16 Feb 2016 – Surrey’s Undercover Festival has quit Bisley Camp for good after NRA chief executive Andrew Mercer refused to make campsite spaces available for attendees, it has emerged.
Local news website Get Surrey reported in January that the festival, which was first held in 2013 at Bisley Pavilion, has been forced to relocate to Brighton Racecourse.
A statement from Mercer, seen by the website, suggested that he made the decision for unspecified “commercial” reasons. He also insisted that “boisterous punks” were making life uncomfortable for NRA members and other camp users.
“It’s ridiculous – Surrey needs festivals like this,” said Undercover Festival founder Mick Moriarty. “It gave people in Surrey the chance to listen to contemporary alternative music. I’m from Surrey, all my crew are from Surrey. All we want to do is play our music and have a good time, but some people think that because it’s all punk and ska we’re up to no good.”
Mercer claimed that festival-goers were causing trouble on camp, while Get Surrey reported that a graffiti incident in 2014 had led to the NRA’s ban on outside campers.
“You would have members finishing on the ranges wanting to go to the clubhouse for a drink,” said Mercer, “and you would have people from the festival coming back in making a bit of a racket.”
More bad news for Bisley – and shooting in general
The eviction of another local event will have rifle clubs headquartered at Bisley worrying about their financial viability as Mercer imposes swingeing rent increases while killing off events that attract paying customers to clubhouses’ bars and eateries. Outside festivals not only enhanced the cultural life of Bisley Camp but also acted as a vital means of attracting the general public into the National Shooting Centre and demystifying the shooting sports.
Some years ago the Harley Owners’ Group’s HOG Rally was banned from the camp by the NRA, despite having been held there very successfully in the week immediately after the 2-week Imperial Meeting. HOG Rally-goers filled Bisley’s campsites and provided extra income to the NRA when shooters packed up and went home. Nowadays Bisley is a ghost town in the weeks after the Imperial.
More rumours about Mercer’s deteriorating relationship with the privately-owned Bisley Pavilion, hosts of the Undercover Festival, have reached UK Shooting News – including a tale about bailiffs hired by the NRA entering the Pavilion in a dawn raid some weeks ago.