New urban music festival cancelled, organisers in custody

Summary

Vestiville, a new music festival planned in Limburg, was cancelled at the last minute for failing to meet safety regulations

Investigation opened

A new summer music festival planned in Lommel, Limburg, did not open its doors for the waiting ticket-holders on Friday. Vestiville, featuring urban and hip-hop music, had sold 30,000 tickets, far fewer than it had counted on.

The gates did not open on Friday at 16.00 as advertised, and some 1,500 young people waited in the sun, with no shade, facilities or information. When it was finally announced at 17.30 via Twitter that the festival had been cancelled, hundreds of them stormed the gates.

It did them no good; the festival had been definitively called off by Lommel mayor Bob Nijs due to safety concerns. “We saw around 15.00 that safety conditions had not been met,” said the mayor. “The fire department, the police and the internal safety co-ordinator all reported that safety could not be guaranteed, so we had no choice. I’m not going to tell a parent tomorrow that something had happened to their child at an unsafe festival.”

The three organisers behind Vestiville, which had sold tickets to festival-goers in Belgium and abroad, were taken into custody for questioning. Two are from the Netherlands, and a third is from London.

Bankrupt in the Netherlands

The group had already organised similar festivals in the Netherlands under the name Vestival. But it declared bankruptcy early last year.

Where Vestiville is concerned, the public prosecutor in Limburg said there was reason to suspect fraud and money laundering. One  bank told VRT that supposedly paid invoices had been falsified.

Experts who got a look backstage at Vestiville, however, reported that it was clear there was an intention to hold the festival. When organisers, who had worked with a team of local professionals, had been told the day before that safety regulations had not been met, a crew of about 50  busied itself with trying to meet the guidelines. On Friday morning, inspectors reported that the festival was about 90% ready.

My clients have fully co-operated with the investigation; their one and only goal was to organise a festival

- Joke Feytons

Later in the day, it appeared that the final conditions could not be met on time. These included safety regulations regarding stages, grandstands and emergency exits, as well as the number of security personnel and the amount of water available.

Festival partners had announced in advance that they planned to host 125,000 people at the festival, but in the end just 30,000 tickets were sold. That’s in fact not bad for the first edition of festival, but apparently was not enough to pay the creditors.

The British partner in Vestiville has already been released; the two Dutch partners – a brother and sister – are still being held. “All I can say now is that my clients have fully co-operated with the investigation, and that their one and only goal was to organise a festival,” the lawyer for the group, Joke Feytons, told VRT.

Anyone who bought a ticket to Vestiville is being reimbursed  by ticket-seller EventBrite.

Photo: The festival was 90% ready to go, according to inspectors
©Yorick Jansens/BELGA