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ATP cancels Jabberwocky festival with just three days notice

By | Published on Wednesday 13 August 2014


Independent promoter ATP has announced the cancellation of this weekend’s Jabberwocky festival in London. Due to take place over two days at London’s ExCel Centre, James Blake and Neutral Milk Hotel were set to headline.

Announced in February, the event was a partnership between ATP, Primavera and Pitchfork, and had also booked cool indie types like Panda Bear, Caribou, Thee Oh Sees, Kurt Vile, Liars and Darkside to perform. However, in a statement yesterday, ATP chief Barry Hogan said that projected losses had the event gone ahead would “have 100% been the end of ATP”.

In the statement, published on the ATP website and emailed to ticketholders yesterday afternoon, Hogan wrote: “We have put everything into promoting Jabberwocky, and despite healthy ticket sales, all our efforts could not take those sales to the point that we needed to finally stage the event. Over the past month and all the way up until this moment we have tried every possible course of action to follow through in delivering Jabberwocky to you, but the position we unfortunately find ourselves in, as a result of a succession of events that have lost money in an increasingly aggressive festival market, means we are no longer able to do so”.

He continued: “In the past ATP has weathered losses such as this and gone on with the show, taking huge direct financial blows as an independent company. But on this occasion, with an event of this scale and the high production costs that come with it – if we had gone ahead; it would have 100% been the end of ATP. We do not take this decision lightly and it was the hardest we’ve ever had to make”.

Stressing that all other scheduled ATP events, including the ATP Iceland festival, will go ahead as planned, he concluded: “We apologise to all the people we have let down from fans to the bands, the venue and all the suppliers. We have tried everything in our power to save this event and continue, but the losses we have recently incurred have unfortunately been too much for a company of our size to bear”.

As with the recent collapse of The Camden Crawl company, bands and especially suppliers could now lose out from the cancellation of this event. Following the publication of ATP’s statement yesterday, the festival’s PR company The Zeitgeist Agency revealed it had already been affected, adding that there had been signs that things were not going well with Jabberwocky for several months. The firm added that it is now suing in an attempt to claim unpaid fees from ATP parent company Willwal Ltd.

Zeitgeist director Jamie Stockwood said: “Willwal Ltd have failed to pay us for several months. We have tried hard to overcome this situation and find solutions, but Willwal’s representatives have revealed to us in writing that they used the funds destined for us in order to protect payments for venue and artists, rather than settle essential and agreed amounts to our company. It would appear that Willwal Ltd has been experiencing and is continuing to experience cash flow difficulties”.

He continued: “This situation has left our company with no alternative but to pursue Willwal Ltd by instituting legal proceedings on the 20 Jul to recover the substantial debt, to which Willwal Ltd have not responded. This is a course of action which as you can imagine, we have been very reluctant to take”.

Meanwhile, there is now also a dispute over refunds with Jabberwocky’s lead ticketing partner, Dash Tickets. Although ATP said in its statement yesterday that “refunds will be available to all customers at the point of purchase”, this does not chime with Dash’s terms and conditions of sale, which state that “refunds are at the sole discretion and control of the presenter” and therefore it “accepts no responsibility for the refund of tickets in any situation”.

Dash says that all monies from ticket sales through its platform have already been passed on to Willwal, and it is now also taking legal advice on how best to reclaim those funds, along with unpaid fees. The statement begins: “Our entire team has poured immense effort into helping ATP with their ticketing programme over the past several months, investing considerable time, money and energy, all in good faith”.

However, it continues: “Our trust in ATP seems to have been misplaced, as their emails to fans and customers today concerning refunds have become deliberately misleading. It is for this reason that we feel compelled to make it clear that Dash has given to ATP all funds that Dash received for ticket sales to Jabberwocky. In addition to giving ATP all the ticketing funds, Dash has made substantial advances to ATP which remain unpaid, as do considerable fees for the work we have undertaken on their behalf”.

This is the latest incident in a rocky few years for ATP. In 2012, the company through which its various operations was then run, ATP Concerts Ltd, went into voluntary liquidation, with Willwall set up to take on it assets. Having already scaled back its long-running holiday camp festivals, after a fall out with Butlins in 2012, it was finally announced that it was putting a stop to them entirely in 2013. An attempted alliance with MAMA also never got off the ground.

Meanwhile, a grand plan to forge ahead with city-based festivals has had mixed results, particularly in the UK. Although ATP events continue to be very well received when they go ahead, last year a Grizzly Bear-curated edition of the I’ll Be Your Mirror festival at Alexandra Palace in London was postponed and then cancelled. And now Jabberwocky has been pulled just three days before it was due to begin.

On a more positive note, a number of promoters are working to put on shows in place of the cancelled festival this weekend, finding slots for the suddenly available bands on the Jabberwocky bill at gigs around the city. A Facebook page collating all of these events, under the title ‘The Jabberwocky Fallout Party’ has been set up, while ticketing company Billeto has said that it will not charge a booking fee on any tickets for such shows sold through its platform.

Amongst those newly scheduled shows, Kurt Vile and Nils Frahm will co-headline a show at London’s Village Underground on Saturday, while headliner Neutral Milk Hotel has moved to The Forum on Friday, with support from smaller Jabberwocky booking The Ex.