sorting my head out... Blog by bigstew
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what kind of pissed me off more than anything over these events is that other people out there have tried to say that they were the ones who did them. to my knowledge i'm the only person who has done solo responses on large gigs (that were exected to be so much trouble beforehand as opposed to quiet sort of gigs which there has been plenty of people do that) i have been told by production people that i know that there have been people going for interviews for security positions that have tried saying that it was them instead.
The Verve @ Wigan 1998 After what had happened at Maine road i spent a lot of time really down on myself, even more that before it. As far as i was concerned i had not just let myself down by crying like i had but i had let my whole family down. There was a lot of shame that i felt about it. I still do. I spent a lot of time trying to prove myself, trying to prove that i was a man, trying to prove that i was able to do my job. I went into every bit of trouble that happened at work and also out of it. A couple of years after Maine road there was what i felt like another chance to prove myself and what i hoped would be something that i could start to feel less ashamed of myself. It was being billed as a big home coming for the band, much the same as the Maine road gigs had been for Oasis. Just like at Maine road i was on site all the way through the build up and take down of the event. Also just like at Maine road i was to be covering a solo response role. We were at a golf course approximately two miles from Wigan town centre, and the staff at the golf course werenít happy with our being there, but were willing to put up with us for the money they were getting for being the venue. The basic idea was like at a lot of festivals, fence off a large area and build a stage inside. All week before it the local press had at least some part of the front page dedicated to the upcoming gig. How great it was going to be. I can remember as the build up went on we were discussing how the hype seemed to be encouraging everyone and everything into a frenzy. After all, the gig was already a sell out, not as big a gig as some but still thirty thousand people. And as with everything over the previous two years i was anxious to be involved with the response teams that were going to be going to any trouble that occurred. I can remember thinking on the morning of the event that i was going to be (with any luck) exorcising some demons that had been running around in my head. The day started fairly easily with a smattering of people already waiting to get inside the venue. I started on the main entrance for both public and staff where i had been positioned all week long. The day went along without too many hitches up until the afternoon whereby we had a gradual build up of people outside one end of the fence line that didnít have tickets and were gradually getting more and more drunk. It was decided to leave them alone as long as they didnít cause any trouble but to keep an eye on them because of the general mood around them. I had made my way down to the backstage entrance when there was a radio call wanting a response team around where the people without tickets were. When I got outside to where they were it was immediately obvious that the crowd outside were becoming agitated and violent as a stretch of the outer fence line had been torn down. The site crew were called out to repair the fence and we positioned ourselves between them and the public out there. There was also a call made for the police to make their way round to there as well. We had around forty staff outside and there were between a hundred and a hundred and twenty members of public out there with approximately thirty of them trying to get the rest het up enough to start fighting. They had already got hold of a few metal poles that were being used to support the outer fence line and there was the occasional stone and bottle thrown from them to us. We were told that if we had to we would head back to a gate in the main fence line and regroup there. I found myself in charge of a group of staff at the top end of the line. A couple of minutes after the site crew had turned up and started to repair the fence the crowd outside started advancing and starting to fight with our staff and from what I could figure out both our staff and the site crew had decided to back off and wait until the police arrived. I can still remember seeing the line of our staff break from the bottom up as a ripple of staff ran back to the gate to get safe. Looking down the site I could tell that both myself and the staff around me wouldnít be able to get back to the gate without having to fight our way through the crowd to get there so i decided to head for a nearer gate that we would be able to get to safely. We managed to make it to the gate and inside without much hassle (apart from the staff who were working on the gate, who, at first, refused to open the gate as there was trouble outside.) We had a vehicle outside while this was going on that started to drive up and down the field to try and hold the crowd back and stop them from getting to the inner fence line and try and tear this down as well. I was watching the land rover driving up and down through a gap in the fence and as i watched i saw a man deliberately step out in front of the land rover and get knocked down. The driver had absolutely no chance of avoiding him and he went nine or ten feet up in the air as he was hit. When he hit the ground there was a general feeling that he was dead, however after a couple of seconds he started moving again but this went unnoticed by the crowd who, having witnessed the accident were hell bent on attacking the driver. They started climbing all over the vehicle and smashing the windows trying to drag the driver out. We called for an ambulance and asked where the police had got to as well. I then opened the gate, told the staff there to reopen it when i got back and started to run out to the vehicle to get to our guy who was in trouble. As i was running out to him he started to try and drive to where i was and the still open gate behind me. He drove past and as he went past i jumped up onto the step on the side and dragged someone off who was holding onto the driver. The vehicle drove through the gate and i hopped off as it went through and helped to close the gate up. Looking back through the gap i could see that we had a few people outside hitting the gate and fence nearby but were not causing much trouble and gradually there were police turning up as well as some first aiders for the guy who had been knocked down. We were later to find out that the person who was run over was immensely drunk and it was because of this he had stepped out in front of the vehicle. It was also lucky for him that he was so intoxicated, because of this when he was hit he went limp and he only broke his leg in the accident. I decided that we didnít have all that much of a problem our gate at this point and that we had plenty of staff to deal with any trouble there so i would head backstage to the gate that we had been told to congregate at and see if i could help them out instead. I headed down but was unable to get backstage through the nearest gate and was also unable to see any staff behind it. The next nearest gate to there was at the other side of the stage which was a problem as by this point most of the ticketholders had arrived and the place was fairly full. It took me about five minutes to get to the next gate, gain entry backstage and find out what had happened down there. Apparently some of the staff who had made their way back to the gate had been caught by the crowd outside and given a bit of a kicking. At seeing this some of the staff who had already got back to the gate turned back to get to these guys and unfortunately the gate had been overrun and the crowd had managed to get the run of the VIP area backstage. (The unmanned gate that i had tried to get through had led into this area) by the time i had got backstage the bulk of the public who had forced their way in backstage had been escorted out and it was all over bar the sweeping up. As it turned into night there were several more calls over fighting outside and i made my way around to as many of these as possible. This included more than one to the gate that i and the vehicle had got back inside through earlier which was progressively becoming worse and more and more unstable from the people trying to rip it down. Eventually at around nine twenty at night the decision was made by the safety officer, production manager and the head of security to let all the people who were outside in. This being all the people who we had spent the past few hours fighting trying to stop from getting in. Ho hum. On a lighter note one of our guys who had got a bit of a kicking when we had to been trying to get back inside earlier was taken to hospital and got chatting to the guy in the next bed to him. Only to find that this was the man who had been run over and they promptly started trying to swing for each other while layed up in bed. Also i feel that at this point i should admit to something here, to the grounds keepers at that golf course i would like to apologise and admit that it was in fact me that did the donuts on your practice green. In my defence i would like to draw your attention to the fact that it was a stretched golf cart and it looked like it would be fun. I would also like to say that it was indeed fun and i even managed to get the damn thing on two wheels!
It's been suggested to me to try and exorcise my inner demons by lettin it all out... well... here's a start to it anyway... Oasis @ Maine road 1996 Saturday Throughout the build up we knew it was going to be trouble that weekend. After what had happened at Sheffield we knew there was going to be fighting and general rowdiness. however while the build up went on it became more and more clear that there was going to be trouble not just from the oasis fans but also from the locals around the football ground and also that on the Sunday there was going to be a clash between man utd n man city fans outside. As the build up went on i got friendly with some of the local kids which i figured might be able to give us some help on where the weak points of the place were and also give us the local gossip. There was a bit of banter that went on between us and some of the locals but all in all it was nothing of any importance. As the Saturday morning came around i was starting to get a bit bouncy, wanting to get involved with anything that was to happen. I was young enough to think i was indestructible and no-one could beat me. We were travelling over to Manchester and i just thought that i was doing good deeds, I think that the truth was that i wanted to prove myself to myself and everyone around me. My head was full of grand ideas about honour and justice. And that maybe i could make my dad proud of me if i was able to stand up and make myself a man. We got over there and i started the morning working on the backstage entrance with someone else. We were stood there looking through a crack in the fence and the guy i was working with turned to a couple of others who were also looking through the fence and asked to see their passes. One had theirs round his neck but the other didnít. It was also apparent that this other person was noel Gallagher. After some quick smoothing out it was sorted out and the operations manager told the other guy working on the gate to go and have a break. At around one o'clock that afternoon we were starting to get reports about pockets of trouble around the grounds and it was starting to get too busy for the team that we had as an ad hoc response team. I can remember the backstage supervisor and the operations manager being stood with us and i said to them about going and helping the response team out. as we were talking one of the band security came over and said that he had had a call on his mobile phone from a couple of lasses that he had been playing around with who were stuck in the middle of some lads fighting on the other side of the grounds to where we were. It was quickly agreed that i would go and help out and get these lasses back so that was the start of it. I went off in just a shirt and fluorescent bib with a radio. when i got there it did seem to be kicking off a bit and i found these lasses crouching down by a trailer unit as there was some glasses, bottles and rocks being thrown around. I also found the supervisor from the response team ducked down there as well. collecting them up i lead them out of there and, after dropping the supervisor off at a gate i lead the lasses back round to the backstage entrance and the guys round there. The thing is that i didn't think that it was anything much what i had done. After all, all it was was getting to these people and then running like hell with them in tow making sure that they were ok. It quietened down round about then for a couple of hours and i spent most of this time back round at the gate. Then we started having rocks and stones being thrown over a wall that ran along the backstage area from a path. I went out but it soon became apparent that these missiles were being thrown from house backyards that were on the other side of the pathway. We got in touch with the local police over it but for one reason or another they didn't respond to it. All in all over the space of the weekend there was what was called "a minimum police presence" which totalled four police vans with four police officers in each of the vans. Not only that but the police refused to get out of their vans and help anyone no matter what happened. We found out afterwards that the police had wanted a certain amount of money to man the event and the promoter had refused to pay the amount so they had done this. However over the space of that weekend there were countless fights, a rape and at least one stabbing. try explaining to the lass who had her clothes ripped off her and held down that it was just one of those things that could have been sorted out if the promoter had spent some more money on it like i was told by a copper a couple of days later when i saw three police cars a police dog van and the police helicopter chasing after someone who was joyriding. At one point in the weekend i knocked on the window of one of the police vans and said if they weren't going to get out and help if i could have a truncheon and a shield off of them so i could at least do something with them. Saturday turned out to be not all that bad as far as things went. Sunday was to prove to be the real trouble day. Sunday I started Sunday on the same gate that i had started on Saturday. Round about twenty past twelve we started having rocks and stones thrown over the same wall as the previous day. I can remember looking at my watch and commenting that they were starting a bit earlier today than the day before. I went back out and soon came to the conclusion that the stones were coming from the same places as the day before. Not holding out much hope i made my way to the front of these houses to get the address numbers so i could at least give the police the full details as to what had been going on. As i was doing this i was fairly surprised to see a police car pulling up down the road. The police took the details but i was informed that they had been expressly told not to get involved with anything to do with the concert. As the day went on i went to several reports of fighting from around the grounds. This also included going and helping some of our guys who were stuck in the middle of some man utd and man city fans who had arranged to meet up outside to have a fight between them. This turned out to be around fifty to sixty people all nicely tooled up and looking for fun. As the day went on and it started to go dark there was a call on the radio about a serious problem at the back of one of the stands. I ran around there from the backstage area where i had been responding to a fight backstage. What i saw when i came around the corner was just absolute bedlam. Between thirty and forty people scrambling over each other trying to get inside, through a turnstile that had been kicked in, with more and more people joining them all the time. With the occasional fluorescent jacket in the midst of them. I can remember thinking ďah shitĒ as i started running towards them to try and help our guys out. I dragged several people away and got to what i tend to think of as an old fashioned turnstile. The sort that only seem to go half way up to the ceiling as opposed to the newer sort that stretch from the floor to the ceiling. After a couple of minutes of scuffling with people we managed to stop people getting in and got some of our guys who had been injured through the turnstile to first aiders who were inside. The supervisor who i had helped the day before was involved here as well and he started getting the rest of his staff through the gap to the inside behind me before going through himself. As he went through he turned to me and told me to hold the crowd back while he organised things inside and got the turnstile shored back up again. This left me in a little trouble as i was left out there on my own quite literally fighting for my life. Stood around me was a crush of people wanting inside and very pissed off that i was stopping them. I can remember seeing a couple of metal bars and someone with a stick trying to swing them around at me as i fought. Luckily for me they were all too close and being pushed towards me by those behind to be able to stand there and do some real damage, however my luck was not to hold out for long. I caught a metal bar in the side as i fought there which i later found out cracked a couple of my ribs. All i can say looking back on it now is thank god for adrenaline because it did a couple of things for me then. Firstly it made me not feel anything wrong with my side for several minutes and secondly it riled me up enough to face down someone who started to pull a pistol on me while i was stood there. Looking back i keep thinking how stupid i was to do that and also to have stuck around out there in the first place. As the adrenaline started to wear off and the fighting started to calm down i looked back over my shoulder to see that there had been some wood placed in the gap of the turnstile. The fighting changed into simple arguing with people and, well, i donít like to admit it but my emotions started to get the better of me and i started crying. It just seemed that after everything that had happened i was a) still alive and b) stupidly stuck out there on my own with no help whatsoever. Some of the people who i was arguing with had tickets but were unable to get inside. Unbeknown to me there had been a crowd surge inside which had moved the outer barrier on the floor by four to five metres. This had caused the remaining turnstiles to be closed down and the safety officer to be seriously considering a full ground evacuation. I could see through a gap in the turnstile that there was between twenty and thirty security guards lined up in there in case i was unable to hold it. I was unable to get either some more staff outside to help me or myself and the ticket holders inside. This continued for twenty minutes before i was eventually told to take the ticket holders to the other side of the grounds where we would be able to get inside. I feel that on that day i was broken. Not only that but i broke up in front of a lot of people. It still makes me feel ashamed over it and i wake up even now at night after dreaming about it in a cold sweat. Iíve been told that i have post traumatic stress disorder from it and that i may always keep having these nightmares. Iíve also been told that it might help to talk about it which is why Iím now writing this down. Stewart.
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