Pop megastar Sir Tom Jones performs in Alnwick on Saturday – but anger surrounds the controversial decision to ban food and drink from being brought into the concert area.
The annual Pastures gig is a hotly-anticipated event in the town’s calendar, but the build-up to the 2015 spectacle has been overshadowed by the fact that show-goers are barred from bringing picnics inside the arena.
In previous years, fans have been able to consume their own refreshments on the showfield, however, this tradition has been stopped by this year’s organisers, Loose Cannon Events (LCE).
It means that people will either have to purchase food and drink on site, or enjoy pre-prepared snacks and beverages outside the concert area.
Furious Gazette readers have lashed out at the ‘disgraceful’ policy, with some saying it has stopped them buying a ticket.
A number of people have claimed that they were unaware of the ban before purchasing a ticket, with some adding that they wouldn’t have bothered if they had known.
However, LCE has defended its stance. The company says that the ban on people bringing their own food and drink into the show ground is in line with other public arenas, especially when bringing a ‘world-class entertainer to perform’, and this policy ‘has been made very clear on the ticket websites’.
LCE added that it has had only ‘a handful of queries’ about the issue and around 7,500 tickets have been sold.
Neil Winterbottom, director of LCE, said: “In line with most public events, whether entertainment or sporting, there is no picnicking allowed in the Pastures area at the concert and we have included this point in the ticket information when booking.
“The concert is an all-standing concert and guests are welcome to bring rugs and chairs along. There will be a fantastic variety of quality food and drink concessions available throughout the site.
“Guests who do not wish to purchase food and drink on site can of course bring their own refreshments, but will need to consume food and drink prior to entering the concert area.”
A team will be on the gates and has been briefed that no glass bottles, alcohol or food is allowed into the concert area. If people are caught with food or drink that they have brought in from outside, they will be asked to take it outside of the concert area to consume and then they will be allowed to return.
However, plastic bottles of water are allowed and people are asked to take empties home or dispose of them in the bins on site. And the organiser has said it ‘understands that young children will require food/drinks bringing along’.
But the policy has sparked fury and the Gazette has been inundated with emails and phonecalls about the issue.
One irate caller, who had purchased tickets before being aware of the ban, said he was disgusted and vowed never to go to another Pastures concert. Gill Robertshaw, from South Shields, is in the same position. In an email to the Gazette, the 53-year-old – who is a Pastures concert regular – wrote: “I wish I wasn’t going now as the whole atmosphere will have changed.”
On Tuesday, we asked our readers to share their views on Facebook, prompting nearly 150 comments, with the vast majority being critical. Dawn Bolam said she is boycotting the event in protest, while Jenny Watson wrote: “We always loved going to the Pastures but having a ban like this will put us off. Half the fun was your own picnic. Lift the ban.”
Sharon Ross added: “Unfortunately had bought our tickets for the fifth year in a row and didn’t realise the change until afterwards. Gutted is an understatement! Ruined a fab event.”
Some have raised concerns about people drinking too much alcohol before going into the show area and others believe the ban affects those with dietary requirements.
Linda Ives said that the policy won’t spoil her night, but she may reconsider going to future concerts.
○ The Gazette was unaware of the policy when we first revealed, on April 30, that Sir Tom was performing and early-bird tickets were available. But we updated our readers the following week, as soon as we found out about the change, and have reported this in every story since, both in the paper and online.