‘Poorly run’ Southport Air Show branded a ‘disgrace’ by angry visitors

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Issues such as the Red Arrows cancelling their display and huge queues were common complaints.

Aviation fans are furious after a ‘poorly run’ air show left many paying visitors disappointed.

Southport’s annual air show took place at the weekend, however, problems emerged over the two day event – including the cancellation of the Red Arrows due to poor weather.

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A number of visitors say they did not manage to attend the show on Saturday due to long queues of traffic, while others who did make it Southport Beach noted issues due to poor management.

Now, Liberal democrat and opposition leader Cllr John Pugh is urging Sefton Council, which provides the event with a £400k investment, to investigate what went wrong. In previous years, sales of tickets for the event have recouped much of the council’s cost, with ticket sales in 2022 totalling £360k.

Furious visitors

Angry comments have been left on Southport Air Show’s Facebook page, with a number of visitors sharing their disappointment over last weekend’s event, especially Saturday.

  • Ian Wilson said: “I concur with most. Sat show was a disgrace. Why we had to get our ticket scanned to get out of the show then back in again beggars belief. The gaps between events are too long and not enough coms. Very poor effort.”
  • Becki Nuttall commented: “Worst airshow ever been to, was dangerous, poor coms, overcharging and half the show didn’t turn up yesterday with blue skies.”
  • Lee Durkin added: “Agree it was trash . Very poorly run, planned and a waste of money.”
  • Richard Brigg said: “We came on Sat and joined the Marine Drive traffic chaos trying to get on the cancelled beach parking at about 8.45am. We didn’t even make it as far as the pier before the Typhoon display! Pity the downpour cancelled the Reds but unlike the “traffic management” that part isn’t the organisers fault. Will try again next year but I think we might go for south parking. Got a half decent Typhoon photo though.”
Trekking through the mud.Trekking through the mud.
Trekking through the mud. | Andrew Jackson
  • Trevor Johnsmiths Boden added: “Won’t be going again the public being ripped off yeah have a year to plan so no excuses a bit of rain imagine if we went to war hahaha can’t fight as bit of rain how about tomorrow.”
  • Rob Frain said: “Nice try 2/10 this year. Must try harder.”
Southport Air Show 2023. Photo by Andrew Jackson. Southport Air Show 2023. Photo by Andrew Jackson.
Southport Air Show 2023. Photo by Andrew Jackson. | Andrew Jackson

However, not all comments were bad.

  • Emma Caffrey said: “I went today (Sunday). No traffic at all. Got there at 10.30, organization of parking was excellent. It was a little quiet. But an excellent day out. Thank you to all the organisers.”
  • Megan Hicks said: “Me and my partner came with the kids today (Sunday) and we loved it. Bit of mud yeah but that never hurt anyone, no que to even get parked at 9.45am couldn’t fault it. We had a lovely day.”
  • Eliot Clarke added: “Such a good day yesterday (Saturday) with the sunny weather and happy to see the reds do a fly past at least! Typhoon was amazing to see yesterday from Morrisons getting lunch and drinks before coming on site and then again from my friends house today! To everyone saying about the cost it’s as as dear as you make it, I only paid £10 entry on site. The only downside was the gaps but having two air shows miles away from each other didn’t help and all the mud on the beach and tbh everything was on the coast road anyway.”
  • Lee Walsh commented: My first time yesterday (Saturday) and I absolutely loved it! According to some of the comments on here its normally even better so can’t wait for next year.”

‘When things don’t go quite to plan we all need to understand why’

Cllr Pugh said the air show is an ‘important part of the calendar in a town where staging events well is crucial for our prosperity and profile’ adding that this means it is important people understand when the reality does not turn out quite as planned.

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He added: “The Council is rightly ambitious to widen and develop further an already strong events programme. Running big events with the British weather has always been a high-risk, immensely stressful affair, but I think in Southport we want to be the best in the business. That’s why when things don’t go quite to plan we all need to understand why. ”

Red Arrows flypast.Red Arrows flypast.
Red Arrows flypast. | Andrew Jackson

He said the issue will be raised at full council on Thursday where he will be calling for a ‘proper report’ into what went wrong, adding it was not about ‘apportioning blame.’ He said while the council used to provide feedback in the past, this has stopped in recent years, meaning much needed scrutiny is not taking place.

Council response

A Sefton Council spokesperson said: “It is unfortunate that some people experienced queues when visiting Southport Air Show on Saturday.

“There was a huge influx of visitors on Saturday, which is usually spread out over the two-day event, as fantastic weather was forecast for Saturday while storms were forecast for Sunday.

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“The ground team did the best they could to get people parked and into the event as quickly and smoothly as possible, and in advance of the event our communications did actively encourage use of alternative means of transport to cars.

“As is the nature of all air shows, cancellations can occur at short notice and the Council shares the disappointment felt by visitors that The Red Arrows were unable to deliver their display due to weather conditions. However, it is clear that Southport’s businesses benefited greatly from the event and has boosted the local economy.”

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