nme.com readers have described the LEEDS TEMPLE NEWSAM campsite as “apocalyptic” and said that events after the CARLING WEEKEND FESTIVAL finished on Monday night (August 29) were “terrifying”.
Portaloos were set on fire, lighting cables pulled down and hundreds of people congregated around what one person described as “an inferno”.
Comments from Leeds police playing it down, which were reported on nme.com yesterday (August 29), were hotly disputed by a number of eyewitnesses who have contacted us today.
Dylan Harris said: “The place resembled the film set for ‘Apocalypse Now’ rather than a music festival. I’ve seen plenty of going-ons at festivals over the years, but nothing came anywhere near this.”
Festival-goers described lighting being ripped down, portaloos exploding after camping gas canisters were thrown in them and fires exploding in 10-20 feet high mushroom clouds across the site. Several eyewitnesses claimed the fires spread to tents and said they were alarmed that it took so long for the Fire Brigade to arrive on site.
Daniel Massie, another eyewitness, told us “a huge blaze” spread into the trees and added: “It was all very scary. The whole campsite woke up in the morning and it looked very different, loads of smoke and burnt areas, and not a single toilet standing.”
Another reader, James, described it as “one of the most amazing/scary sights I have ever seen. Some idiot set fire to the portaloo in our campsite (Y5), which turned into an inferno about 50 metres long and 20 metres high. About 200 riot police with all the gear surrounded the fire. And still 500 people thought it a good idea to throw stuff at them and the still-raging inferno.”
Richard Price from Stevenage reckoned that “at one point, nearly a thousand people were near the burning toilets”, and he described a “domino effect” when the loos caught fire, the chemicals inside exploded and the flames passed on to the next one.
Jennifer Knutsson said: “I have never been so scared in my life… huge clouds of black smoke were rising. [It] must have been toxic, several of my friends and me myself began to complain of a headache… we were scared to breathe, the smell was so strong. It looked like some sort of apocalypse. Until Monday night I was loving the festival, I would even say that it is the best I have attended. Primal Scream, JJ72, Pulp and Beck were all amazing, but these events shocked me.”
On the Reading/Leeds Festival messageboard on nme.com, one fan said: “This ruined an otherwise fantastic weekend. It was lucky that someone wasn’t killed.” Another said: “At the time I thought the whole bogs on fire thing was hilarious. Now I can see somebody could have been hurt and isn’t really that funny at all.”
Another added that they saw “no stewards, no security personnel and [there were] no lights.” They said: “How easily this could have turned into a fatal situation. What if the flames had spread to the tents? What if someone had innocently been in the bogs as they went up? What if someone had been in the tents that the lamp-posts knocked over?
“Why could the Fire Brigade not put the fires out, instead of leaving it to smoulder until the morning? Breathing in plastic and chemical fumes all night can’t do anyone any good. I still have a really sore, burning throat from then. I think Mean Fiddler have got a lot of questions to answer about their lack of emergency plan.”
A spokesperson for the organisers, Mean Fiddler today confirmed that there had been an incident, but said it was not a riot and there was no confrontation between festival-goers and police.
He said: “Security tell us it was high-spiritedness, but it must have been a bit frightening sitting there in your tent.”
The spokesperson added it was “a handful of people who spoiled what was an amazing weekend.” She also added that according to security and police, a gang of 20 or 30 kids were causing trouble, with a large number of onlookers swelling the numbers.
He stated: “Security were alerted and had to decide whether it was a fire or police matter. They decided it was both, so both were called. There were no injuries.”
According to official reports, over the course of the entire weekend, there were 20 arrests, and no serious injuries. First Aid dealt with 15% of the number of casualties that occurred last year, numbering only around 30, mainly twisted ankles.
A number of music fans expressed concern that the festival might not happen next year. A statement from Leeds City Council‘s Leisure Services has said that they were disappointed that the site was not cleared up properly and that there was an excessive amount of campfires on Monday night.