Festival of woe

I find myself writing to the Observer for the first time in 40-something years, just to let readers know how let down I feel by the Real Ale and Jazz festival organisers for the shabby way they dealt with the certain members of the paying public at the Last Night of the Proms Concert on Saturday.

For me, this had been in the planning stages for a long time as it coincided with my wife’s birthday.

She used to play in large orchestras and had seen the RPO on many occasions, even knowing the PR manager personally, and couldn’t wait.

Like a military operation it was all down to the fine details: smart dress, ‘check’; fantastic picnic hamper, ‘check’; special table tickets, ‘check’.

What a great way to spend a birthday meal with friends – or so I thought.

On entering the park we were given our special VIP wristbands and shown to our picnic area.

It was then we first realised there was something seriously wrong.

We were among 20 to 30 ‘overflow’ paying members for special picnic table tickets – I say overflow because we found out later the organisers had totally underestimated how many tables they had sold.

Busily trying to get extra tables and chairs out ready in time for the start of the concert, we set up our table as planned, soon to be entertained by the fabulous orchestra.

We had noticed we were housed right in front of the massed groups of corporate tables, but didn’t take much notice at first as we tucked into our birthday feast,

‘Stop moaning’, I hear you say.

Well, I haven’t finished yet!

As the concert began, we quickly realised the guests in the corporate section had absolutely no interest in the orchestra at all, as the level of noise from the various groups became greater than the orchestra, and you just couldn’t hear them.

This continued, despite many shouts of ‘shhh’ and ‘quiet’ with various members of the paying audience making complaints. But to no avail.

What should have been a fantastic evening for my wife’s birthday had slowly turned into the evening from hell.

The din continued for the whole of the first half, and again well into the second half.

Quite frankly, I wanted to see and hear all the concert, and I know we were not alone in this, as the majority of the people on the picnic tables felt the same.

I think the free champagne was a nice touch, but again this seemed to be given to selective tables and not received by all?

The Real Ale and Jazz Festival should have put more thought into the organisation, and maybe placed the corporate area closer to the beer tent, where they could have quite easily carried on with the drinking games and shouting and falling down, without offending anyone.

RAJF should have had more control while the concert was in progress and should consider in future the participation of a classical concert is not going to be the same as that of a pop-jazz concert.

The orchestra were fantastic, and the finale was superb.

Was the evening worth the £200 we paid? Probably not.

It was spoilt by the behaviour of people who obviously did not pay for their tickets, and could have been listening to anyone or anything that night and not known the difference.

Chris Pulleyblank,