Mother fighting terminal cancer among parents battling for refund on Willy Wonka Experience

“I’m not sure how long I have left,” says mother still waiting for House of Illuminati refund

Barney Davis
Monday 11 March 2024 15:44 GMT
Willy Wonka actor visits backstage at Glasgow's chocolate factory

A mother suffering from terminal lung cancer says she is still fighting for a full refund from the tragic Wonka Chocolate Experience in Glasgow.

Furious parents slammed organiser Billy Coulls for being at the helm of a “perfect heist” after children hoping for a paradise of sweet treats were given just a few jelly beans, served cold hot dogs to be washed down with a paltry quarter-cup of Barrs limeade.

The event organiser, House of Illuminati, which charged up to £35 for tickets, promised families an “immersive experience” but instead they arrived to find a sparse warehouse filled with strange AI-generated characters including made-up villain ‘The Unknown’, who left children in tears.

In his latest statement organiser Billy Coulls denied using the nearly £30,000 raised in ticket sales on a lavish Turkish wedding to his fianceé.

Police were called to a ‘Willy Wonka-inspired’ event as Scots families demand refunds and kids in tears (Stuart Sinclair/Facebook)

At the turn of the month, Mr Coulls - described by actors as “out of his depth” on the frantic opening morning - promised to refund all 850 ticket purchases after police were called and the event was shut down.

But angry parents claim they are still waiting for the money to be given back 16 days on, with others giving up hope altogether.

Tracey Hanley said she was still waiting for her £56 back, telling The Independent: “This event was for my little girl to make memories. I wanted her to remember me as I have terminal cancer and I’m not sure how long I have left.

“So I’m very disappointed. He should be refunding everyone as this was not the event that was advertised.

An Oompa Loompa went viral shortly after this photo was taken (Supplied)

“The email they sent advised they were refunding me but that’s well over 10 days now. I emailed them back and they advised me to contact my bank.”

Maryanne Mccormack, 39, took her “easily pleased” daughter Perri to the event but is still waiting for her £75 to be returned.

She told The Independent: “My little girl to be honest had a decent half an hour. She’s very easily pleased though.

“She was given two jelly beans and got some pictures of the props. I took some videos of the creepy character - she was scared of that and the emptiness of the warehouse.”

Maryanne Mccormack’s daughter Perri smiling under the makeshift rainbow and next to the hardworking Oompa Loompa (Maryanne Mccormack )

Ms Mccormack said she was blocked on social media by organisers when she pressed for a refund that was promised by Mr Coulls as he was surrounded by irate parents on the day.

The mother added it was “like a perfect heist”: “It’s important to families who’ve spent a lot of money, it’s a cost of living crisis - people don’t have this to throw away. It’s just sickening.”

Jemma Petrie paid £72 for tickets for her six-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter to cheer them up after their home was flooded and the family lost all their toys in October storms.

A mural by artist Ejek on Clyde Street, Glasgow, which pays tribute to the disastrous Willy Wonka Experience (Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)

She told The Independent: “We went to Ikea afterwards and the children had more fun there.

“I would like to remind them that people are struggling financially at the moment. This was meant to be a fun break from the stress they faced. The organisers are profiting off children’s disappointment which is despicable.”

Steve Sinclair had travelled from Dundee to attend the event with his kids, and told The Independent he was still waiting for a complete refund. He added: “I don’t think anyone has received anything other than bank chargebacks.

“The organisers aren’t interested - if it was getting refunded it would have been done by now. I’m still recovering from it all.”

Unknown character from Glasgow Wonka experience scares children in viral clip

Actors drafted at the last minute to play the roles of Oompa Loompas or Willy Wonka said they “weren’t holding their breath” to get their own £500 fees despite the event being shut down just hours after opening the doors.

One previously said: “There was a lot of dancing about with our contracts and mentions of pay felt flimsy.”

In the statement, released on House of Illuminati’s Facebook page on March 1, Mr Coulls said he was “truly sorry”.

Expectation v Reality (Stuart Sinclair/Facebook)

He also denied using the money from ticket sales on a wedding, after a social media user who claimed to live over the road from him said he was using it to get married in Turkey.

He said: “Regarding a personal matter, there will be no wedding, and no wedding was funded by the ticket sales. This is a difficult time for me, and I ask for your understanding and privacy.

‘Had a better time in Ikea’ parents complain about Wonka experience (Maryanne Mccormack )

“Regarding the refunds, I am committed to rectifying this situation. All 850 transactions will continue to be refunded. It has been posted to ensure transparency and to demonstrate my commitment to making this right for everyone affected.

“I ask for a bit of time to process everything that has happened. My intention is to learn from this experience. Your support and understanding during this time mean the world to me.”

House of Illuminati has been approached for further comment.

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