The organiser of a bank holiday festival in Deptford has hit out at claims by outraged traders that it was a politically-motivated flop which killed high street trade.

Ray Woolford from Lewisham political party People Before Profit organised the pre-election Deptford Heritage Festival, charging £25 for a four-day ticket and promising seven stages plus mystery celebrity performers who never materialised.

It is claimed that many of the events failed to take place at all, venues changed at the last minute and there were hardly any punters.

Despite attempts by Mr Woolford to drum up support online, many photos he posted on Twitter over the weekend showed the same faces at different venues - mostly people from his party, some holding political banners.

And, although some events went down a little better, including Handel's Messiah at St Nicholas Church, food stall holders are asking for refunds and shops along the high street - which was closed off for the weekend - say they lost valuable bank holiday trade because hardly anyone turned up.

Ash Mahmood, who runs high street store Ash's Met and Fish, said: "Because the road was closed there were no cars there was none of the usual passing trade. There was no festival.

"It was just ridiculous. A festival is supposed to being in trade and bring the community together, but there was nothing."

He added: "I hope it doesn't happen again."

Kay Fox-Joyce, who runs food stall Kay's Kitchen, said the business had been left with lots of unsold stock after expecting to cater for 200 people a day.

She said when they turned up on the Sunday morning, no one was there to let them in or show them where to set up, there were no programmes and nobody manning the festival kiosk.

Ms Fox-Joyce said: "The organiser come round at 3pm and said it's all going to be happening tomorrow instead. Nothing materialised on the Sunday so we went back home."

She added: "He said the following day there would be a parade. We weren't happy about it but we'd spent a lot of money on a lot of stock. 

"But the next day there was no evidence of a parade. We were there all day. There was no parade."


She said: "All round it pretty poor and massively oversold.  People were coming down to see what was going on and there was nothing. It was embarrassing really."

Fellow stallholder Michelle Ellis from Flicks Fancies said they had been promised a "world food" area of 30 stalls, but arrived on Monday to find they were one of just four.

She said: "People were asking us 'what time does it start?' but there was nothing to start.

"The people that did visit us were nice people and they expected to see something so I feel bad for them really."

Blogger Jane Martin, who attended on the Monday, said parts of Deptford were the "deadest" she had seen them. She said: "There were a lot of people duped about the whole event."

She said: "There was nothing happening whatsoever. There was no festival."

News Shopper: Ray Woolford

'My festival was not a flop'

Mr Woolford has defended the festival, saying claims it flopped were a "smear" and a "bad day for local democracy".

The organiser claimed that 5,000 people took part in the event, including performers and organisers, while venues had more people than they expected.

He told News Shopper: "I was really, really delighted with the festival and that we had 5,000 people there."

Mr Woolford - who denied it was a People Before Profit event but claimed some attendees had now said they'd vote for the party - went on: "As a festival it was successful and I accept the fact that whatever I do, even if I won an Oscar, I'd still have my trolls."

And he added that, if anyone complained and wanted their money back it would refund them "immediately".

But he said: "Not one single person who physically attended a single event complained."

The festival website still promises celebrity acts, a firework display, food festival, lifestyle stalls and outdoor stages, but Mr Woolford said he had ditched celebrities to focus on "local talent" with 40 bands. And he claimed the idea of outdoor stages had been abandoned in favour of indoor venues.

Asked about profits, Mr Woolford said they had spent "hundreds" on closing the road, insurance, stewards and other fees and that the event had "probably made a large loss" because most of it was free.

He added that the accounts would be published and any profits would go to his food bank, Deptford Action Group for the Elderly and the 999 Club.

Mr Woolford claimed Lewisham Council was in charge of stalls and products that were on sale like venison burgers did not go down well in places like Deptford because of the number of vegetarians.

And he said: "Venues had far more people than expected and it was largely successful.

"What didn't work was the Deptford High Street and the bits where we had to work with Lewisham Council."