Organiser ‘heartbroken’ after bar blunders mean there may never be another Chilfest

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

There may be no Chilfest ever again after its organiser said the sight of bar queues that lasted for up to two hours left him ‘heartbroken’.

The two-day music feast at the town’s Pendley Meadow was staged by Pitstone-based entertainment firm Universal Event Production to celebrate its 15th anniversary.

It was headlined by Little Mix on Friday, attracting a younger audience of about 4,000 people.

The 1980s theme of Saturday’s Chilfest attracted an older crowd with performers like Spandau Ballet’s Tony Hadley, and all 7,000 tickets were sold.

Staff at the 14 serving points of the festival bars, managed by London-based party planning firm In The Spirit Events, couldn’t cope with the surge in demand.

A statement of apology from the firm was posted on the Chilfest Facebook page on Sunday and prompted more than 100 replies.

Director Nick Ford later said: “The service was disastrously slow due to a number of catastrophic errors in our set up.”

He refused to say how many bar staff were hired to cover the festival, but did say it was ‘not enough’.

He said: “We are completely gutted and devastated for Steve and his company and all the people we let down across the board, due to these errors of judgement on our part.

“The blame lies solely with us and we are very sorry for the discomfort and problems that were caused because of it.”

Clients of In The Spirit Events are listed on its website as Virgin, Audi, HTC and top tennis venue The Queen’s Club, among others. Mr Ford said an internal company review will now begin into what went wrong at Chilfest.

He said: “We are looking at the enormous failings that happened at the event and we will be making sure that this never happens again.”

But Universal Event Production director Steve Butcher said the bar blunders have made him reluctant to stage another Chilfest.

He said: “Gutted is not a strong enough word. This affects me, my wife and all the guys that work for me. Heartbroken is a bloody good word – that’s how I felt.”

He said he put the event on to raise money for Tring-based Rennie Grove Hospice Care, with a fundraising target of £32,000.

In The Spirit Events will now give all its profits from Chilfest – expected to run into the thousands – to the charity.

Mr Butcher said: “I did not put Chilfest on to line my pockets, because it cost about £250,000 including the VAT element to put the project on.

“You read a lot of the Facebook comments and they think we were just scamming people for money, which truly is not the case.

“It has upset me massively that people have considered that in the wrong way. This is almost like losing a member of your family.”