Christmas Lights Cancellation – Update

By on 15/11/2009 in News, Rebuttals

Steve Hollingworth, Assistant Director of Sport and Events, Birmingham City Council, said:

“There will be a full debrief early next week but we feel it is important to address some issues that have been misreported.

 1. Organisers planned for just under 20,000 not 5,000 as has been widely reported.

2. People were counted in and out of the event so organisers knew at all times the size of crowd we were dealing with. Once we were made aware that the security fence had been breached, a multi agency meeting was immediately called and the decision was quickly taken to shut the event down.

3. Security and Police plans were in place to ensure a safe event and these plans included medical support, as is routine for all events.

4. 60 people were seen by medical support staff during the event but the vast majority were incidents such as hyperventilating and fainting, which can happen at an event of this nature. While 4 people were taken to hospital, only 2 people's injuries were directly related to the barriers being breached.

5. It was a multi agency decision to close the event and announcements were only made to that effect once we had removed fencing to ensure safe dispersal of the crowd.

6. While the vast majority of the crowd were extremely well behaved, a small minority climbed onto security fences, eventually breaching the security cordon and putting others and themselves at risk, and this led to the event being closed”.


 For more information please contact Hayley Meachin on 07920 750007.

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There Are 6 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Jack says:

    You state that your plans included ‘medical support’, this seemed to merely involve First Aid Volunteers (St John etc) and not highly trained Paramedics etc from the Ambulance Service. Indeed from what I saw yesterday the NHS Emergency Vehicles that arrived were unable to access the scene.

  2. Gerry says:

    Planning this event for 20,000 was criminally negligent. Hopefully the HSE will come down hard on Birmingham City Council

  3. John says:

    It is obvious that the security and safety planing was not adequate, I think the council should make public the risk assessment and safety plans for this event so that they can be scrutinised accordingly.

    It is one thing to say that there were enough safety and security personnel there but were they of the right quality & experience?

  4. Calum says:

    only expecting 20,000, there were 30,000 last year and you were expecting 20,000, with big stars such as JLS, The Sugarbabes, Chipmunk and Calvin Harris, you could fill the NEC for just one of them!

  5. Nicola says:

    I attended this event and the security was very poor! There was one police officer trying to stop around 300+ people getting into the main grounds. It was impossible to count how many people were entering the grounds, as stated in the report above. It was poor planning, that put lives at risk and positive action does need to be taken against the “organisers”.

  6. Alex Smith says:

    Just as I have now noticed a more recent thread that touches on some of the points I covered on an earlier post:


    Although I did not attend this event, I have gathered a level of insight based upon the media coverage and the pictures I have had relayed to myself. As a final year events undergraduate (specialising in crowd management) who has worked in the industry for 6 years, I feel there were a couple of factors that may have been overlooked, or just the quality of the research was slightly reduced.

    In response to the above comment, issuing tickets is unlikely to have adjusted the number of attendees, as the crowd following for an act such as JLS is in the upper scale.

    However when a decision is made to add in an act mid way through the planning stages, the entire site plan should have been re-evaluated (obviously whether this was done or not is not for me to know). A consideration on looking at similar events – i.e Christmas lights switch on events, and a particular focus should have been paid to those events that have had incidents where serious injury or loss to life has occurred.

    For myself highlighting the Cheltenham Christmas Lights in 2006, when McFly were booked, to perform. Whilst the space in which they were due to perform was sufficient, the floor plans had not taken full account of the monuments and flower beds. Furthermore a performance that had anticipated around 12-20000 people ended up with 47,000 attendees – everyone was overwhelmed.

    A simple case study from here would show, that in a town with a significantly smaller population than Britain’s second city, can have a non charting band perform to 47,000 people, then Birmingham with a population nearly 10x that of Cheltenham, takes an act that has charted highly and is at the number 1 spot at the time of the lights switch on and an expected crowd of 17000 (based on the space available) seems an under estimate.

    A second point I would like to address, is the risk assessment, you highlight how adjustments were made to your planning and your emergency planning, but did this include for people dropping their umbrellas? In a crowd, people automatically take on a second personality, whether consciously or sub-consciously, when an emergency situation occurs people take on the adrenaline of fight or flight, where in this case people were fighting to get out of an area – this for many meant dropping their umbrellas that were getting caught in the wind, or people – resulting in further obstacles on the ground for desperate people.

    My final question relates to the point the police, did the police take over the event? Standard practice dictates that should the Law Enforcement be called in (over and above the level of support they initially agree to provide) the police then take control over the event, and become in control at which point the event manager can no longer be in command, and they must follow the instructions of the police.

    To close, there are a range of issues, and I am sure with a little extra time I could go on, but to save wasting your time, I will stop here. I hope that my points can be taken into consideration during your review of this event. I would be more than happy to discuss my thoughts should anyone desire it.
    Kind Regards