On July 24, 2010, a large crowd amassed outside the Love Parade electronic dance festival in Duisburg, Germany where a ramp running through a narrow tunnel served as the only entrance and exit point of the festival area.
When police began to realise that the situation was getting out of hand due to overcrowding they began instructing new arrivals to turn back.
They did not heed this warning and people continued pushing on into the confined space of the tunnel.
Subsequently, 21 people died due to crushed rib cages as a result of a phenomenon called “crowd turbulence”. Incidents like this don’t happen very often, but there’s always an inherent danger when pop music is mixed with large crowds.
With an influx of fake tickets and malfunctioning ticket scanners causing queues and a crowded gathering on a ramp and tunnel leading into the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit, the recently-held “DStv Delicious International Music and Food Festival” could have easily joined the list of deadly festivals.
For now, without much in the form of explanation from organisers, more questions than answers surround the festival, including how well prepared they were for the inevitable influx of fake tickets and the subsequent overcrowding.
The controversy around the festival has already ignited debate about the safety of festivals in general just a few weeks into what’s set to be a very busy festival season.
With the appetite for live shows and festivals higher than ever following the return of large-scale touring after more than a year of dormancy due to the coronavirus pandemic, Corona Sunsets Festival organiser, Shaun Duwe, is among the festival organisers who are in the final stages of preparation.
“Since the end of the pandemic, we have paid close attention to all shows and festivals around the world and work closely together with our networks to understand the best ways to manage the masses and ensure safe and exciting shows for everyone attending,” he said.
Duwe also added that solid planning is paramount to ensuring a successful event.
“For us, it is critical to make sure people get in as easy and as safe as possible, then once they are in to ensure they have the best time they can by booking the best entertainment and, equally as importantly, ensuring there is enough of everything to cater for the number of people we have planned for.”
Jules Harding, organiser and co-founder of Get Lucky Summer, which recently announced the return of the popular 3-day sunset concert series on the Garden Route, also weighed in.
She said: “Looking towards summer, and judging by the ticket sales for this season's series of Get Lucky Summer, we are expecting high turnouts at all of our concerts and, naturally, we have to plan strategically to make sure that everyone has a fun and safe experience.
“We take a number of steps to ensure this. First of all, we cap our ticket numbers below the venue capacity to ensure the events are not overcrowded.
“Then we make sure there is enough security, medical and staffing personnel on the ground to assist our event attendees. Strategy, venue layout and flow and planning are key.
“And if you think you have planned too much, you haven't even planned enough!”
When it comes to the matter of fake tickets, Harding said they are working closely with law enforcement, the ticketing service providers and the public to clamp down on ticket scalping, fraud and fake ticket sales.
He also shared an idea for combating this issue: “Ticketing platforms should be encouraged to create a second hand sale marketplace where the public can re-sell their ticket if they need to, on a platform that officiates the validity of the ticket and the sale.”
Dawn Robertson, who is the CEO of Constitution Hill, a venue which has held several festivals over the years, including Human Rights Festival, AFROPUNK and Paris New York Heritage Festival, and one which is set to host the 10th Basha Uhuru Freedom Festival later this month, shared that he is confident that the festival won’t suffer any issues with fake tickets.
“To date, we have worked through Webtickets with no risk of duplicate tickets or challenges. Neither have previous events been compromised. We will certainly take maximum precaution to guard against such.
“Our local event management company has managed events globally that are on a far larger scale and we trust that we are in secure hands.”
Duwe on the other hand said that the unfortunate reality is that fake tickets on the black market are a global issue, especially with sold-out or high-demand events.
“We try to educate customers to only buy through official channels which is corona.howler.co.za,” he said. “We also have a secure re-sale solution that allows fans to securely buy and sell tickets from fans on our platform and we see this securely facilitates around 10% of tickets that are being re-sold.
“All tickets for our event are digitized and each ticket needs to be registered in the event goers name, this makes it difficult to copy and duplicate.”
With many critics criticising Howler for bad service at “DStv Delicious”, Harding said they will not be going cashless in the sense of a pre-loaded funds system, but will be going cashless in that you can only use your bank cards and smartphones to pay on a normal card machine for each transaction.
“Unfortunately, it is not safe to have a lot of cash on site at an event these days, and so we avoid that as far as possible to mitigate crime in this regard.
But we do understand the frustrations around the pre-paid cashless system and as a result, we will give clients the option of swiping credit cards and debit cards quickly for any and all transactions.”