Svengali Not Alone

The blooming English outdoor season has been blighted by a few small provincial festivals that disappeared from the radar, leaving acts and agents scouring around for their money.

Apart from Svengali not managing to nurture his all-dayer on Windsor racecourse, most of the Tunbridge Wells Spafest dried up and the Gosforth Gathering never gathered.

Apart from being scheduled to happen within a fortnight of each other, all three collapsed amidst what could be called intriguing financial circumstances.

Local papers including the Ascot reported that the August 12th Svengali Fest was scrapped because its security company let it down at the last minute, but most of the acts reportedly had already pulled out because their deposit checks were bouncing from bank to bank.

Windsor record shop owner and promoter Marco Iorio claims he paid Nick Diamond of Cardiff-based Diamond Event Security £12,970 up-front. Acts including Lloyd Cole, The Levellers, Alabama 3 , Syrus, Clay Hill, and James Lavelle didn’t get any of their money, according to agents, and then found it impossible to contact him.

The event was already getting flak from fans posting notes on festival Web site message boards, mainly complaining about the ticket price of more than £60.

Pollstar was also unable to contact Diamond to verify the payment, and his company sent a statement saying it could not comment on the matter.

Diamond’s Web site claims Glastonbury is a customer, but – according to Companies House – the business wasn’t set up until three months after the last installment was held in 2005.

Money – or lack of it – is a feature of all three tales. And all are likely to fetch up in one sort of court or another.

Ian Bowden and Vicki Haxton, directors of the local Primo U.K. Ltd, set up Spafest Ltd in August 2005 to run a 10-day outdoor in the sleepy spa town’s Dinorlan Park.

After booking contemporary and classic music acts including Craig David, Katherine Jenkins, Soul II Soul, Hue & Cry, and Fun Lovin’ Criminals, some London agents became wary when the first round of deposits didn’t arrive.

They began calling Bowden and Haxton’s Kent offices and were told the payments were being made by Ian Wylie, a fellow director and chartered accountant, who was running the financial side.

About a week after the event crashed, Bowden and Haxton were telling agents they had taken legal advice “in respect of the responsibility that we gave our fellow director who is a charted accountant and we are investigating the reasons that the company has suffered the severe cash flow problems that it did.”

Haxton told Pollstar that shouldn’t be taken to imply that Wylie has committed a criminal offense, and is no more than a general statement that they were seeking legal and financial advice on the whole issue.

It wasn’t possible at press time to contact Wylie.

Bowden and Haxton went on to say they “do not have any assets that can be charged against raising additional funding to resolve this situation,” and the company will probably have to cease trading.

Primo U.K. and Primo Live, arguably Spafest’s parent companies, are both limited liability and have no financial responsibility for the festival-building offshoot.

Until Wylie’s return, it won’t be clear if the festival lost a lot money or never had much to begin with.

Bowden and Haxton seemed genuinely remorseful about the situation. However, less than two weeks after their event went down August 17th, they registered a new company called Spafest 07 – presumably the limited liability vehicle for next year’s effort.

Explaining the Gosforth situation, a note on read, “Tentrock Ltd regrets to announce that the company has had to take the difficult decision to go into voluntary liquidation following the cancellation of the Gosforth Gathering Music Festival.

“It was always the intention of Tentrock Ltd to fulfil as many of its financial obligations as possible,” it continues before saying it probably won’t be able to fill many.

It also says the company can’t currently process refund demands because of what it describes as “the understandable demand from the public already,” although – weeks earlier – it had been downsized from an outdoor park to the 2,000-capacity Newcastle Academy.

It hasn’t been possible to get comment from Trentrock but some agents have been left wondering where the ticket money was used, since the acts and suppliers didn’t receive deposits.

Among the acts who lost out on the gig, the deposit, or both were The Stranglers, Stiff Little Fingers, Buzzcocks, The Exploited, Biffy Clyro, and The Bluetones.

Like the other two events, it was making its debut and was being run by a company that had no record of running similar events in the past.

Tentrock Ltd, registered with Companies House in December 2005, and Svengalifest Ltd (February 1) both lasted little more than six months after their founding.

– John Gammon