Love Parade Disaster: The Parade Is Over

ITMers observed in shock over the weekend the gruesome events at the 2010 Love Parade festival, in which a horrific stampede amongst the overflowing crowd ended in tragedy with 19 people being killed in the crush and hundreds more suffering serious injuries. That news only got worse late last night when news emerged that an Australian festivalgoer was among that number of punters killed in the crush as Love Parade turned into an instant nightmare.

What strikes us most about the terrible turn of events at Love Parade is that the 2010 event was the 21st anniversary of the festival. In years prior, Love Parade had established itself as one of the premier events of the European summer, even exporting the festival brand to other cities around the world including San Francisco and Santiago, and it annually attracted waves of punters with the free outdoor shows in a celebration of peace and unity through music. It’s incredible to think that 20 years of hard work and countless great experiences have turned sour in just one day when things lost control.

So what went wrong with Love Parade? Already much of the blame has been attributed to the promoters behind Love Parade for poor event planning which allowed for only one, badly mapped entrance – the tunnel wherein the punter-crush began – to the Love Parade venue, not to mention below-par security personnel.

“It seems the organisers didn’t plan the route,” an American reveler, Taggart Bowen-Gaddy, told the AFP. “The road was very narrow…There was no planning, no one knew what was going on.” Another Love Parade attendee, Patrick Guenter, also added that “although the festival was full, they kept letting people in” and that on the whole the festival’s “organisation was very bad”.

As well as German officials and even the motherflippin’ Pope weighing in on the Love Parade fallout, a particularly vocal detractor of the promoters has been the man who started the festival back in 1989 before moving on from the event.

“It is the fault of the organisers,” Dr Motte was quoted as saying by Germany’s The Local press, with the founder and DJ launching into an attack on the festival’s poor organisation. “It is just about making money; the organisers did not show the slightest feeling of responsibility for the people.”

Fresh reports have also emerged today stating that this year’s venue – at Love Parade’s brief new home in Duisburg, Germany – had just a 250,000 person capacity, far below the estimated 1.4 million people in attendance.

Following the storm against the festival’s organisers, Love Parade promoter Rainer Schaller, bore the brunt of the public outcry, offering his regrets to the punters affected by the tragedy and declaring that Love Parade was officially finished.

“The Love Parade has always been a cheerful and peaceful event but will be overshadowed in the future by the events of yesterday. Out of respect for the victims, families and friends, we will discontinue the festival,” ABC News quotes Schaller as saying. “The Love Parade is no more.”

The organisers have have also been criticised for allowing Love Parade to continue despite the casualties from the crush, which is perhaps unfair considering that pulling those DJs and artists scheduled to play might have evoked only more panic and chaos in the crowd. For their part, the Love Parade artists have expressed their grief at the events, with German native Boys Noize live-Tweeting his reactions from the festival.

“I feel very sorry for what happened at the Loveparade. This is truly sad :( I am NOT going to play,” Boys Noize began. “cause 15 people died and about 50-100 got hurt. knowing this i just cant go up there and play for the rest 500 000 people [sic].”

“I want to send my deepest condolences to the families and friends of the people who died today…I am really upset and sad about this,” Tiesto also offered on his Twitter account.

The horror at Love Parade comes shortly after the similarly disturbing events at Electric Daisy Carnival in Los Angeles last month, which saw hundreds treated by medical officials due to stampeding fence-jumpers and, even more distressingly, an underage girl die after a drug overdose.

Two big events turning ugly in such quick succession paints a particularly grim picture of dance music festivals on the global circuit and it is seemingly already impacting on upcoming events, so we have to wonder if and how the festival scene will react with the scrutiny of the world now upon it. If nothing else this should confirm that solid organisation and an emphasis on patron safety is paramount to any festival’s success. But we also wonder if there’s an element of crowd aggression – which many ITMers pointed out as growing on the Australian festival circuit in our feature, Are Festivals Still About The Music – that needs to be addressed as we push forward. But that is all discussion for the future. Right now the dance world can only reflect on a very dark hour for electronic music.

Photo credit: Associated Press