IT has been revealed that 'unrealistic demands' and 'safety reasons' led to the cancellation of the much-anticipated Challenge Festival in Bingley just days before it was set to go ahead.

Bradford-born musician Gareth Gates was set to headline the free festival, which was planned for Saturday, May 25, and Sunday, May 26, in Myrtle Park.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The Challenge Festival at Myrtle Park has been cancelled The Challenge Festival at Myrtle Park has been cancelled (Image: Newsquest)

Organiser Ian Andrews-Swailes has been liaising with Bradford Council’s Safety Advisory Group regarding the event, but on Tuesday took the tough decision to cancel it. 

“At the end of the day, we just couldn’t do it,” he told the T&A.

Mr Andrews-Swailes explained: "I unfortunately have to cancel the Challenge Festival with one week to go. The main reason is that SAG have been trying to stop this event from the word go.

"They do not have direct powers collectively, however, if they tell the landlord of The Parks that everything has not been done, then, The Parks will not hold the event. 

"Even when I removed the A'Listers from the event and advised them that this was just a community event in the park to build on for the Dot to Dot Festival next year, they were putting on ever-increasing demands.

"They even tried to make my premises license just cover the meadow in Myrtle Park.

"I told them this was ludicrous as we would not then have any powers to evict people from the park if they were intoxicated, we would only have powers to evict from the licensed premises - that would be the meadow.

"They then realised this was daft but still insisted on not only fencing the meadow but the whole of the woodland area as well as putting down a temporary road on the grass (which would cost £15,000).

"This would set a precedent for all of the festivals in the Bradford district."

In a recent post on Facebook, Mr Andrews-Swailes said: “We have had to cancel The Challenge Festival over safety concerns. Another great event cancelled because of unrealistic demands such as fencing a woodland area in case of fire amongst many others.”

A spokesperson for Bradford Council's Safety Advisory Group said: “The Safety Advisory Group (SAG) is a multi-agency group with representatives from West Yorkshire Police, West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, the Yorkshire Ambulance Service and Council departments including licencing and Environmental Health.

“SAG has been working with the organiser of Challenge Festival to ensure the event could be held safely.

"Assurances were asked of the organiser following the latest draft of plans to ensure contingencies were in place, and it was our understanding that these were being addressed.

“SAG’s objective is not to stop events, but to provide professional advice to event organisers to ensure that events are run in a safe manner.

"Public safety must be a priority at any event and different types of events require different levels of safety plans.

“The organiser has taken the decision to cancel this event.”

Mr Andrews-Swailes spoke of his disappointment about having to cancel the much-anticipated festival.

“I’m really gutted. This was going to be a big community event for Bingley and Myrtle Park and setting a template for community events for the Bradford City of Culture 2025.

“Challenge has taken hundreds of hours to prepare and cost me thousands of my own personal money. I was bankrolling the festival this year.

“I put so much effort into this effort for Bradford, for nothing. It’s gut-wrenching.

“All I wanted to do was to give Bingley something they could be proud of and run for themselves in the future.

“The whole of the community of Bingley was wanting this and will be absolutely gutted.

“Bradford receives a lot of negative press and I felt it was important to showcase the positive aspects of the city and district, particularly in the run-up to Bradford 2025.”

Mr Andrews-Swailes said: “This has been two years in the planning.”

The Challenge Festival did originally have three big names set to perform, with Gareth Gates, Peter Andre, and Ellie Sax all announced as acts.

In April, however, Mr Andrews-Swailes told the T&A that both Peter Andre and Ellie Sax would not be performing, but Gareth Gates was still confirmed for what would instead be a free two-day event.

He said: "It was more to do with poor ticket sales and people could not afford to do it."