Boomtown officially responds to Canary investigation highlighting working conditions at the festival

Boomtown festival
John McEvoy

On 17 November, The Canary published an article detailing the horrific working conditions at Boomtown Fair, a festival held yearly in Winchester. Boomtown’s bar staff were subcontracted by three employment agencies contracted by the festival: Freemans Event Partners, Mint Staffing Solutions, and Harrison Lee Recruitment. Boomtown Fair and its main bar contractor, Freemans Events Partners, have now officially responded.

Since publication, The Canary has received a flurry of emails reporting similar accounts of working with abusive employment agencies (if you’ve experienced something similar, please get in touch – contact details are at the bottom of the article).

Official response

In an official response published on 19 November (incorrectly dated to 2018 at the time of publishing), Boomtown wrote:

Boomtown has over 15,000 staff, contractors and crew working during the festival. Over the years we have invested huge amounts into staff welfare areas, taking on feedback from all departments, constantly building better facilities and investing in the team that makes the show what it is, but we will always strive to better our processes and ensure accountability is placed where it should be.

We have recently been made aware of an article looking into some reports about staff treatment from the festival’s main bar contractor. Many of the details in the article just released we were unaware of, and it is very disappointing to hear as the issues raised go completely against our values and ethos as a festival. With this in mind, we are tightening up our contractor and their subcontractor agreements to safeguard against any repetition of similar reports in the future. [emphasis added]

We have also been speaking with our bar contractor who ran the operation focused on in this article and they have provided us with this statement.

Boomtown was made aware of the complaints in an email from The Canary dated 10 September which noted that:

Complaints about conditions… include:
– passports/ID were taken from staff upon arrival;
– staff were kept in a holding site away from the festival;
– in holding site, staff were not given work schedules/timetables, and told to wait until given work on an ad hoc, unpredictable basis;
– staff worked incredibly long shifts, up to 16hours, with few/no breaks, and limited access to basic necessities including food;
– staff were not allowed to wear coats/jackets while working in cold conditions.
Boomtown originally responded to these allegations as follows:
We are aware that there have been a handful of concerns raised by contracted staff. Staff welfare is something we take very seriously and we work closely with our contractors to review feedback and ensure any issues are resolved.  These claims are currently with Freemans Event Partners and are being dealt with via their appropriate channels and as such we are not in a position to comment on any ongoing investigations.
Bar contractor response
Boomtown’s bar contractor, Freemans Event Partners, also responded to the article, saying:

Since these allegations and reports were presented to us 3 months ago, we have undertaken a detailed audit of our staffing structure and processes. Subsequently, we have made some significant changes. We identified that during our busiest month in August, there were some issues that were brought to our attention that, as a management team, we were not happy with and needed to react to.

We have also updated the contractual agreements to reflect all these processes and will ensure that we are properly communicating these to both our event clients and our recruited staff well before the live operations are carried out.

We have a strong record of over 40 years of delivering high-quality service for both clients and staff, but, as with all thriving and sustainable companies,  we are continually learning and developing our processes to ensure that we maintain this well respected and high-quality service.

For the last 3 months we have been asking our staff and any staff recruited through agencies, with any outstanding concerns, to feedback to us directly so that we could address them on a one to one basis. We are unaware of any outstanding issues, however, if any of our staff from this summer wish to provide us with any further feedback we would welcome this openly and they should contact [email protected]

The Canary welcomes Boomtown’s commitment to tighten up its agreements and make necessary changes. Let’s hope it stays true to its word and this never happens again.

Featured image via Flickr/Mr Seb

Get involved

  • If you’ve had a similar experience working with an employment agency, please contact [email protected]

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