Wednesday, 22 May 2019

George Michael fans reject offer of party space

Singer’s fans reject offer of party space

FANS of George Michael are to celebrate his life with an informal picnic in Goring rather than an official party.

The parish council had invited them to hire Sheepcot recreation ground, off Gatehampton Road, for a repeat of the festivities which took place on Rectory Garden on June 24 last year.

But organiser Terry Daniels has declined because it would be more expensive.

Hundreds of people attended last year’s event, which included a DJ playing Michael’s hits and a series of tribute concerts, and raised about £10,000 for the ChildLine charity.

The council didn’t want to let the fans use Rectory Gardens again after it received some negative feedback about the impact on residents so it offered Sheepcot, which is larger and further from the village centre.

However, Mrs Daniels says this would require an event management company as well as a public liability insurance policy, toilet hire, a first aid station, event headquarters, on-site electricity and more.

She said it would require a major sponsor rather than her paying out of her own pocket, as she did previously.

Now Mrs Daniels, from Milton Keynes, and the other fans will visit the village over the weekend of June 22 and 23 for a more low-key celebration.

They say they will either bring their own food or order it from village businesses and stay in local hotels.

They may also visit the annual Spinning the Wheel music festival at the Catherine Wheel in Station Road, which will take place on both days and is named after Michael’s 1996 single.

The council has said it will liaise with Mrs Daniels to ensure the event doesn’t get out of hand and may warn the police if large numbers are expected.

Councillors say fans have made “mean-spirited” comments on social media about the council’s offer, which followed public consultation.

Chairman Kevin Bulmer said: “I’m very disappointed that the village’s gracious response has basically been thrown back in our faces.

“It’s not community-minded and I’m pretty sure George Michael would have been horrified at some fans’ behaviour. It’s certainly not in keeping with the spirit of celebration.

“I don’t think they appreciate how rude it is, nor how much trouble we’ve taken to accommodate them. It seems we’ve tried to please everyone and failed to please anyone.”

Councillor Catherine Hall said: “It was a very positive outcome to the consultation but it just wasn’t exactly what they wanted.”

Councillor Bryan Urbick, who led the consultation, said Mrs Daniels had been “very helpful” throughout the process and he would stay in touch with her.

About half the people who replied to the consultation were in favour of another celebration and the other half against.

Opponents claimed there had been problems with noise and drunken behaviour while supporters said visitors had been courteous and local businesses had benefited from the extra footfall.

Michael was found dead at his cottage in the village on Christmas Day in 2016. His death was found to be from natural causes.

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