UPDATE: Group legal action being considered over Truck 'rip-off' 

SERIOUS questions have been raised over the future of south Oxfordshire's biggest music festival, with the farmer who owns the site accusing organisers of making it far too commercial at the expense of charities.

Truck Festival celebrated its 20th anniversary at the weekend, with three days of fun and music at coming to an end on Sunday night.

Heavy rain turned the site into a mudbath, causing problems for organisers, traders and festival-goers – who were forced to endure the worst conditions in the event's history.

But while the majority of the 13,000 ticket-holders still had a great time – enjoying stand-out sets by The Libertines, Franz Ferdinand, Maximo Park, The Wombats and The Vaccines – farmer Alan Binning who owns the site at Hill Farm, Steventon, said he was unhappy with the increasingly corporate approach – which meant charities, including Didcot Rotary Club, of which he is a member, saw their takings slashed by half.

Mr Binning is this week surveying the damage to his farm, which he said would take months to recover, with extensive areas needing re-seeding. He said most of the damage was caused after the event, with tractors moving in to rescue commercial vehicles stranded in the mud churning up the ground.

He said: "The event was spoiled by two things: the weather and commercialism. And I would think very carefully before holding it again.

"A lot of charities rely on this and we do want to retain it to allow charities to make money, but I think it's changed, and not for the best.

"The event has lost its village fete approach. It's gone too commercial and lost its way. There needs to be a serious re-think of approach. The weather was unkind and it hasn't worked."

The festival was set up 20 years ago by brothers Robin and Joe Bennett, from Steventon. It was run as a charity enterprise, with food served by local charities, principally Didcot Rotary Club, but also by the parish church and others.

After going into financial difficulties, the brothers passed over management of the event to new operators, Count Of Ten, who retained the same ethos.

This year the festival was in new hands, run by Global festivals – who describe themselves as the country's second largest festival operator. They are behind a string of other events around the UK and overseas.

This was the first year Mr Binning has charged rent for the site, reflecting its increasingly corporate nature. He said: "That had previously been our contribution to charity."

Didcot Rotary Club last year made up to £25,000 profit by selling meals to festival-goers. This year, takings were down by half with other commercial vendors being brought in.

The club have this week been returning thousands of pounds worth of unsold food and drink. Some items will be donated to food banks via the Didcot-based South Oxfordshire Food and Education Academy (SOFEA).

Mr Binning said: "The new owners put a lot of thought into the preparation of the site and put down a lot of tracking which looked extraordinary when the sun was shining, but proved vital when it rained. And the weather did hit us.

"The festival-goers are a grand bunch and I don't regret having it, but a lot of people came and found it very wet – and they might have regrets."

One group at Truck who said they had never had such a ‘challenging’ experience were Angel Gardens who ran a children’s play area.

In an online apology to visitors over the weekend, the company said staff arrived to find they had just a quarter of the space they had expected.

Forced to condense their planned activities into a tiny area they said it quickly became very muddy and ‘upsetting’.

The company said staff were not allowed to make requests for support from the festival production team unless it was ‘an emergency’ and so were unable to ask for straw or clippings to absorb the mud.

They have now cancelled a planned appearance at next weekend’s Y Not festival, run by the same Global group, because they said they could not have confidence in the health and safety standards.

Manager Sam O’Brien said: “'I'm am heartbroken."

The Oxford Mail also received complaints from revellers unhappy at the healthcare, security and general organisation of the festival.

Festival Organiser, Matt Harrap said: "This was our twentieth festival and undoubtedly the most challenging given the weather conditions.

“While we worked hard to ensure the festival was not affected by the rain, we did unfortunately have some issues getting people onto site, causing delays. For that we are sincerely sorry.  

“Our welfare team, who we have worked with for five years, worked tirelessly throughout the weekend to ensure Truckers received the care and assistance they required. 

“We have a policy in place that states tickets will be released with no refunds if a payment is missed. 

“We are ever striving to improve Truck festival and our guests experience, and as always will be looking at all feedback when planning next year’s event”