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!