crowd crush at Saturday’s Libertines comeback show in London’s Hyde Park was no joke for a lot of gig-goers, many of whom were hurt as what was supposed to be a triumphant return for the ‘Up The Bracket’ band threatened to tip over into tragedy. According to reports, 10 people were hospitalised and dozens injured as some of the 60,000 fans in attendance on Saturday surged to the front of the stage when the band began. Just what happened? Hundreds of NME readers emailed in to share their experiences from the gig. Here’s some of your most illuminating (and concerning) reports…
“The Libertines put on a great show and the fans can’t be blamed for getting a little overexcited, this probably having been the first time they’d seen them live. It was my first time and it was all so surreal and to be honest I wanted to go just as mental as the rest of them. It’s understandable that the crowd were going to go mad for the band but some took it too far.” – Elliott Jones via email
Most of you who wrote in were keen to stress that despite everything, the band turned in a brilliant performance, and could not have dealt with the situation better. The band stopped songs midway through twice when they noticed waves of people falling over, pleading with the crowd to calm down. Some of you suggested it was just an energetic audience, and nothing out of the ordinary:
“It was very Libertines – a physically draining experience bound together by an indefinable bond between the band and the audience. Everyone got good and crushed. A bright red flare was dropped next to me and I went blind for a bit – then the mean beat of ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ brought me back to life. But what’s a Libertines gig without a bit of nasty shit?” – Tom Parrish via email
Others of you, however, seemed to have some genuine horror stories from inside the general admission area of the site in front of the main stage.
“Myself and three friends were at the gig… We were right in the middle of the crowd, centre of the stage. When the Libertines first came on there was a huge crowd surge forward which brought a large portion of the crowd to the floor. We lasted till the second song there then decided we needed to get out of the crowd as it was just becoming too dangerous. We made our way to the barrier at the back but couldn’t go any further as everyone was trying to go out the same way. There were people in floods of tears around us. We ended up being lifted over the barrier by an absolutely brilliant security guard who was trying his hardest to cope with the influx of people who just wanted out.” – Anna-Lisa Leach via email
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“Usually, despite being only 5ft 1, I’m always the first to the front barrier, embracing the mosh pits and crowd crashes. But yesterday’s gig took rowdy crowds to a new level. People were throwing themselves into others’ backs, throwing punches for no reason and when somebody fell, rather than picking them up, they’d just trample on them in a quest to move half a metre closer to the stage. It was insane… Carl had to stop during ‘France’ to plead for the fans to climb off of the metal tower/structures. With The Libertines’ constant reminders to the crowd to “chill out and move back from the stage” they ended up with a shorter set, leaving them unable to play ‘What Became Of The Likely Lads’. Absolute shitter.” – Chloe Steven via email
“I think I along with everyone else who bought a ticket expected the gig to be crazy, but the scenes at Hyde Park were even more insane than I anticipated. People were being dragged out of the crowd left, right and centre. The Libertines were barely into ‘Boys In The Band’ before security had to halt the gig. It took no more than two minutes for me to be covered in sweat, booze and whatever else was being thrown about… I felt sorry for some of the smaller people getting thrown around.” – Dec Lloyd via email
“Security were totally overwhelmed. People were coming out in tears, clothes torn, no shoes… one girl had collapsed and a group of people and her friends pushed their way right to where I was – we tried to get security attention to no avail so a lad jumped over himself and pulled her out. She was lying across the ground, barely responding. You could tell it was a pretty bad situation… security and first aid workers I’m sure did what they possibly could, but I think more staff were needed in the general admission sections. It was too small an area. I’ve since heard a few people saying the VIP areas took too much space… whether that was part of the issue, I don’t know but maybe giving more space might help prevent so much crushing in the future.” – Nicola Gibson via email
As emails continued to flood in, it became apparent a number of you felt the problem was not a few idiots pushing and shoving but instead an issue of poor planning on behalf of event organisers. General admission tickets for the event had been priced at £65 but, for an additional £40, fans had the option of upgrading to more spacious VIP areas. Many readers suggested that organisers had made the VIP areas too big, confining those who’d paid the standard price to too small an area, making the crowd surges inevitable.
“Surely it obvious that splitting half of the front standing barrier into a VIP standing area is going to cause a crush for a band like the Libertines. The 600-capacity second stage was a joke when you consider the 65,000 tickets that were sold… the problems were not simply down to simply crowd violence as is being reported.” – Daniel Grant via email
“Big circles of the crowd kept collapsing, causing a pile up on the ground. There just was not enough room for everyone, I blame the half-empty VIP bit for taking up all the room.” – James LG via email
“The way the festival site was set out there was only one exit, because of the VIP sections. Literally as soon as the Libertines came on stage about 50 people to our left fell. We went from having comfortable space to starting to the sky for air as the crushing got worse. Pete Doherty was telling everyone to go back for the people at the front but that then crushed us at the back. He should of said go left but it wasn’t his fault. If you have a pit of 10,000 people getting crushed you don’t leave the crowd control to Pete fucking Doherty. My friend, Adam, wanted to stay but it was unbearable so I dragged myself and my girlfriend out with the help of people in the crowd. We was pulled over the barrier, separating the VIPs from us peasants, and into a small runway for security. The small separation path was filled with people red-faced and out of breathe. I saw people bruised, crying an bleeding. They didn’t looked traumatised – just shocked. We ended up directed into a VIP garden. The garden was full with shit you’d never expect at a Libertines gig: champagne bars, steak stands, marble cocktail bars and seating areas that looked like the outdoor garden section in the Argos catalogue. I went to the bar for water and a cup of ice, the barman asked if I wanted lemon. I didn’t even need to answer – the ‘are you taking the piss?’ look I gave him was enough for him to put the lemon down. We lay on beanbags drinking whiskey and water watching the Libertines reminiscing over how, 20 minutes earlier, we had unknown elbows in our throats.” – Johnny Miles Gregory via email
As some of you also pointed out, it could have easily ended up way worse – with some readers drawing parallels to the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy that saw 96 people killed in a crush at a football match.
“The paramedics and security were in overdrive. We had to help several people over the barrier who were scared, crying and injured. Some injuries seemed really serious: people with potential leg fractures and head injuries. Me and my friend were pretty concerned for our own well being, struggling to breathe and unable to actually plant more than one foot on the ground… There were cries of Hillsborough.” –
“Very little blame should be directed at the people in the crowd itself who had good reason to be very excited. They were also very supportive to the people around them, doing everything in their power to help people to their feet if they got knocked to the floor and were underneath a pile of bodies… To describe what I saw around me, every minute or so, a huge wave of bodies pulling in one direction would knock somebody too far, this then had a domino effect so that maybe up to 10 people were lying on top of each other. Some screamed and shouted for help, whilst others broke down in tears. It was quite frightening and I couldn’t help but think at one point that we had another Hillsborough on our hands. The blame lies at the door of the BST show organisers… 60,000 people is an awful lot to cram in to such a small venue and having been to Arctic Monkey’s Finsbury Park gig in May, I saw a perfect model of how a show that size should be managed.” – Ed Tierney via email
“If the sun had been out, so many people would have fainted. It would have been so much more dangerous. It’s so lucky that it was cloudy… I’ve been in some intense Libertines and Babyshambles crowds but this was the worst by far.” – Jake Graham via email
British Summer Time have been contacted for comment. Make sure you pick up this week’s issue of NME, out July 9 on news stands and available digitally, for more from the Hyde Park show, plus an exclusive interview with The Libertines talking about what the future holds for the band.