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Bands pull out of Hit The North festival after promoter SSD publishes results of investigation into misconduct allegations

By | Published on Monday 25 October 2021

SSD Concerts

Newcastle-based promoter SSD Concerts has said that an independent investigation into various allegations made against Managing Director Steve Davis found “no evidence of racism, misogyny or sexual misconduct”. However, the report produced as part of that investigation does say that “poor and informal business and employment practices” had caused issues at the company.

Meanwhile, critics of the business – including among the artist community – say that SSD has failed to properly address issues that were raised and accusations that were made earlier this year. As a result, a number of artists pulled out of the the promoter’s Hit The North festival on Saturday.

Allegations were initially made against Davis back in April this year in anonymous reviews on the Glassdoor website. The claims were then subsequently shared on the SSD Concerts Instagram account after it was hacked. Among the claims were that the company had underpaid its staff and that Davis himself had engaged in misogynist behaviour. Further allegations from a number of women followed, including that Davis had given them unwanted back massages and commented on their appearance.

Davis announced his resignation from the company following the accusations, although was still listed as a director months later and is apparently back in the position now. The company also handed over the promotion of its This Is Tomorrow festival in Newcastle to Kilimanjaro, although a number of artists pulled out ahead of the event in September after it emerged that SSD was still involved.

On Friday, SSD announced that an independent investigation had cleared Davis of any wrongdoing. It also said that it had confirmed that all of the Glassdoor reviews were written by the same person, who had also posted them on Instagram – that being a former employee who was arrested over the hacking of the Instagram account in April.

SSD also said that the other people who had made allegations against Davis and his company declined to come forward and speak formally about their experiences, making a full assessment of what happened difficult. However, despite this and the top level claims that no wrongdoing was discovered, the independent report was nevertheless fairly damning of the company’s business practices at the point the controversy emerged.

In a statement, SSD Concerts said: “The board can’t ignore that the company continues to face persistent challenges to ‘address the serious sexual allegations’ levelled against SSD and the Managing Director. We have not, and are not, shying away from addressing these allegations”.

“It is difficult to do so, however, when we have not been given any further information about the claims through the confidential means we have made available”, it went on. “Some individuals and groups have been reposting the claims or making their own public posts referencing the allegations. They have also been sending links to media articles – all based on the original allegations posted on Glassdoor and then shared on SSD’s hacked social media account.

“No evidence of racism, misogyny or sexual misconduct was found against the Managing Director”, it concluded. “People can draw their own conclusions as to why those individuals decided against having their claims heard and independently investigated”.

According to Chronicle Live, despite not finding any evidence of misconduct, the independent investigation nevertheless stated: “Overall, the level of familiarity between employees and Steve Davis as Managing Director has blurred the boundaries of professional relationships within the workplace which has been exacerbated by the industry within which they work”.

It then added that training has now been undertaken by management and the business has been restructured to address these problems, stating that Davis’s engagement with this process had been “reassuring” and that he will no longer “engage in any contact or conversation that could lend itself to misinterpretation again in the future”.

The report added that, during the investigation, “it was evident from the meetings held with people who described their employment experience at SSD Concerts that they experienced issues with poor and/or informal business and employment practices. Of those employees who remain at SSD Concerts, all identified that there had been significant improvements since the new operations director and HR lead had joined the business”.

Davis himself said in a statement: “This has been a very sobering process to go through. I haven’t always got things right and if this has affected anyone, I am sorry. I thank all staff past and present for their honesty and feedback which will help the business move forward. I’d like this to be a huge learning experience and I am determined that within a short period of time SSD is being recognised by others as being the fantastic, creative, safe and happy place to work that it now is”.

If SSD hoped that the publication of the independent investigator’s report would put the matter to rest, that was not the case. Among its critics, there was an angry response that the company had taken six months to properly respond to the allegations. And many felt that Friday’s statements mainly just said that everything is fine now while failing to properly address the claims that have been made about past conduct.

As a result of all that, several acts pulled out of Saturday’s Hit The North festival, which was promoted by SSD. This included Sports Team, Vistas, Lottery Winners, Fuzzy Sun, Gracey, Lottery Winners, Andrew Cushin, Oscar Lang, Noisy, Hi Sienna and several more – with at least 31 acts withdrawing from the event at the last minute.

The festival, which took place in various venues in Newcastle, offered no comment on the departure of so many acts from its line-up.