News Shorts And Other Busyness
Festival Welfare Services
Squall 11, Autumn 1995, pg. 6.
It would be a sad day indeed if Festival Welfare Services were to close as a result of the recent Home Office decision to withdraw their grant.
FWS started up in 1974 as a co-ordinating committee for a number of organisations including Release and the Samaritans.
It received recommendations from government committees and was given an annual grant by the Voluntary Services Unit of the Home Office. Using that money, they have operated a London office and provided an essential service to thousands of festival goers for 21 years.
Many people will remember them as the posse who could still spare some elastoplast at 2 O’Clock in the morning, or that were still available to calm down and chat with the neurotic fall-out from festival wildness. At commercial events, they were the people who took over night-time operations from St John’s Ambulance and other official services when they shut down for the evening. At countless free festivals they have provided their services, expertise and advice to help ensure that the events were healthy.
They have also written information packs for festival organisers and welfare teams, given advice on public events to local authorities and supplied security charters for event-security companies. During their 21 year history they have provided their services to events as diverse the Stonehenge Festies (when they were full and mighty), Monsters of Rock, VE Commemorations, Hyde Park and the Big Green Gathering. The most they have ever received for these events is expenses, having relied on volunteers and their Home Office grant to steer their vital way through the last 21 years.
In January of this year a member of FWS received the People Award from the Event Supplier’s Association, to stand alongside commendations from the Health and Safety Executive and the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.
However, with the removal of the Home Office grant, the vital and well-loved Festival Welfare Posse may be a posse no more.
“Logic says the promoters should pay for it,” says Don Aitkin, a trustee for FWS since it began.
But whether the cost-cutting mammon-heads who put on the major festivals these days will value the FWS highly enough to budget them properly is an eventuality that remains to be seen.
Their London Office closed at the end of October although mail will be forwarded. In the meanwhile the Committee intend to stick together and have made several applications for grant funding. They are in contact with the Red Cross, who may provide some help. They are also attempting to organise some benefit events, although this will not replace the financial security of regular grant.
“We hope to keep ticking over ‘til next season,” says Nicole Pollen, an FWS committee member. “If we don’t get a grant this year, we will keep looking next year.”
All correspondence and offers of assistance can be sent to Festival Welfare Services, 61B, Hornsey Road, London, N7 6DG.