'I paid for Willy Wonka but got Billy Bonkers': Parents rage as event leaves children in tears

Children who were promised 'a celebration of chocolate' were left in tears, as ITV News Correspondent Peter Smith reports

A Willy Wonka-themed event marketed as "a chocolate fantasy like never before" has prompted local uproar, left children in tears and ended with the police being called.

Parents were promised the £35-a-ticket event at Box Hub in Glasgow was "a journey filled with wondrous creations and enchanting surprises at every turn" before police were called upon the "shambolic" reality of the event.

The warehouse, it turned out, was half empty, as one parents described it on Facebook as "a very simple set up with cheap backdrops around it."

The event, where children were reportedly given some jelly babies and lemonade, was axed after just half a day and the police being called.

The warehouse was half empty and described as 'a very simple set-up with cheap backdrops around it' (Credit: Maryanne McCormack)

Police Scotland said officers were called and "advice was given", but the situation was not a police matter.

Hundreds of parents, some who said they had queued for over 30 minutes before entering and seeing the "embarrassing" set-up, voiced their frustrations on a Facebook group dedicated to complaints.

One person wrote: "Waited in a huge queue for about 40 minutes and then when we got inside there was more waiting around.

'We've paid money, there's children here!': Angry parents confront the organisers outside after the event was swiftly cancelled (Credit: Sharon Falconer)

"Underwhelming was an understatement. Embarrassing doesn’t even cut it. I paid for Willy Wonka and got Billy Bonkers."

Another said: "My poor boy was absolutely devastated today to be turned away at the door.

"Even if refunds are issued it does not take away the disappointment for hundreds of children that turned up today."

Another even wrote that an actor had been hired to dress in a "terrifying outfit" to come and "scare all the kids".

Parents said the event was 'absolutely shambolic'. Credit: Eva Stewart

"They were all crying - it was terrible, shocking and embarrassing to be honest."

The event's website said Willy's Chocolate Experience, organised by House of Illuminati, promised an enchanted garden with "giant sweets, vibrant blooms, mysterious-looking sculptures, and magical surprises".

They added that live performances would take place, with "charming characters singing original catchy tunes", and the "exhilarating and immersive adventure" would also have a "twilight tunnel" and "imagination lab", where "the boundaries between reality and fantasy harmoniously merge".

One person reported on a Facebook group dedicated to complaints about the event, that the imagery for the website had been created with AI.

'I turned up in the morning and saw the state of things': Paul Connell, hired as Willy Wonka for the event, said the actors were told to move children through as quickly as possible (Credit: STV)

In a statement on Saturday, House of Illuminati wrote: "Today has been a very stressful and frustrating day for many and for that we are truly sorry.

"Unfortunately last minute we were let down in many areas of our event and tried our best to continue on and push through and now realise we probably should (have) cancelled first thing this morning instead.

"we fully apologise for what has happened and will be giving full refunds to each and every person that purchased tickets.

"We planned a fabulous event and it just did not take shape as planned and for that we are truly sorry we are devastated at how this has turned out and understand people's anger and frustration that everyone has had, refunds have already started being issued and the rest should be over the coming days, again we are truely (sic) sorry to everyone. Refunds can take up to 10 working days."

A screengrab of the site where parents booked tickets. Credit: willyschocolateexperience.com

Box Hub said in a statement: "As a Venue Hire company we first came into contact with the event organisers - ‘House of Illuminati’ - in January.

"The company detailed plans for an immersive and captivating family event. The event itself did not reflect what had been promised to the many paying customers and was incredibly underwhelming.

"Their customers were not happy with the price charged for admittance and after fielding many complaints the organisers decided to cancel the event entirely, with the intention of providing refunds to everyone.

"House of Illuminati were responsible for the event in its entirety, from the venue decor (sic) through to the marketing and operations. We simply provided the venue space."

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