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Fireworks refunds still outstanding after Detling Winter Wonderland of woe


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A fed up mum says she is still waiting for a £50 refund from organisers of a Christmas Winter Wonderland event which went wrong.

The treat, organised by Phoenix Fireworks, featured a pyrotechnics display, a "whimsical Christmas tour" and entertainment. But it fell foul of new coronavirus restrictions and sparked hours of traffic chaos when thousands tried to get into the Kent Showground, Detling, on the A249 between Maidstone and Sittingbourne.

Cars queuing on the A249 to get into the Winter Wonderland at Detling at Christmas. Picture by UkNewsinPictures
Cars queuing on the A249 to get into the Winter Wonderland at Detling at Christmas. Picture by UkNewsinPictures

Mum-of-two Jenny Jennings, 42, from Parkwood, Maidstone, said: "I was booked for the Saturday night performance but when I read about the shambles when the show opened on the Friday I immediately applied for a refund.

"I had an email from the ticket agency Ticket Source on December 24 saying I would receive a refund within 14 days from the organisers. But so far I have received nothing.

"I have been on their Facebook page and it seems I am not the only one they owe money to. One lady went to their office and confronted them and still nothing. Ticket Source says I should contact Phoenix Fireworks but that is easier said than done.

"When you call, there is a recorded message saying staff are working remotely. I have emailed about 10 times but still not had any response. That's just not good enough. I am fuming.

"I booked the tickets because it had been a rubbish year and wanted something special for my 16-year-old girl and 10-year-old son. I even took out cancellation insurance, just in case, but so far that has been useless."

The Winter Wonderland car park at Detling. Picture: UKNewsInPictures
The Winter Wonderland car park at Detling. Picture: UKNewsInPictures

There are more than 150 comments on the event's Facebook page, which has 3,696 followers. Some say they have received emails agreeing to refunds and others have been promised tickets to a 2021 event. But the bulk complain they have heard nothing.

One man said his request had been turned down because organisers said it was not their fault he had been stuck in traffic for four-and-a-half hours. He said: "This is absolutely appalling."

Another said: "I have also been told I will not be getting a refund and my ticket will be transferred to Christmas 2021. How on earth can anyone predict a year's time? I will continue to ask for my money back."

One disappointed customer wrote: "It’s ridiculous. Things go wrong, I get that. But their response has been terrible."

But it isn't all bad. One woman posted: "I am so pleased I didn’t cancel after all the bad reviews. We went and the singers and musicians were great. They sang and played their hearts out. The fireworks were fabulous, too. Brilliant night."

Phoenix Fireworks operations director Will Defries. Picture: UkNewsinPictures
Phoenix Fireworks operations director Will Defries. Picture: UkNewsinPictures

Tickets were £50 a car. Others paid £25 for a fireworks-only event which had been postponed from November. Tickets were sold across Kent with many families booking from Medway and the Isle of Sheppey.

The last official update on the Facebook page was posted on Christmas Eve. It says: "Phoenix need to inform you that we are working hard to read and deal with all emails. It is a real struggle; indeed we worked through the night last night to try to catch up.

"We tried to bring some Christmas cheer to everyone in a terrible year. We are truly sorry that it did not work out on the Friday. Imposed Covid restrictions by necessity changed the Saturday event and ultimately caused the postponement of the remaining three days.

"We are reading emails as fast as we can. You will be aware from posts on Facebook we are obviously working through the task to resolve issues."

Those emailing the firm receive this reply from operations director Will Defries: "Thank you for contacting me. We have received many emails and am working through them as fast as I and the events team can. We are working remotely with some staff now on isolation, it is now taking much longer than we would like."

The organisers have been asked to comment.

Read more: All the latest news from Sittingbourne

Read more: All the latest news from Maidstone

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