Report into the events of Slam Dunk Festival 2023
Thank you for giving us the time to fully investigate the events of Slam Dunk Festival 2023. We have taken that time to work with our internal team and many external partners, firstly to work out why things went wrong and then find solutions and improvements for next year.
Please let us be clear that we are not trying to pass the blame of anything to other people, we are simply telling the truth about what caused those issues, so you can be assured we have identified the problem and therefore are able to fix it.
We would like to stress that we take full accountability of everything that happened on the day, and we are so sorry that some people didn’t have the experience that they should have. We hope you give us the chance to change that.
Please believe us when we say we were all deeply personally effected by what happened. After working so hard on this event for over a year in advance, to see how unhappy some people were was distressing for us. Slam Dunk is a small independent company and the end result you see is produced by so many different companies we bring in to help us run it, but we accept the buck stops here.
Those of you that have been coming for many years know that we have had issues before, and when they have happened, we have a good record of improving them for the next year. We rely on your continued feedback in order for us to improve the event year on year and we would like to thank you for your ongoing support.
We are confident that with these new measures, we will be able to resolve all issues and hopefully assure all our attendees that we can deliver a much better Slam Dunk Festival experience in 2024.
As much as we’d have liked to have responded sooner, as we are sure you will have hoped, we have needed input from many different people to help us both investigate and solve the issues.
We thank you all for taking the time to fill out our customer survey. Although there were other issues raised, we can’t cover absolutely every single one, so we have focused on the issues that the most people have raised. If we haven’t mentioned something please be assured we are dealing with it and if it can be resolved, it will be done for next year. Access customers will be receiving a separate report shortly.
We can confirm we did not oversell Slam Dunk Festival 2023. The two festival sites have always been designed to hold 30,000 people each, we had just never reached that number of attendees before. We work closely with Hatfield Park, Temple Newsam Park, Hertfordshire Council and Leeds City Council to ensure that all health and safety measures are met and that we can deliver a safe event for everyone. All our event management plans are submitted to a local authority group, containing members of licensing, various council departments and the emergency services before we proceed with the event. If we had sold over our licensed capacity, we would risk our license for future years, which is something we would never want to do under any circumstances.
We will however guarantee to make changes to the sites to improve the flow of people and make the sites bigger if you all choose to come again.
We have worked with the same food concession provider for a long time and prior to the event we were assured that the amount of food vendors they had booked in was sufficient for the amount of people we were expecting. Unfortunately, this was not the case and the units that were there could not cope with the demand at peak times. Also, in North the way they were so concentrated in one area made queuing and getting past those queues very difficult.
Changes for next year – After an extensive debrief with our concession management company they have agreed to supply us with a higher number of vendors based on the event’s attendance. They will be working closely with the site team to ensure that they are better distributed throughout the site. We will also be aiming to publish all menus and locations of traders well in advance of the event so that you can make informed decisions on what to eat and where to eat during your busy festival day.
Toilets and Water Points
We always go well above and beyond the suggested numbers for toilet requirements for events in line with industry guidelines. We can assure you there were more toilets this year than there have ever been. However, with the additional people and due to how they were distributed throughout the site, some blocks were very busy and couldn’t cope with the numbers whilst other blocks were much quieter.
There were 3 public water points at both sites. These each had multiple taps which should have been enough for the number of people in attendance. We realise that the queuing time at some points in the day was too long, so agree with your feedback that more are needed. Post event we also discovered that one of the water points in Hatfield was labelled incorrectly on the public map, which led to accusations that one was missing.
Changes for next year - Next year we will have at least 25% extra toilets above the industry guidance based on the number of attendees. We are also exploring better ways of distributing them across the sites. There will be additional taps at all waterpoints. We will also improve communication on the day to direct customers to toilet blocks and water points that are less busy, and of course ensure the map is correct.
Car Park Issues – South
There were many contributing factors that meant that the car park operation at Slam Dunk Festival South experienced issues that we have not come across before.
We normally see around 10% of the cars on the day arrive without an advance ticket. This year that number shot up to closer to 50% of the already higher number of cars due to the increased attendance. It is not fully clear why so many more people chose to drive but we did discover the following. We saw a big drop in the car-to-passenger ratio; historically we normally have an average of 3 passengers per car, however this year we saw many people arriving in pairs or by themselves. Although there were no train strikes on the weekend of Slam Dunk, as there had been earlier in the month, confidence in the trains was very low, and people chose not to trust them. There also seemed to be a lack of hotels in the area, at least one was temporarily closed and many more were full from really early on, which we believe pushed people into making the decision to drive.
We believed that it was very clear where to buy parking tickets in advance, but it seems many people couldn’t find them online so we will make it clearer. Also, as we go into further below, we accept that all our information around car parking needs to be vastly improved.
Once it was clear on the day that we had so many more cars arriving than expected we made the decision to stop checking tickets upon entering the car park to speed up the process of getting everyone in. The route into the car park is such that it is almost impossible to turn people away, so it was safer and quicker just to let people in.
Please understand that this decision was not made lightly. We know people are unhappy about purchasing a car parking ticket for it not to be checked, but the important thing was we got them parked and they received the service that they paid for. We are extremely sorry that it took much longer than it should have.
Another added complication was that as we switched to ‘Digital Tickets’ this year which lived in your smart phone wallet as a result the arrival information wasn’t looked at as much as it has previously been. When e-tickets were sent via email in an attachment, the email body contained all the arrival and travel information for each event and was a lot clearer. Results from the post event survey showed that people Googled or entered an assumed address in their sat nav rather than following the information sent in a separate email in advance of the festival, which resulted in people arriving at different and incorrect entrances.
It also meant that some pick up / drop off customers were going to the incorrect entrance and entering the car parks. Our whole traffic management plan works on a one-way basis which is then reversed when exiting the site, this caused complications and delays as taxis and other vehicles were trying to leave via the same road that everyone was trying to enter the site through. This was why the flow into the car parks was nearly at a standstill at some points as these vehicles pushed their way out against the one-way system.
Car Park Issues – North
Following the car parking issues that we experienced at Slam Dunk South the previous day, we made the decision to advise that only customers that had prebooked car parking tickets can park at the event, any other customers were to find alternate parking in the city centre and use the shuttle bus service.
Car parking tickets were checked upon arrival, although this was not done thoroughly as we needed to get everyone in as fast as possible. If we saw the same increase as we had for South, the queues would potentially extend to the Motorway and impact the M1 junction, causing potentially serious safety concerns.
Again, we found a lot of people were following incorrect directions. We can confirm everything was correct on our website and the information we emailed out in advance to all ticket holders, but we found people still following sat navs to incorrect postcodes and locations, and the signage wasn’t clear enough to stop it. Overall, stewards and traffic management staff did an amazing job under pressure, but we do accept that some customers were told incorrect information on the day from some staff.
The main car park did get full, so an overflow car park at the pick-up and drop off was opened. We understand this must have been frustrating having to go to the other side of the site, but we believe everyone who had a parking ticket eventually got a space.
There were a number of people that chose to ignore the no parking signs and the warnings about being towed. These measures were in place as parking there stopped 2-way shuttle bus traffic on that road. This not only caused delays to everyone arriving by shuttle bus, but also those being dropped off. If they had still been there when people started leaving, it would have delayed thousands of people getting the shuttle buses home. The decision to have them towed was an easy one, but they were only moved to the car park opposite and the rumours of them being impounded and charged a release fee are untrue.
We accept that we need to do better in getting the correct information to customers and road signage to the event needs to be improved.
We realise that for some people it took far too long to exit the car parks on both sites. Although any large event may take a long time to leave, there is a point at which that length of time becomes unreasonable, and that point was passed by too many people this year. The reason this is happened is due to the number of cars that were parked compounded by the limited number of exits we have.
Changes for next year on both sites:
Next year we are implementing a strict limit on the amount of car parking tickets being sold. These will ONLY be available to purchase prior to the event. The car parking passes will be physical and sent to you via post as they will need to be clearly displayed in your windshield meaning we can check tickets without stopping vehicles. They will have detailed instructions printed on them for you to follow the correct route to access the car parks.
We have been working closely with the venues to offer another entrance to the site so we can split all car park traffic in two and have both smoother arrival and exit process. In addition to this, we are going to add a colour code system to our arrival gates and routes to make them easier to follow. There will be very clear routes for pick up and drop off, and stricter procedures put in place if anyone enters through the wrong gate.
We acknowledge we have received comments about security. We are discussing these with our security providers. It is our priority to make everyone in attendance feel safe, and we although we provided new security points for people to assist with this, we realise that our communications about these did not reach everyone and will be improved in the future.
We are confident in these changes and updates and hope that they will reassure you in returning to Slam Dunk Festival.
We have also been working very hard on getting the first line up announcement to you, which we can confirm will be with you within the next few weeks. There will be a limited time discount for everyone that attended the festival this year and effected by the issues we have addressed today.
We truly hope we see you all next year. We are sorry, we will do better.
Team Slam Dunk