Boss of Glasgow Willy Wonka says 'sorry' after children left 'in tears' over 'shambolic' chocolate experience

The creator of a Willy Wonka-inspired chocolate experience in Glasgow has issued an apology
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The creator of a "shambolic" Willy Wonka-inspired experience that left children "in tears" has blamed "technical issues" for its shortcomings. Police were even called to the Glasgow venue, which promised an "enchanting' day out" at the factory, after furious parents demanded full refunds from the organisers.

Speaking to STV, Billy Coull, the director of “immersive” events company House of Illuminati, said he was “truly and utterly sorry”, adding that he was "really shocked" that the event had "fallen short of the expectations of people on paper."

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He said: “My vision of the artistic rendition of a well known book didn’t come to fruition. For that I am absolutely truly and utterly sorry. There was every intention to hold the event, from the pictures, despite not being in the best light hopefully you’ll be able to see that there was every intention to hold the event. Unfortunately there was unforeseen circumstances and the event didn’t come to light."

Visitors who paid £35 a head for the ‘immersive experience’ were left fuming by the lacklustre set design when they turned up to a near-empty warehouse. And officers later attended the venue, in Glasgow, on Saturday (February 24) as dozens of parents vented their rage at those responsible and demanded full refunds.

Parents and children alike were really let down by the drab concrete surrounds of what was supposed to be a wonderland akin to Willy Wonka's vibrant chocolate factoryParents and children alike were really let down by the drab concrete surrounds of what was supposed to be a wonderland akin to Willy Wonka's vibrant chocolate factory
Parents and children alike were really let down by the drab concrete surrounds of what was supposed to be a wonderland akin to Willy Wonka's vibrant chocolate factory

Pictures of the event, which was meant to last two days, showed how its staging area was scarcely decorated with props. Although organisers said it would be a “paradise of sweet treats”, parents complained their kids were just handed out a few jelly babies - and the experience had lasted a matter of minutes.

Police Scotland confirmed officers were called to the venue as angry crowds started to gather outside. Organisers were later forced to issue more than 800 refunds.

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The event even went viral across social media, with people as far as the US making fun of the decor as the world took turns laughing at the disastrous event.

One furious mum wrote on social media: “We arrived yesterday (Saturday) at 10.30am. Waited in a huge queue for about 40 minutes and then when we got inside there was more waiting around. Underwhelming was an understatement. Embarrassing doesn’t even cut it. I paid for Willy Wonka and got Billy Bonkers."

Jenny Fogarty in her costume.Jenny Fogarty in her costume.
Jenny Fogarty in her costume.

Another dad said the much-hyped experience had fallen far below his expectations before it was suddenly cancelled. He added: “What an absolute shambles of an event. This was described as the full Willy Wonka experience with chocolate fountains etc and a great day out for the kids.

“Took 2 minutes to get through to then see a queue of people surrounding the guy running it complaining. The kids received 2 jelly babies and a quarter of a can of barrs limeade. Wouldn't recommend this company for anything, event has now been shut down and cancelled for today very professional......”

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Jenny Fogarty, 25, who was hired to play an Oompa Loompa said she was given a 15-page ‘script’ to learn the evening before the event was set to begin. And she said her costume arrived just an hour before families entered the venue, which she was shocked to see was a ‘sexy’ version.

Jenny said: “I was there from Saturday. I was hired as an Oompa Loompa. I didn’t get a costume until Saturday morning, about an hour before people started to arrive. I noticed that the costumes we were given – all of them were female, and we were given the sexy version as opposed to the traditional ones. Some people had T-shirts underneath to give it a bit more modesty. I just had a lacy shirt underneath. The wigs were very cheap. We were just handed an Amazon box that probably arrived that morning.”

How the Wonka event was advertised on social mediaHow the Wonka event was advertised on social media
How the Wonka event was advertised on social media

Jenny said she and her fellow actors were asked to improvise, but as they had no rehearsal time, the event soon fell apart. She added: “It was shocking. It was embarrassing to be pretty honest. We were trying our best, all the actors, to make it work. But we were given just 12 hours to learn our script and were told to just improvise. It’s not easy to improvise a whole show.”

Jenny revealed that she was offered £16.66 an hour for her role in the event, but said as far as she knew, none of the cast had been paid. And she said some of those involved in the production were also forced to give statements to police when officers turned up on Saturday.

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She added: “By the end, understandable, people were getting really annoyed. That’s when the security came up to me and told me they were shutting it down. When we went back to get to our cars, that’s when we saw the police had showed up. One of the actors who played a Wonka gave a statement to the police."

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