Venue chaos for fans of X Factor boy band

PUBLISHED: 15:00 05 January 2011

Crowds waiting for X Factor finalists One Direction at the Forum in Hatfield [Picture: Keith Mayhew]

Crowds waiting for X Factor finalists One Direction at the Forum in Hatfield [Picture: Keith Mayhew]

Archant

HUNDREDS of fans queued in the cold for up to 12 hours to see X Factor stars One Direction perform at the Forum in Hatfield on Sunday.

The group appeared live at the sell-out concert along with fellow show finalist Katie Waissel and Hertfordshire’s Got Talent winner Conor Walker, from Welwyn Garden City.

But many fans were left disappointed, after the quintet – teens Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson and Niall Horan – pulled out of a planned autograph signing session before the concert due to “scheduling difficulties”.

By the time the doors opened at 1pm to let the fans in, a queue was snaking round the building, with stewards desperately trying to keep crowds back.

The mayhem continued inside, where the live performances were delayed because the crowd was pushing forwards. But this precaution did not stop several girls having to be pulled out of the audience for their own safety.

The group still appeared on stage as planned, performing five songs to the screaming 1,400-strong crowd, but fans have blasted the lack of organisation.

One girl from St Albans, who asked not to be named, said: “It was madness. The screaming was deafening and at least 20 of the girls had to be pulled from the crowd by the security men before the show even kicked off, then around 10 more once One Direction came on stage.

“Numerous safety announcements were made asking the crowd to take two steps back and one of the guys in the band asked them to do the same after he saw people getting crushed at the front. “

Mother of two Lisa Bates, also from St Albans, added: “I phoned the Forum customer service line the morning of the show to ask what time we should be there and was told 1pm, therefore we dropped four girls aged between 12 and 15 off at 1pm. When we arrived there were hundreds of kids already queuing in the freezing cold.

“I went to the box office to collect our tickets that had been booked online and asked what time they would be letting everyone in, I was told in 10 minutes so we left. At 2.50pm our girls called to say they were still waiting in the queue and had not moved! It was absolutely freezing that day and what was supposed to be a birthday treat for Emma aged 12 turned into a disaster!

“I think it was disgusting and unacceptable to let that many children wait for two hours in bitter cold. The kids were told that the show would then start at 3pm and finish at 5pm – the acts were actually only on for one hour and 15 minutes! The event finished at 4.15pm, but parents were not expecting to collected their children until 5pm! The whole event was very poorly organised and there were some very disgruntled people literally left out in the cold.”

A Forum spokeswoman said: “Due to tight scheduling, One Direction were unable to do a signing session on Sunday. All priority ticket holders were contacted and offered partial refunds to compensate for this.

“Alternatively, ticket holders were told they could keep their priority tickets, participate in the autograph signing with Katie Waissel and still be guaranteed a place near the stage.

“We are aware there were long queues to enter the building, however, our customer safety is of paramount importance to us and due to the overwhelming interest in the event, our event management staff deemed it necessary to control the flow of traffic into the building to ensure ticket holder safety at all times.”

She added: “We apologise for any inconvenience encountered by our customers and we understand how frustrating it was in particular that One Direction were unable to do the autograph signing, however, the decision was out of the Forum’s control.”

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