Tag Archives: festivals

Festivals and food policies

Over the last few weeks I have become increasingly aware that UK festivals are starting to impose restrictions on what refreshments ticket holders are able to bring into the event.

Old news you might think, restrictions on alcohol and glass packaging have been around for some time….but no…these are 100% restrictions on ANY food OR drink (including bottles of water) being taken into the festival arenas, and restrictions on what can be taken into campsites.

Heaven only knows why small scale local “no food or drink can be taken into the festival arena” festivals feel the need to impose such draconian rules – do they think they are Coach “No food/Drink allowed into the concert area” ella or something?

How does this relate to ill health? For starters, refresh your memory of the Equality Act 2010

1. Will the security staff have the relevant skills, knowledge and training to enable them to identify, and make a judgement, on sight of the following:

  • A person suffering from diabetes who needs to carry certain types of food with them?
  • A person suffering dehydration who needs to keep their hydration levels up?
  • Someone who is lactose intolerant and needs to bring in some lactose free milk for their tea / coffee?
  • Someone who is coeliac and needs to bring in gluten free food?
  • Someone who has severe food allergies and needs to keep their food free from allergens such as nuts?
  • Someone with heart disease and who needs to be on a low fat diet?

2. If I am considered disabled, and I am refused entry to a festival arena because of, for example, the gluten free rolls I want to bring in to an arena for the burger I would like to buy, will the company be falling foul of the Equality Act?

Then consider health and safety…

3. I believe those festivals that confiscate water from patrons to have not carried out an effective risk assessment on this policy. The risks from dehydration, dirty hands (not all water is for drinking, it is also used to wash hands after using the appalling toilets) and dirty cuts from falls are greater than….. what? What is the realistic risk from a bottle of water? Well there isn’t a risk, it is cynical marketing ploy. If the company doesn’t let you bring your own refreshments into the arena, they can charge a premium to the vendors there…. I imagine it goes like this…”we’ve got a policy that people aren’t allowed to bring in anything to drink or eat and so you’ll make loads of money, that’s why we charge you more”

Then think about your customers needs – the customers that you are meant to serve…

4. I love festival food – hot fresh chips with plenty of salt and vinegar slathered with tomato sauce, warm doughnuts with creamy hot chocolate and cheese crepes – yum yum yum! But after approximately 2 hours of this type of food I get uncomfortable symptoms of Crohn’s as my body struggled to digest all this fat, cream, sugar and salt.

5. So I look for the ‘healthy’ alternative and I am delighted to find the all the traders selling Jamaican, Indian and Indonesian food, but no…..Hot spicy food, Crohn’s and chemical toilets – No thank you.

6. So I have a jacket potato, which means I won’t starve. But I don’t want to only eat jacket potatoes all weekend.

Why is this type of policy a bad idea?

A. The first thing to realise is that I have money to spend and I have choice. I will choose to visit festivals that meet MY needs and choices. In the context of health I call this my ‘Poorly pound’ (ooh I’ll copyright that one ©). I will prioritise the following:

  • Good quality, clean toilets, and plenty of them
  • A reputation for a variety of food including more healthy choices
  • Not having to explain myself to people who do not have any right to know about my medical history – this is how I will feel at a festival that has these restrictions

B. The second thing to realise is that it is unlikely to impact the bottom line in the way that you think. I want the freedom to bring my bottle of water and my snacks in, and I will purchase additional food and drink as well. By not giving me choice I will not buy your tickets and you are missing out on the poorly pound from me and the healthy pound from my family. You will save money on security staff who have better things to do than to look through people’s bags enforcing a silly policy. Oh, you don’t need my money? Did you sell out already? No we are in a recession and everyone is tightening belts. You do need my money.

C. It causes bad feeling. Your event should be remembered for the fantastic atmosphere, brilliant line up and helpful staff. It should not be remembered for the jobsworth security staff who took away the carton of juice from a toddler, the skips of perfectly good confiscated food greeting visitors at the entrance and every single patron grumbling that the only possible reason this ridiculous policy exists is because it is a cynical attempt by the event marketeers to extract more money from vendors. “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it (Franklin)”

D. It goes against festival spirit – customers have a well developed radar and growing distaste for festivals which are run heavily in favour of marketing and events companies – and with a limited budget they will seek out the more authentic experiences – i.e. not yours. This is linked to reputation above.

Fortunately there are some festivals that have a much more sensible approach, and will therefore benefit from my ‘poorly pound’ such as Latitude “Food for personal consumption is permitted onsite including in the arena”.

Lets look at some excuses:

  1. It is a health and saftey risk – I am the queen of health risk assessment – I live my life making decisions based on risk, whether it be to assume that dish does not contain mushrooms or weighing up the odds of surviving surgery. I write many risk assessments for my work. The risk associated with me not having fluid and food are greater than the risks of me having them on my person.
  2. It is standard practice – No it is not. Latitude, V and Leeds don’t feel the need to have this policy, for example.
  3. Vendors want us to have this policy – No vendors want you to create a good value event that meets the needs of customers.  They want high levels of footfall and generally happy punters. They are happy to pay for premium spaces, but not at the expense of customers who then dig their heels in and refuse to buy from anyone at all.

So what have I missed?


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