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Bestival admits “financial challenges” as money-lender threatens administration

By | Published on Monday 24 September 2018


Independent festival promoter Bestival Group has admitted that it is facing “financial challenges”, but says that it is currently seeking a new partner in order to overcome the current issues and ensure its Bestival and Camp Bestival events can go ahead in 2019. This follows media reports that a company that loaned the festival business £1.6 million last year has filed legal papers confirming its intent to put the Bestival Group into administration.

According to The Sunday Times, it’s billionaire loans tycoon James Benamor who has filed administration notices at the High Court in relation to the Bestival companies. His business the Richmond Group was behind the loan firm Amigo that IPO-ed on the London Stock Exchange earlier this year. Though it was another Benamor-created entity, Richmond Group Debt Capital, that loaned money to the Bestival Group in February 2017.

The main Bestival event was launched on the Isle Of Wight by Rob and Josie da Bank all the way back in 2004, it spinning off from their Sunday Best record label and club night. The more family orientated Camp Bestival was then added in 2008 in Dorset, with Bestival itself being shifted to the same site as its sister event in 2017.

This year’s Camp Bestival took place on one of the few wash-out weekends of an otherwise splendid summer, with extreme weather resulting in the final day of the event being cancelled. Earlier this month, the festival posted an update on its website regarding refunds in relation to that cancellation, thanking ticket-buyers for their patience and saying “we anticipate being able to pay out very shortly … the bureaucratic process is almost complete”.

In a new post on the Camp Bestival website responding to the Sunday Times news story, event organisers said yesterday: “We can confirm the Bestival Group has had some financial challenges of late but the process we are in allows a new partner to come on board with the financial commitments required to deliver Camp Bestival 2019 in its finest form”.

Presumably aware that this weekend’s news had caused some to speculate about whether the financial issues would impact on the 2019 Bestival festivals – tickets for Camp Bestival 2019 are already on sale – the statement went on: “As we stand currently, there is every intention to make this show happen, and move forward into a new era. Thanks and love to all our wonderful Camp Bestival community for all your support”.

Meanwhile, in a Q&A that accompanies the statement, the festival firm said that the current financial challenges were not a direct result of the cancellation of the final day of this year’s Camp Bestival, although “it was not a positive factor for the business”. On the outstanding refunds it added: “We are hoping for an update on the refund process ASAP once we have a clear response and timeline from all agents involved”.

It’s no secret that running independent music festivals is a tricky business, with successful events often making only nominal profits, unless you go fully into the big brand sponsorship game, which has never been part of the Bestival ethos.

Those financial pressures are also why so many successful independent events ultimately sell out to one of the major players in live music, where economies of scale help maximise profitability and solid cash flow makes it easier to deal with wash out years. Though Bestival has always been proud of its independence, and fans of indie festivals will be hoping it can navigate the current challenges and retain that status at the other end.