It is, as headliners Steps would undoubtedly have sung, a “tragedy”. A Hyde Park concert featuring Kylie Minogue, Rick Astley and a host of 80s stars tomorrow has been cancelled after heavy rain turned the Royal grounds into a mudbath.
Organisers of the Hit Factory show placed a desperate order for woodchip to firm up the soil, which had been churned underfoot by 80,000 sodden fans attending last weekend’s Wireless festival.
But delivery trucks carrying tons of the water-absorbing woodchip got stuck in the gridlock caused by the five-day closure of the M4 motorway, an emergency measure required to complete repair works on the vital Heathrow route in time for the Olympics.
Promoters Live Nation and the Royal Parks reluctantly concluded this afternoon that the concert, celebrating the pop acts created by the Stock, Aitken and Waterman production team, could not be saved.
“The potential risk to staff and music fans was too great for the event to go ahead,” said Live Nation, dashing plans for a long-awaited reunion between Minogue and her former Neighbours co-star Jason Donovan, who had been due to perform their 1988 chart-topping duet, Especially For You.
Despite further rain forecast, Live Nation said that this weekend’s Hard Rock Calling three-day festival, featuring Bruce Springsteen and Paul Simon, would still go ahead.
But the last-minute cancellation raised fears that the weather could play havoc with a Summer of major music and Olympic events in the Park. The grounds promise to by a muddy mess for next week’s Madonna show.
A Torch Relay finale on July 26 for 80,000 fans featuring Dizzee Rascal, will herald 17 consecutive days of Olympic events, including concerts by Snow Patrol and Blur as well as special productions of West End stage musicals and live screens relaying the action. The forecast remains mixed throughout the Olympic period.
John Probyn, the head of Live Nation, said, “The moment the Wireless Festival ended, we put in place a massive plan to prepare the site (for the Hit Factory). Eight thousand cubic metres of wood chip is currently being put in place and over the past 24 hours crews have started to make the site safe for our customers. Despite best efforts time has beaten us.”
Steve Edwards, Hyde Park manager, said: “Woodchip is being laid on the concert site as part of plans to ensure concert goers can be welcomed back as soon as possible. We are confident that the action being taken will enable the remainder of the summer concert series to go ahead as planned.”
Despite featuring attractions including Bananarama, 2 Unlimited and Sonia, the Hit Factory had failed to sell out, with £50 tickets being sold online for £10. Ticketholders will receive a full refund.
Industry sources suggested that the soil structure in the Park had been wiped out and the fans attending the 80s nostalgia gig would have made any recovery impossible in time for the Hard Rock weekend, which will be attended by thousands of fans travelling from abroad.
The producer Pete Waterman said he was “truly devastated” by the cancellation. The news came as a blow to Michaela Strachan, who had been due to present the show. “Bloody british weather!,” she tweeted. “Everyone is so disappointed. Got my cut off shorts ready & my 80s moves.”
The damage caused by the Hyde Park mudbath is likely to infuriate Mayfair residents who have already forced a reduction in the volume levels and the amount of concerts staged at the venue.
The gigs have become a vital source of revenue for the Royal Parks, which said reducing the number of shows could leave it with a £1.5 million funding gap.
Announcing the cancellation, the Royal Parks said: “Following the severe and unprecedented weather conditions across the country the site was declared unfit this morning (Tues) to host the concert.
“The decision was made following full consultation with all of the relevant authorities and the safety advisory group. The safety of our customers, performers and production crew is of utmost importance and the decision was made unanimously.”
Hyde Park’s Summer of Mud
Wireless Festival (Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Jessie J) - 6,7,8 July
Hard Rock Calling (Soundgarden, Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon) – 13, 14, 15 July
Madonna – 17 July
London 2012 Torch Relay finale - (Dizzee Rascal, Mark Ronson) – 26 July
BT London Live Opening Ceremony Concert (Duran Duran, Snow Patrol, Stereophonics) – 27 July
BT London Live (14 days of music and Olympic attractions) – 28 July to 11 August
BT London Live Closing Ceremony Concert (Blur, New Order) – 12 August