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Marissa Cetin
23 August 2022, 19:02

Boomtown bar staff report poor treatment, discrimination and neglect at 2022 festival

Workers subcontracted through Freemans Event Partners say the were threatened, neglected, overworked and suffered invasions of privacy at the Winchester festival earlier this month

Boomtown bar staff report poor treatment, discrimination and neglect at 2022 festival

This story was updated on 25th August 2022 to include statements from Boomtown concerning Freemans Event Partners and its share sales to Live Nation, SJM Concerts and Gaiety.

Bar staff who worked at Boomtown Fair this year are reporting poor treatment, discrimination, neglect and unhealthy working conditions by festival subcontractor Freemans Event Partners.

A new statement by A Better Boomtown has collected allegations from Freemans Event Partners workers at the Winchester festival, which ran from 10th August through the 14th. The allegations include: "threatening, belittling and dismissive treatment" from bar managers; 17-hour shifts with little to no breaks; "excessive physical searches" and "overly invasive full-body searches"; forced separation of staff from the rest of the festival population; "insufficient" food with no regard for workers' dietary needs; disregard for workers' health conditions; and "various forms of discriminatory behaviour". 

The collective demands that Boomtown sever ties with Freemans Event Partners and urges its network of promoters to do the same and the subcontractors to undergo an independent review of its work and ethics practices. 

"The more we stand together, the harder it becomes for exploitation to occur," the statement reads. "Our actions stand not only as an encouragement for better workplace conditions and practices at Boomtown Fair, other festivals or in the hospitality sector, but as an act of solidarity with exploited workers everywhere."

Since A Better Boomtown shared its statement on 22nd August, Freemans Event Partners responded by outlining its practices on its Facebook page. The response has since been deleted. A Better Boomtown shared screenshots of the company's response via Twitter. The company encouraged people who "experienced anything to the contrary" at Boomtown to get in touch. 

Read A Better Boomtown's statement in full via Twitter.

In a statement shared with DJ Mag surrounding the allegations made against Freemans Event Partners, Boomtown representatives said: "As an organisation, we actively seek to align with like minded partners and suppliers who share our values.  Our community and our teams are at the centre of everything for us. Throughout and following the show last week, we’ve been monitoring the comments relating to the bar staffing operation managed by our contractor and 3rd party agencies, which we are independently investigating. The result of which will shape our supplier agreements for 2023 and beyond. We welcome anyone who worked on the bars who has not yet come forward with information, to please do so via [email protected]."

This is not the first time Freemans Event Partners have been called out for mistreatment of Boomtown workers. In 2019, the Canary published a damning report of "traumatic" experiences suffered by workers subcontracted by the company and two other subcontractors. Freeman's and Boomtown's responses to this report can be read via A Better Boomtown below. 

Just after this year's Boomtown Fair, news broke that Live Nation bought an 18% share in "the UK's biggest independent festival". Event companies SJM Concerts and Gaiety also bought shares worth 9% and 18% respectively. In a statement, Boomtown co-founder Christopher Rutherford said things will be "business as usual, we still hold the keys, we are still running the show".

In a statement shared with DJ Mag surrounding the investments in the festival, representatives of Boomtown said: "For us as a business, our vision has always been very clear, we are a festival like no other – a full living theatre which is set around friends, community, and creative spirit. Like many other businesses in our industry, due to Covid our landscape has changed, and to stay ahead we have had to adapt and be agile. It's been a very tough few years.

"One of the decisions we came to in the last few months, as a direct result of the rising costs in staging such an epic and complex show, was to seek investment; a minority stake in the business from some of the most experienced names in the industry - SJM (9%), Gaiety (18%) and Live Nation (18%).  This decision will not only allow Boomtown to continue its vision to be one of the most exciting festivals in the world, but it will also ensure the flexibility to continue to uphold independence on all decisions around business and creativity."

Photo credit: Facebook