x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Sandance festival organisers will reduce crowd size after complaints

The organisers of the Sandance music festival in Dubai say they will reduce the crowd capacity, add more toilets, and improve transportation at the next concert after receiving complaints about overcrowding at last weekend's event.

DUBAI // The organisers of last weekend's international music festival at Atlantis, The Palm are to reduce the number of guests, improve facilities, and try to remove traffic bottlenecks at their next event, following complaints about poor crowd management.

Music fans who had come to hear live bands at the monthly Sandance on the Nasimi Beach last Friday complained about overcrowding, unruly behaviour, safety issues, a lack of toilet facilities and traffic jams.

"There was a remarkable difference from the last time," said Julie Borland, who attended the 12-hour event, which began at 2pm Friday.

"It was much busier and there were huge queues at the ladies' toilet. There was such overcrowding and panic," she said, adding that there was plenty of "pushing and crushing" at the weekend music festival.

Nearly 10,000 guests were believed to have attended the event. The line-up included Snow Patrol, Calvin Harris, DJ Erick Morillo and the M People.

"It appeared that they had sold too many tickets. I have never experienced this at Sandance. People were getting very upset and it was distressing. There were security guards, but they were not helping the situation," said Ms Borland, who was stuck in traffic for nearly an hour while leaving the event.

Another fan said there was little crowd control. "People were wasted and bumping into guests a lot," said Dana El-kalache, an analyst. "It was very uncomfortable. There were queues all night outside the toilets."

Ms El-kalache said the presence of numerous shisha pipes contributed to the lack of safety.

"There were shishas everywhere," she said. "They could have broken amid all the pushing and there would have been glass pieces. Someone should come around and take it away before it gets crowded."

After receiving feedback from those who attended, organisers said they were making improvements for the next music festival, scheduled for next month.

"Yes, for the next Sandance on Friday April 6, we will be reducing our capacity to enhance the guest experience," said Heiko Schreiner, senior vice president, Resort Operations at Atlantis, The Palm.

"We will also be doubling the total amount of toilet facilities at the venue. Furthermore, we will be adding a second large island bar, we will have a devoted shisha area after sunset, and will be positioning all tables on the raised and floating platforms."

Mr Schreiner said organisers were also working with Nakheel and the Roads and Transport Authority to "better facilitate transportation needs".

The organisers would not reveal how many tickets had been sold for Friday's event, but said the new, reduced capacity would be comparable to the number of guests who attended last November's Sandance with The Script.

Some fans who attended Friday's concert alleged that people were hurt.

"The scariest crowd experience ever," a guest wrote on Facebook. "People (were) falling down and getting stepped on. When the guy next to me had his nose broken, we decided to leave."

Another person posted on the social networking site that an unopened beer had been thrown at a girl's head at his table.

pkannan@thenational.ae