Spa Fest Examined

Despite telling agents they are “victims of circumstances” and that their “intentions have always been honorable,” the organizers of this year’s disastrous Tunbridge Wells Spa Fest have already set up another limited company in readiness for next year’s event.

Ian Bowden and Vicki Haxton, directors of the local Primo U.K. Ltd, had blamed a third partner – “an experienced professional and qualified director” – for unpaid deposits and the eventual cancellation of acts.

But a couple of London agents are far from happy with the way they’ve handled the situation and see the formation of a new company as what Steve Hogan from Concorde International Artistes described as “taking the piss.”

“I’ve told them that they should sort out what they owe for 2006 before they set up another limited company for 2007,” Hogan told Pollstar. Bowden and Haxton previously told Pollstar in a statement they had always acted “in good faith” and promised to put matters right if it was possible.

“For our part, both Vicki and I are honorable individuals and we feel extremely let down by the turn of circumstances. We naturally wholeheartedly appreciate your position and the artists’ positions and if we could resolve this situation please believe that we would,” it said. “As it stands at the moment, the company will be ceasing to trade and throughout all of our endeavors we have tried our utmost to make all of our contractual engagements happen.”

Hogan, who confirmed Soul II Soul for the old spa town’s July 24th to August 6th mix of rock, pop and classical music, said there’s not much that can be done about the act losing the show. He said he’s determined to circulate all the major U.K. agents to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

“I don’t think Bowden has any idea about the commitment involved in booking an act,” said Free Trade Booking chief Paul Boswell, who had to chase deposits for Fun Lovin’ Criminals before eventually realising the show wasn’t going to happen.

He and Hogan are both angry because of the trouble getting a hold of either Bowden or Haxton in the weeks leading up to the event. The Spa Fest directors claim this “lack of communication” was caused by “uncertainty within the organization.”

A fair amount of that uncertainty apparently still exists. Although Ian Wylie, the third partner who was entrusted with running the money side of the event, has returned from holiday, there’s still no clue as to what Bowden and Haxton think he has or hasn’t done.

They previously said they’re taking legal advice “in respect of the responsibility that we gave our fellow director” and are “investigating the reasons that the company has suffered the severe cash flow problems that it did,” but Haxton has stopped short of accusing Wylie of any actual wrongdoing.

It wasn’t possible to contact Haxton, Bowden or Wylie at press time.

– John Gammon