Welsh Green Gathering cancellation 2002

Anyone wishing to find further information or complain could contact the Chief Executive's of Neath Port Talbot Borough Councilat chief.execs@neath-porttalbot.gov.uk and the Council's Environment and Consumer Services at ehts@neath-porttalbot.gov.uk

From: "ac.thomas" Date: Tue May 7, 2002 4:56 am Subject: Re: [dan-cymru] Welsh Green Gathering Shock 
      Hello Everyone, Chief Inspector M Jones of Neath Port Talbot Police station wrote to Neath Port Talbot Council telling them that Wiltshire Police had written to him that The Green Gathering itself was a source of violent Crime and that the Police did not think that the Welsh Green Gathering had laid on adequate security measures. Neath Council, affeared of riot and damage, cancelled the booking. I tried to phone CI Jones to ask for the specific incidents the Wiltshire Police were referring to, but have not yet contacted him I have spoken to many people who have been to the Green gathering and none are able to tell me of any violence or crime. Neath is on very dangerous ground unless their incinerator is not licensed. Anyway, there is a potential for a free summer gathering in Glamorgan for people who bring excavating implements, camping gear, and their own water. Access on foot or by all terrain vehicles. There could be some cheap log cabins available to carry away after it. Ilyan 

From: "Jules" Date: Tue May 7, 2002 10:50 am Subject: Re: [dan-cymru] Welsh Green Gathering Shock  
     The reneging on the license came almost immediately after StIC took the anti-incinerator campaign to Port Talbot and occupied part of the Council Building. If a link can be proven then the council should have the book thrown at it. Members of StIC are very upset that there may be a connection, it was not even considered that the council mite react in such a way. This council have at every stage bent the rules to the extreme regarding the Incinerator and have suffered little of the backlash. I certainly would be up for organising a larger environmentalist action targeting them and Crowley (council leader) in particular. J ---

From:  Welsh Green Gathering Ltd.
Gŵyl Werdd Cymru Cyf.
P.O. Box 17, Ammanford, SA18 3WG
Tel. 01269-870175 / 01792-527112

4th May 2002

To:  The Chief Executive,
Neath Port Talbot Borough Council

Civic Centre, Neath.

Dear Sir, 

We have been informed by your council's officer, Mr. Russell Ward, that the meeting of your council's Board for Education, Leisure and Lifelong Learning on 26th April 2002 decided that our event, the Welsh Green Gathering, would not be allowed to take place as planned at Margam Park on August 8th to 11th this year. Mr. Ward has also informed us that there is no scheduled opportunity for this decision to be re-examined by the full council until its meeting of 26th June 2002. 

It is with great regret that we must now inform you that the result of your Board's decision is that our company is forced to suspend trading forthwith, as we obviously cannot continue to accept advance bookings for the event, nor to make arrangements with contractors, suppliers, performers, exhibitors, stall-holders or volunteers in the present circumstances. Moreover, even if the Board's decision were to be reversed by the full council on 26th June, we would not then be able, in the remaining time available, to reinstate all these arrangements in order for the event to take place.

You will appreciate that your Board’s decision, to withdraw permission for the above event to proceed, has burdened us with major financial difficulties. On taking legal advice we have no option but to ask you to fully compensate our Company for the aborted expenditure and return of the ticket buyers’ money, plus the damage done to our reputations and subsequent loss of good will.


It is our view that from an early stage of our dealings with your officials, that implied terms of a contract existed between our company and your officials, as reported by the minutes kept by your officers of all the proceedings. We are also given to understand that the express terms of our contract were accepted in their final draft and subject only to the relative detail of ‘method of payment’. Therefore, we believe and are advised that we would have a case in court of breach of contract. We invite you to meet our claim for compensation, without the need for lengthy and expensive litigation, and further publicity. Further details of our claim will follow shortly.

Yours sincerely
G.E. Oubridge,

Chairperson, Welsh Green Gathering Ltd.

From:  Welsh Green Gathering Ltd.
Gŵyl Werdd Cymru Cyf.
P.O. Box 17, Ammanford, SA18 3WG
Tel. 01269-870175 / 01792-527112

7th May 2002

Open letter to all members,
Neath Port Talbot Borough Council

 Dear Councillor,

 We enclose a copy of our company’s publicity leaflet concerning our event, the Welsh Green Gathering, which was scheduled to take place at Margam Park on August 8th to 11th 2002, and our letter of 4th May 2002 to your Council’s Chief Executive concerning the decision of your council's Board for Education, Leisure and Lifelong Learning on 26th April 2002 that this event would not be allowed to take place as planned. We are also informed that there is no scheduled opportunity for this decision to be re-examined by the full council until its meeting of 26th June 2002.

 As noted in that letter, it is with great regret that we must now inform you that the result of your Board's decision is that even if that decision were to be reversed by the full Council on 26th June, we would not then be able, in the remaining time available, to reinstate all the various necessary arrangements in order for the event to take place this year.

 We are of no doubt that our profound regret will be shared by members of your staff at Margam Park, who were eagerly looking forward to hosting the event - including in particular your estate manager, Mr. Roger Lee, and head warden, Mr. Nigel Davies, who have attended most of the monthly Safety Advisory Group meetings, and with whom we have been working closely on the detailed planning of the event since last July when we submitted our original proposal. We are sure also that our regret will be shared by your park manager, Mr. Ray Butt, and your events co-ordinator, Mrs. Kerry Jones, who, since our first meeting last June, have repeatedly expressed the hope that a successful Welsh Green Gathering in 2002 would lead to its becoming a regular and growing annual event at Margam Park; likewise by your Chair of Education, Cllr. Colin Crowley, who expressed the same hope at our meeting with him on 11th October 2001, and by your senior officer Mr. Russell Ward, who continued to express that same hope as recently as our meeting with him, Mr. Butt and Mrs. Jones on April 16th 2002. 

 We believe your Board's decision will also be a cause of regret to various members of the National Assembly who had hoped to attend the event and to take part in our Green Wales Forum discussions, or (if personally pre-committed elsewhere) to encourage colleagues to do so. These already included local member Dr. Brian Gibbons AM, Andrew Davies AM, Sue Essex AM, Dr. Phil Williams AM, Cynog Dafis AM, Helen Mary Jones AM and Glyn Davies AM, and whilst other members had yet to be invited, we felt sure that many would be equally supportive of the event and its aims. 

 Above all, the enforced cancellation of the Gathering will be a huge disappointment to the many other people who would have participated in it, whether as contractors, exhibitors, stall-holders, staff, volunteers or paying campers or day visitors. These include the famous Centre for Alternative Technology near Machynlleth, who would have been a major exhibitor, and were enthusiastically promoting the event to their own visitors, as well as many other local and national voluntary organisations, charities, environmental bodies, small businesses, larger firms, families and individuals. In this context we must also give a special mention to Port Talbot-born artist and sculptor Jane Sparks, and her colleague Nansi Hemming from Ceredigion, who (as well as taking part in our Crafts Area) were planning to create two large wooden sculptures for the Park, at no cost to the Park or the Council, and whose preparations for this project had gone so far as to include the selection of appropriate pieces of wood with estate manager Roger Lee and the completion of design drawings to enable application for funds to the Arts Council for Wales. 

 In addition to these sculptures, the enforced cancellation will also deprive the Park of the cost-free benefits of the renovation of the presently dilapidated and unusable toilet blocks by the North Lodge entrance, and the renovation and conversion to solar power of the Park's presently out of commission road train, as well as the site rental income of at least £8,000, which park manager Ray Butt has stated would have made a welcome and significant addition to his annual budget. It is a further cause for regret that local schoolchildren will also be deprived of the chance of taking part in the competition we were planning to design and produce environmentally-themed decorative banners for the event, with prizes going to the winning schools: this project was also in an advanced stage of planning, with one local sponsor already committed, and others about to be approached. 

 Whilst the cancellation of the event is a matter for regret in all the above regards, the manner and timing of that cancellation must also give rise to profound shock. 

 As noted above, we made our first approach to Margam Park to host this event in June 2001, in the aftermath of the similar enforced cancellation of our original plans for the event to take place at Llanelli Millennium Coastal Park in August 2001. We therefore made it clear from the outset that our company could not risk a second such cancellation, and that we required a reliable assurance that this would not happen before we could go ahead with any plans to hold the event at Margam Park in 2002. Both Mrs. Jones and Mr. Butt were made fully aware of this situation at that first meeting, and were fully informed of the spurious purported fears of Dyfed Powys Police which had led to the previous cancellation. 

 Our formal written proposal was delivered to the Park for Mr. Butt and Mrs. Jones on 20th July 2001, and included names and addresses of referees from Wiltshire Police and West Wilts. District Council who had personal experience of the previous Big Green Gatherings from 1995 to 2000, in which our company's chairman, Mr. G.E. ('Brig') Oubridge, had been involved as chair of the Big Green Gathering Co. Ltd.. Another such referee whose address was similarly included was Mr. Mark Houghton Brown, the owner of the Wiltshire site which had been used for these events. These names and addresses were also included in a slightly redrafted version of this proposal which was submitted by us in October 2001, and on both occasions we specifically urged that these references should be taken up. 

 As is noted above, we then attended a meeting at Margam Park in Mr. Butt's office in October 2001 with Mr. Butt, Mrs. Jones and Cllr. Crowley at which we presented and explained our proposal, once again emphasising the past history of the Llanelli cancellation and our need for reliable assurance that that experience would not be repeated, and urging that all our references should be followed up. We also provided a draft contract for our rental of the site, and emphasised that to give us the assurance we needed in order to proceed, we would expect to complete a signed contract as soon as possible thereafter. Cllr. Crowley assured us that provided the proposal was approved by his committee (as was likely to be the case with his recommendation), this would be no problem, and Mr. Butt would have the delegated authority on behalf of the Council to complete the contractual details. Cllr. Crowley's committee met later the same day, and we were informed that the event had been approved. 

On 24th October 2001 we attended a meeting of the Safety Advisory Group at Margam Park Orangery, which had been specially arranged by Mrs. Jones so that we would be able to know the reaction of South Wales Police and other members of the group to our proposals before our company's AGM, which was due to take place the following weekend. Our proposal had been circulated to all members of the group prior to that meeting. The Police raised no objection to the event at that meeting, and indeed stated that they did not foresee any problems. The senior officer attending, Chief Insp. Geen, told us that he had followed up our reference before the meeting by conferring with Chief Insp. Peter Russ of Wiltshire Police (who had been the officer in charge of policing the 2000 Big Green Gathering in Wiltshire), and had just spoken to him again by mobile phone immediately after the Orangery meeting, and assured us that he was entirely happy to support the event going ahead. 

 There then followed a series of further regular meetings of the Safety Advisory Group at approximately monthly intervals, including meetings at Margam Park on 30th January and 27th February 2002. At each of these meetings, South Wales Police were represented by two officers of the rank of Inspector, and at no time did any of these officers give any indication that the police view had changed in any way, or that there was any perceived cause for concern. At each of these meetings, and at intervals between, we repeatedly reminded Mrs. Jones and Mssrs. Lee and Davies (who were attending on behalf of Mr. Butt) that we were still awaiting a signed contract. On each occasion we were assured that there was no problem with the contract itself, that the delay was due solely to Mr. Butt being very busy, that it was quite usual for actual written contracts not to be exchanged until a month or so before events at Margam Park, and that there was no chance of the event being cancelled. We reluctantly accepted these repeated assurances, whilst continuing to make clear our concern and urging that the written contracts should be completed as soon as possible. 

 During the first week of April we again contacted Mr. Butt regarding the contract, and were told that there was no problem, although the Council's legal department had requested a couple of minor changes with regard to the scheduling of the rental payments, and that he would bring an amended version of the contract to the next scheduled Safety Advisory Group meeting on April 10th, which was being held in Neath Civic Centre. 

 The April 10th meeting was attended by three Inspectors of South Wales Police, and it was here that we received the first and only indication that they had any concerns with regard to the event. One of these officers stated that the police were now concerned about possible serious breaches of public order occurring at the event, and sought to justify this by reading out a list of alleged incidents which had occurred at the Big Green Gatherings in Wiltshire between 1995 and 2000. Mr. Oubridge replied in detail to each of these allegations, pointing out that they amounted to an average of one incident per year over five events, that none of these had involved 'serious public disorder' or had resulted in any arrests, that the Big Green Gathering Co. Ltd. had built up a close co-operative relationship with Wiltshire Police over this period (as Welsh Green Gathering Ltd. similarly hoped to do with South Wales Police), and that at no time had Wiltshire Police ever considered any of these alleged incidents to be serious enough to warrant closing down the event or opposing future events. It was also pointed out that the proposed Welsh Green Gathering would be a much smaller and more locally focussed event than previous Big Green Gatherings, and that the company had produced a comprehensive safety and security plan which included professional gate crews, a team of fully trained and qualified security personnel (six to eight of whom would be on duty at any one time throughout the event) and a team of over 100 trained volunteer stewards. Mr. Ray Butt then stated that the whole matter would now have to be referred back to the Council for further consideration. He did not produce the amended contract as he had previously promised. 

 On April 16th a further meeting took place at Margam Park involving the Welsh Green Gathering directors (Mr. Oubridge, Ms. Ros Foskett and Ms. Beth Llewellyn-Creek), the company's security co-ordinator Mr. Tony Llewellyn-Creek, Mr. Butt, Mrs. Jones and Mr. Ward. The three council officers reiterated their support for the event as noted above, and Mr. Ward suggested a further reduction in the size of the proposed event as a possible means of overcoming the police objections. They revealed that the police had spoken to them of requiring a sum of up to £60,000 to police the event, rather than the £10,000 which the company had already offered. The company agreed to report back to Mr. Ward within two days after examining the budgetary implications of a smaller event. It was agreed by all present that a meeting should be sought involving police and company representatives, Mssrs. Butt and Ward and Mrs. Jones, and that that meeting should take place on the following Monday or Tuesday, 22nd or 23rd April, with a view to resolving the police's concerns. It was agreed that Mrs. Jones and Mr. Ward would arrange this meeting. 

The company's redrafted budget was delivered to Mr. Ward's office the following day, but the proposed tripartite meeting did not take place. Instead, a meeting took place between the police and council officers to which the company's representatives were not invited. we were informed by Mrs. Jones that this meeting had resulted in no change in the police's position. 

On 25th April, at the suggestion of Dr. Brian Gibbons AM, the company delivered to Mr. Ward's office a copy of the minutes of a debriefing meeting held between the Big Green Gathering, Wiltshire Police and others after the last Big Green Gathering event in 2000. These minutes demonstrated that there had not been any 'serious disorder' as South Wales Police had alleged. Mr. Ward showed Mr. Oubridge a letter from the police to your council which restated (but provided no justification of) their position, although it did, bizarrely, contain the assertion that 'serious public disorder' was likely to occur at the event because our comprehensive safety and security plan included those words among a list of contingencies which we had considered in our 'major incident planning' (as is a standard procedure in the planning of all events, as required by chapter 4 of the Health & Safety Executive's 'Event Safety Guide'). Mr. Ward refused to provide us with a copy of this letter, and also advised us strongly against lobbying any of the councillors prior to their meeting the following day. He informed us that this would be a private meeting of the Board, to which the public and ourselves would not be admitted. 

 The meeting on 26th April was therefore a closed meeting to which we had no access, between councillors whom (with the exception of Mr. Crowley) we had never met, whom we had been actively discouraged from lobbying, and to whom we had therefore had no opportunity either to make our case or to refute the police's allegations. We regard this procedure as being monstrously unfair, prejudicial, and contrary to the principles of natural justice. Moreover, the effective finality of your Board's decision, together with the failure of your officers to arrange the agreed tripartite meeting prior to your Board's meeting, deprived us of any opportunity to resolve the police's security concerns so that the event could go ahead. 

 Your Board's decision leaves our company in the position of having made abortive expenditure of approximately £12,000 in regard to this event, and having further liabilities of approx. £10,000 in regard to refunds due to advance ticket buyers and stall-holders, and a further sum of approx. £10,000 in regard to unpaid fees and wages due to people who have already done preparatory work for which they were expecting to be paid at the end of the event. In addition to these direct losses and liabilities, our company has suffered a severe loss of goodwill, commercial credibility and professional reputation due to this cancellation, with the consequence that we will now find it extremely difficult to obtain advance ticket orders for any future event, or to make all the necessary advance arrangements and bookings with suppliers, performers and staff except on a basis of payment in advance. We would therefore estimate the financial cost of this loss of goodwill and reputation to be somewhere in the region of £40,000, and our total losses caused by your Board's decision to be in the region of £72,000. 

Having taken legal advice in this matter, and taking all the above circumstances into account, we are of the firm belief that your Board's decision has placed your Authority in breach of contract in this matter, and that we are entitled to receive appropriate compensation in regard to the losses we have suffered. 

 We therefore await to hear whether you having any proposals to make in this regard, in the sincere hope that we may reach an amicable solution to this situation which could enable this event to go ahead at Margam Park in 2003, and which would avoid either ourselves or your Council becoming embroiled in long and costly litigation. 

 Yours faithfully,
 Rosalind Foskett
Company Secretary,

Welsh Green Gathering Ltd.

SA48 7QY 
E.mail: jaynesparks@hotmail.com.


To:  chief.execs@neath-porttalbot.gov.uk

Dear Sir/Madam, 
    I just felt I have to drop you a line to express the disappointment both me and family feel, on hearing about the cancellation of the above event. I have attended the Big Green Gathering for the last six years with my two children and we have all thoroughly enjoyed participating in the excellent opportunities offered at this event and always look forward to broadening our education on green issues and how to look after our amazing planet, while having a funpacked holiday, as well as an alternative platform to exhibit and demonstrate my paintings and sculptures to a wider audience. The green Gathering this year was to be particularly special for me, I was born and brought up in
Port Talbot and spent a few of my younger years as a voluntary ranger at Margam Park and the Green Gathering had offered me the chance to execute my first personal , public commission, I have many spent hours making site and materials research, as well as provisional drawings and proposals, excited at the prospect of perfect place for my first large scale public sculpture, not to mention the loss of the £1000 I was due to earn . I am bitterly disappointed, this was also the ideal opportunity to share with my family in Port Talbot how I work and spend my summer time I was appalled at the rubbish printed in the Port Talbot echo and can only feel that the people making this decision have NEVER attended any of the previous events. Trouble is the one thing gladly lacking at the Green Gathering joy and inspiration abundantly flow, yours sincerely saddened, 
    Jayne Sparks

 SchNEWS: http://www.schnews.org.uk/ Friday 10th May 2002, Issue 354 


    "Society needs to condemn a little more and understand a little less. New age travellers? Not in this age! Not in any age!" - John Major, 1992. 

    It was ten years ago this month when Castlemorton Common became home to the largest free festival this country had seen since the Stonehenge celebrations in the early eighties. Travellers heading for the Avon Free Festival found themselves up against Avon and Somerset Police’s all-new fun-stopping information-gathering ‘Operation Nomad’ with "dedicated resources...to gather intelligence in respect of the movement of itinerants and travellers and deal with minor acts of trespass." So people found themselves across the border heading for the picturesque Malvern valley where a truly amazing free festival sprung up with around forty thousand people partying for seven days and nights. The Free Festival scene had been happening up and down the country since the early 70’s, and this new explosion was a fusion of old style traveller culture and weekend ravers attracted to the soundsystems of DIY, Spiral Tribe, Bedlam and a host of others. One leaflet at the time explained "To be at one of these gatherings is to feel a surge of energy; to feel a people free from the restrictions of rip-off clubs, crap pubs, dumb shit security, money-mad promoters." Of course the authorities didn’t exactly share this view and with the press whipping itself up into a frenzy ("Hordes of Marauding Locusts" and "These Foul Pests must be Controlled" being a couple of classic headlines) - new laws we were warned, were just around the corner. The authorities in particular seemed to be going gung-ho for a group of people who had pushed the free party boundaries for the past two years - Spiral Tribe. 13 people were nicked and put on trial for ‘conspiracy to cause a public nuisance’ with the judge promising two years in prison if they were found guilty. Thankfully they weren’t despite a trial that lasted four and a half months and cost the taxpayer £4 million. As a result of the free festival scene, mixing with the first stirrings of the road protest movement at Twyford Down and the M11, the Tory Home Secretary ranted about getting "Tough on rapists, tough on armed robbers and tough on squatters" a hotch-potch of a Bill was introduced into parliament - the most draconian ever to be aimed at alternative British culture. It’s name - the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (which SchNEWS was a part response to, but that’s another story). 

    Pig Posse Payout.  Fast forward 10 years. This year’s Welsh Green Gathering has been cancelled for the second year running - thanks to objections once again from the cops. Last year Dyfed Powys police objected on the grounds that festival land would be contaminated with "human waste, diesel and cannabis." This year the gathering, in the planning since June last year, was to take place in Margam Country Park, South Wales and all seemed to be going well. Until the Detective Inspector of Port Talbot police stuck his oar in and said he feared serious public disorder so £60,000 to police the crowd of just four thousand had to be coughed up. The Council, fearing a riot, cancelled the booking. 

    Er, public disorder at a Green Gathering? Maybe if you count people overdosing on lentil flapjacks or being trapped in dozens of deadly dream catchers or perhaps a pack of pedal-powered powder peddlers pelting police with a barrage of crystals. In fact, the event was going to be so riotous members of the Welsh National Assembly were planning to take part in green forums and the Centre For Alternative Technology along with other such axe-wielding maniacs were to busy themselves at the event promoting sustainable living. Not to mention the festival helping to restore the park and converting to solar power the presently disused road-train. The Welsh Green Gathering is now seriously out of pocket and threatening to sue the Council. Organisers reckon the decision was linked to a yearlong direct action campaign against an incinerator in Swansea. Yesterday the incinerator was given the green light. Green Party spokesman Martin Shrewsbury commented "Port Talbot council are supporting an incinerator to poison us all and cancelling a festival about alternative sustainable energy." 

    Party On.  Glastonbury has now gone to the Mean Fiddler dogs, with licensing regulations stating that the same sort of surveillance techniques ironically first used against travellers ten years ago now will now be used at this year’s event. So it’s watch towers and CCTV and infra-red cameras for gatecrashers and ticket holders alike. So what are we gonna do about it? Isn’t it time to rediscover the free festival spirit? Perhaps keeping our shit together and looking after each other at Stonehenge again this year can be a start to build on. As Tash, a free festival veteran, told SchNEWS "People nowadays expect to pay their money and for everything to be provided. In the old festival days, people had to do things for themselves such as sorting out the infrastructure such as toilets and welfare." Of course, the state has now all the laws it wants to deal with any unregulated fun, so we’ve got to be cunning and we’ve got to be organised. But if we are to once again break away from the bureaucrats, cops and corporate leeches then what other alternative is there? 

*For more on Castlemorton and the history of free festivals http://tash.gn.apc.org/ 

* Party and protest throughout the summer www.schnews.org.uk/pap/guide 

* Festival Eye out soon. Send £3 to BCM 2002, London WC1N 3XX (out end of May). www.festivaleye.com

Anyone wishing to find further information or complain could contact the Chief Executive's of Neath and Port Talbot council at chief.execs@neath-porttalbot.gov.uk and the council's Environment and Consumer Services at ehts@neath-porttalbot.gov.uk

Other alternative events this year

Indycymru for independant Welsh news

Dancymru for direct action Wales discussion group

Web page by Woodpecker