July 16, 2017 – 4:26 am


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SDE Editor Paul Sinclair reflects on how a day watching music with the family in a public park is engineered by organisers (”Barclaycard presents British Summer Time Hyde Park”) to extract as much cash as possible from fans. (Super Deluxe Edition is a website dedicated to specially packaged releases - click here).

On Saturday, July 8, I had a day out with the family at British Summer Time Hyde Park which featured The Killers as the headline act, with support from Tears For Fears and Elbow. Given that this is hosted in a Royal Park in London, we thought it should be a great family day out and planned to bring a picnic while we chilled out in the sun watching the various acts.

With sandwiches made and sausage rolls and crisps packed, just before we left I checked the official website to double check where the entrance was and was stunned to see the message that “No food or drink is permitted to be brought into BST Hyde Park (with the exception of water in unopened plastic containers of up to 500ml)”.

I was gobsmacked. Call me naive (admittedly I’m not a festival regular) but having paid £220 for four tickets for my wife and two daughters (aged 9 and 14) to watch music IN A PARK I never thought for one minute that we wouldn’t be able to bring our own picnic. Even that most commercial of enterprises, Disney World in Florida, let visitors bring in their own food, as does Wimbledon, if you go to watch some tennis.

But despite a sell-out crowd of 65,000, it seems the organisation are not happy with whatever profit they make from - at the very minimum - £3.25m worth of ticket sales (this is for one day, based on the cheapest ticket price of £50 ex VAT). Such is the greed and commercialisation of this and similar events, that they FORCE you to pay inflated prices and stand in hideously long queues for often very average food.

Because we’d already made our picnic, my wife suggested we just take it anyway, and “see what happens”. To be fair, at the gate with some emotional blackmail (”not even for the children!?”, we cried) and a chat with ‘a supervisor’ we did manage to bring in a few sandwiches, but clearly that’s the exception, not the rule.

Also, to highlight the expense of such an event, even having brought in food, we still managed to spend £50 on extra food and drink - £14 for two hotdogs, £30 for five pints of lager (between two of us over seven hours - qualifying us for almost teetotal status at these events) and a couple of coffees.

But the point remains, why should we not have a choice? If the food on-site is so great and such good value, then surely we might be tempted, regardless. British Summer Time clearly don’t have such confidence and thus give you no choice.

That’s just not good enough. Presumably, they sell sites to vendors at a much higher premium when they can guarantee that customers will be forced to use them. Corporate greed rules over putting the customer first. If they let you bring in food, they’d still make a fortune with the £6-a-pint prices for alcohol. But they want to squeeze even more profit from music fans.

Given that British Summer Time don’t mind exercising control over the ticket-buying public, they don’t extend that control to their vendors, happily letting them charge high prices for food. Some of the markup would be laughable if it wasn’t so obscene. £4 for ’small’ chips. £7 for a bratwurst German sausage that I paid €3 for when in Berlin recently. £10 for a ‘kids meal’ of nuggets, fries and a drink. Why not at least control the prices on-site to give a fairer deal to your customers? For example, a hot dog can’t be more than £5, a bag of chips no more than £2.50 etc. Surely there’s enough profit there? The event wouldn’t exist without the fans, after all, so why treat them so shoddily?

I tweeted about this on Saturday and from some of your responses it is clear that this practise is now all too common and you are similarly unhappy. The O2 Arena in London doesn’t allow you to bring in food, and other venues and festivals are similar, it’s not just BST Hyde Park.

What’s really annoying is that these organisations make up these ‘rules’ and we just accept them. Time to vote with our wallets and not buy tickets to events that have this restrictive policy. I’m not going to accept it and I’m not going to attend another BST event for this very reason. Same with the O2 (which I loathe, anyway).

Have you had similar experiences? Would you forego seeing a favourite band on this point of principle? I’d be particularly interested to hear from those in Europe and US to see whether this is a global phenomenon, or just ‘rip-off Britain’.

Note: This post was first published on July 9 in the weekly SDE newsletter (click here). Thanks to the many of you who have emailed me with your thoughts. Incidentally, I contacted British Summer Time’s representatives for a response but no one got back to me!

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  2. It is not very fair at all, but I think you’ll find that the restriction on items being brought into an arena would also have a lot to do with the perceived security risk associated with such an event.
    The excessive charges for beers are to restrict the number of people getting drunk and out of control.
    And the rest is simple price gouging on a captive market with no alternatives.
    It is sad but that is what we have come down to these days.

    By Crack on Jul 16, 2017

  3. as for me personally, I choose to exercise my displeasure in the place it hurts them the most, in the pocket. I have enough great memories of all of the amazing shows I got to attend, to last me the rest of my days. I only feel bad for the younger generstion that has to deal with situation or have no live entertainment. of course there is another alternative, see young up and coming bands in the clubs, which can a lot of the time be an even better experience. it has been a minimum of 5yrs since I went to a concert event at a major venue, but I will always have the memories. that have yet to find a way to take those away from me, but, i’m sure they are trying

    By jeff gorow on Jul 17, 2017

  4. friend of mine got me a t-shirt for a gift that is very befitting, it says “sure I am old, but, I got to see all the good bands”

    By jeff gorow on Jul 17, 2017

  5. Have only been to a handful of Stagecoach festivals since 2009 (mid 60s here) & haven’t looked back since. The prices keep going up sure, there is now no longer a single day ticket option-the whole weekend must be paid, but the advantages still outweigh the bad. It (& Coachella) allows children under 10 in FREE still & offers a huge tent full of activities for them, plus petting zoo. There’s tons of music on tap so that’s a bargain in itself for the price. Food situation is the same but not horribly expensive & good deals can be had if some effort is put into searching all the options. Drinks are no more than you’d pay at a nice bar so can’t complaint there either. I actually appreciate the variety of food, music & vendors on offer. I’m sure they pay a premium for the space for three days so understand a markup is involved & am happy if I consider it still a deal to fork over. Those water bottles you take in can be swapped for festival cash-yes they pay you to recycle them-or just save one for the rest of the day & use the water bottle filling stations provided. Sounds like BST needs to examine the competition & see what they can do about making fans such as yourself happier to attend more events & making themselves a more appealing option to festival-goers who must choose among a variety of events into which they prefer to sink their moolah.

    By Jeffrey Bond on Jul 18, 2017

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