PUBLISHED: 16:55 08 August 2019 | UPDATED: 16:55 08 August 2019
Music fans and festival workers have expressed their disappointment over the last-minute cancellation of a major dance event in Norfolk.
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Playing a set at the Pavilion Stage at Houghton Festival 2018 PICTURE: Hannah Metcalfe
The directors of Houghton Festival announced the decision to cancel due to health and safety concerns over the weekend weather forecast and said tickets would be refunded.
The festival was due to be held at the grounds of Houghton Hall, near Fakenham, for the third year throughout the weekened and gates were due to open at midday on Thursday.
In a joint statement, Houghton directors Craig Richards, Tom Elkington, Tom Carpenter and Digby Neill said: “Overnight, weather conditions on-site at Houghton Festival have dramatically worsened and are set to deteriorate further into the weekend.
“Tragically, following this morning’s reports and further consultation with authorities, health and safety and all the festival directors, the decision has been made to cancel Houghton 2019.
The west front of Houghton Hall PICTURE: Norfolk and Norwich Festival
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“We are utterly devastated. All the hard work, love and creativity that has gone into planning and producing this year’s event made this an almost impossible decision to make.
“This was set to be a wonderful weekend and the boldest step we have ever taken as a festival. However, nothing is more important than the safety of our customers, staff and performers, which would be compromised if we were to go ahead.”
The statement added: “Please understand that this decision has been made with the deepest of consideration.”
Thousands of people were due to attend the festival and some arrived at the gates on Thursday morning after travelling hundreds of miles.
The Quarry stage at Houghton Festival 2018 PICTURE: Jake Davis
James Bolt and Amelia Harris drove from Essex.
Mr Bolt said: “There has been a weather warning in place for weeks, I don’t know why they left it ’til 10 this morning.
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“Funny thing is there’s no trees blowing right now, there’s nothing. When is the weather forecast ever correct anyway?”
Miss Harris said: “We’re gutted, I did my packing 10 days ago. But I do understand it, and I hope the contractors are still paid.”
The pair said they bought their tickets at Christmas and had been looking forward to it. Mr Bolt said: “We waited months for this. Tickets were £200, without buying any camping gear.”
As they spoke, a car drove by with a passenger leaning out of the window, yelling ‘Awful news!’.
The changes also affected festival workers, who were looking forward to a weekend’s work.
Matilda Pine spent Wednesday helping set up, and came back only to take things down.
She said: “Hundreds of people have lost out on a weekend’s wages. The problem is no-one is fighting the case for businesses who end up losing everything. The festival might be insured, but the businesses aren’t.
“I now have to drive to Boomtown [festival] in Winchester by 7pm to be able to pay my rent, and then get back to Norwich after that. When boardwalk festival was cancelled on Tuesday, at least they gave people notice so they wouldn’t set up the day before.”
Houghton became the second major festival to cancel this weekend, after Boardmasters in Newquay was also called off due to forecasts of high winds, heavy rain and thunderstorms.
READ MORE: Norfolk braced for ‘disruptive’ winds this weekend
Babs Lito, who was due to work at Houghton, said: “People don’t understand there’s a whole underground scene for people who make the festivals happen. I’m disappointed for the logistics and organisation of it all.”
Max Youd would have tended one of the festival’s bars, but was headed back to north Shropshire after camping at Houghton the night before.
He said: “I’ve lost about £60 in petrol, then would have been earning £300 to £400. The company did say something about some sort of compensation though.
“This is the first festival shift I’ve done, and of course it was this one. I saw about the cancellation on Facebook. I was expecting to work for 10 hours at a time, and now most of my team is just hanging around before going home. It’s surreal, it doesn’t feel right.”